Pelosi says House will move to impeach President Trump

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump says he opposes mail-in voting for November On The Money: Economy sheds 701K jobs in March | Why unemployment checks could take weeks | Confusion surrounds 9B in small-business loans The bipartisan neutering of the Congressional Budget Office MORE (D-Calif.) announced Thursday that the House will move forward with impeaching President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump fires intelligence community inspector general who flagged Ukraine whistleblower complaint Trump organization has laid off over 1000 employees due to pandemic: report Trump invokes Defense Production Act to prevent export of surgical masks, gloves MORE, saying his actions — as revealed by their weeks-long investigation — left them “no choice” but to pursue his removal from office.

The move erases any lingering doubt that Democrats view Trump’s dealings with Ukraine as a severe violation of the Constitution — and any question of whether they will take the next step of making him just the third president in the nation’s history to be impeached.

"The president's actions have seriously violated the Constitution," Pelosi said in a televised address against a backdrop of American flags. "Our democracy is at stake. The president leaves us no choice but to act."

Delivered on the august Speaker’s balcony in the Capitol, Pelosi's announcement was not entirely unexpected, as Democrats have been charging ahead for weeks with their investigation into Trump’s handling of foreign policy in Kyiv. But it marks a dramatic development nonetheless — one that increases the likelihood the House could vote on formal impeachment articles against Trump before Christmas.

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On Wednesday, the Judiciary Committee had staged its first hearing to examine whether the evidence dug up by the weeks-long investigation of the Intelligence Committee merits impeachment. And many Democrats were expecting Judiciary Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse Judiciary Committee postpones hearing with Barr amid coronavirus outbreak House Democrats plead with key committee chairman to allow remote voting amid coronavirus pandemic Pelosi rejects calls to shutter Capitol: 'We are the captains of this ship' MORE (D-N.Y.) to conduct more hearings on the topic. Pelosi on Thursday said there was no need. 

"Today, I am asking our chairmen to proceed with articles of impeachment," she said. 

Her use of “chairmen” is notable: it means that Nadler will not draft the articles alone, but will have help from other committee heads involved in the process, almost certainly to include Intelligence Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump fires intelligence community inspector general who flagged Ukraine whistleblower complaint Hannity blasts criticism of Fox News: 'I have taken this seriously' Pelosi forms House committee to oversee coronavirus response MORE (D-Calif.).

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Pelosi did not say when the articles will emerge, or what charges they will contain. But Democrats on the Judiciary Committee forecast potential articles in Wednesday’s hearing, outlining the case that Trump abused his power by committing bribery, obstructing justice and obstructing Congress.

Pelosi’s announcement opens a fourth phase in the Democrats’ hard-charging impeachment investigation, which they launched on Sept. 24 following allegations from a government whistleblower that Trump had asked foreign leaders to do him personal political favors.

The Democratic leader on Thursday described Trump pressing Ukraine to open two politically motivated investigations — including into a 2020 presidential rival — and called it a threat to the country and one that warrants action.

Pelosi, in particular, argued that Trump abused the power of his office, saying he undermined U.S. national security by seeking to have a foreign power interference in U.S. elections.

“The facts are uncontested: the president abused his power for his own personal political benefit at the expense of our national security,” she said.

Democrats have alleged that Trump dangled a possible White House visit and nearly $400 million in U.S. aid to Kyiv as leverage – a claim supported by the testimony of multiple career public servants who publicly offered damning details into the administration’s Ukraine foreign policy.

"If we allow a president to be above the law, we do so surely at the peril of our republic,” Pelosi said. “In America, no one is above the law.”

Republicans immediately blasted the move.

White House press secretary Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamOAN says it will attend briefing as White House guest after violating social distancing rules UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tests positive for coronavirus White House press secretary to return to work after negative virus test MORE in a statement attacked the decision, calling Democrats’ impeachment inquiry a "sham" that is a "blatant, purely partisan attempt to overturn the results of a free and fair election."

"Democrats in Congress have clearly abused their power. Democrats in Congress have lied to the American people. Democrats in Congress have made a mockery of the law, Grisham said.
 
"How many Democrats will join her driving right off the cliff with this illegitimate impeachment hoax?" she continued, calling it a "subversion" of the U.S. Constitution.

Trump also argued on Twitter that the repercussions of the decision will hurt "future presidents."

Even prior to the announcement, Trump took to Twitter to attack Democrats and their impeachment inquiry — while simultaneously inviting them to expedite it.

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“The Do Nothing Democrats had a historically bad day yesterday in the House. They have no Impeachment case and are demeaning our Country,” the president wrote in a pair of tweets.

“But nothing matters to them, they have gone crazy. Therefore I say, if you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate, and so that our Country can get back to business. We will have Schiff, the Bidens, Pelosi and many more testify, and will reveal, for the first time, how corrupt our system really is.”

Pelosi’s full-throated endorsement of impeaching Trump came after she had rejected that strategy through most of the year, even as Nadler and other liberals were clamoring for it throughout the examination of Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

Pelosi has her eyes on keeping the House majority in 2021, and there was plenty of early concern from vulnerable centrists that impeachment would haunt them at the polls next year.  But with the arrival of the Ukraine saga, much of that resistance fell away.

Pelosi, in launching the drafting of articles on Thursday, argued that the move was necessary to uphold the founders' efforts to prevent “the return of a monarchy in America."

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"They specifically feared the prospects of a king president corrupted by foreign influence," the speaker said. 

“They therefore created a constitutional remedy to protect against a dangerous or corrupt leader: impeachment.” 

—Updated at 10:45 a.m.