Democrats were set Tuesday to approve their report on the impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump, paving the way for formal charges against the US leader that could include abuse of power, bribery and obstruction.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who has led the 10-week-old investigation, said it was important to move quickly because the evidence of Trump’s wrongdoing is “overwhelming.”
“We feel a sense of urgency,” Schiff told MSNBC late Monday.
“This is a president who has sought foreign intervention in US elections twice now, and even in the midst of our impeachment inquiry, is again out publicly saying, not only should Ukraine do this, but China should also investigate my opponent,” he said.
“And so this is a threat to the integrity of the upcoming election, and we don’t feel it should wait, in particular when we already have overwhelming evidence of the president’s misconduct.”
Trump: impeachment is ‘a hoax’
In London for a NATO summit, Trump again accused the Democrats of playing a political game with impeachment.
“The impeachment is a hoax. It’s turned out to be a hoax. It’s done for purely political gain,” he said .
“All you have to do is read the transcripts, you’ll see there was absolutely nothing done wrong,” he added, referring to the records of his calls with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky earlier this year.
The completion of the Schiff report marks the end of the first stage of the impeachment process, which was sparked by an August complaint by an anonymous whistleblower detailing Trump’s pressure on Zelensky to investigate rival Democrats ahead of next year’s elections.
The report is expected to support charges of abuse of power, bribery, obstruction of justice and contempt of Congress, based on evidence from more than a dozen witnesses who depicted Trump withholding military aid and a White House summit unless Zelensky opened the investigations.
Schiff said the report will be made public Tuesday and, after formal approval by his committee, will be sent to the Judiciary Committee where formal charges, or articles of impeachment, will be drawn up.
The Judiciary Committee, led by longtime Trump nemesis Jerry Nadler, will open hearings on Wednesday with four legal experts expected to discuss whether the Democrats’ impeachment process and the charges against the president adhere to the US Constitution.
Trump’s White House counsel Pat Cipollone has refused an offer to take part, calling the inquiry “baseless and highly partisan” and violating “fundamental fairness.”
But Cipollone reserved the right to join in subsequent Judiciary hearings, in which the charges are debated and further witnesses could be called.
Impeachment by Christmas?
There is no formal timeframe for the impeachment process.
But Democrats have aimed to hold a full House vote on articles of impeachment before the body goes on break for Christmas, December 25.
If, as expected, the articles are passed by the Democrat-controlled House, the case will go to the Republican-controlled Senate for a trial in January.
Republicans pushed back on Monday ahead of release of the Schiff report, saying in their own review of the testimony that there was no evidence of wrongdoing.
“The evidence presented does not prove any of these Democrat allegations, and none of the Democrats’ witnesses testified to having evidence of bribery, extortion, or any high crime or misdemeanor.”