WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Judiciary Committee opened its first impeachment hearing Wednesday, moving swiftly to weigh findings by fellow lawmakers that President Donald Trump misused the power of his office for personal political gain and then obstructed Congress’ investigation as possible grounds for removal from office.
The panel responsible for drafting articles of impeachment convened as Trump’s team was fanning out across Capitol Hill. Vice President Mike Pence was meeting behind closed doors with House Republicans and Senate Republicans will huddle midday with the White House counsel as GOP lawmakers stand lockstep with the president and Democrats charge headlong into what has become a strictly partisan drive to impeach him.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats "haven’t made a decision” yet on whether there will be a vote on impeachment. She was also meeting privately with the Democratic caucus. But a vote by Christmas appears increasingly likely with the release of a 300-page report by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee that found "serious misconduct” by the president.
"The evidence that we have found is really quite overwhelming that the president used the power of his office to secure political favors and abuse the trust American people put in him and jeopardize our security,” Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told The Associated Press. "Americans need to understand that this president is putting his personal political interests above theirs. And that it’s endangering the country.”
The Judiciary Committee will hear from legal experts to determine whether Trump’s actions stemming from a July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president rose to the constitutional level of "high crimes and misdemeanors” warranting impeachment. The report laid out evidence of Trump’s efforts to seek foreign intervention in the U.S. election.
New telephone call records released with the report deepen Trump lawyer Rudy Guiliani’s involvement in what House investigators called the "scheme” to use the president’s office for personal political gain by enlisting a foreign power, Ukraine, to investigate Democrats and Joe Biden, and intervene in the American election process.
Trump told reporters in London, where he is attending a NATO meeting, he really does not know why Guiliani was calling the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, which was withholding $400 million in military aid to the ally confronting an aggressive Russia at its border.
"’You have to ask him,” Trump said. "Sounds like something that’s not so complicated. ... No big deal.”