WASHINGTON – House Democrats plan to begin debating Wednesday two articles of impeachment accusing President Donald Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, setting up a constitutional clash between the two branches of government that has only happened three times before.
Hours after Democrats announced the articles of impeachment Tuesday, they scheduled a Wednesday evening meeting of the House Judiciary Committee to consider them.
The committee plans to begin debating the articles at 7 p.m. Wednesday and resume at 9 a.m. Thursday. No deadline was set for a final committee vote. If approved, the full House could vote on the articles as early as next week.
The accusations against Trump closely track the Intelligence Committee's findings about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. The panel found Trump withheld a meeting and military aid from Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky while pressuring his counterpart to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
The first article alleges Trump abused his power by urging the Ukraine investigation. The second article alleges Trump obstructed Congress by refusing to cooperate with the House investigation, including defying subpoenas for documents and testimony.
Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said it was an abuse of power for Trump to obtain an improper personal benefit while ignoring or injuring the national interest. Nadler said Trump's stonewalling and "indiscriminate defiance" of the investigation represented obstruction of Congress.
"A president who declares himself above accountability, above the American people, and above Congress's power of impeachment which is meant to protect against threats to our democratic institutions is a president who sees himself as above the law," Nadler said. "We must be clear: No one, not even the president is above the law."
The nine-page articles stated the accusations against Trump were a "scheme" to benefit his own re-election, rather than the country.
"Using the powers of his high office, President Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States Presidential election," the text said. "He did so through a scheme or course of conduct that included soliciting the government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations that would benefit his reelection, harm the election prospects of a political opponent, and influence the 2020 United States Presidential election to his advantage."
"In so doing, President Trump used the powers of the Presidency in a manner that compromised the national security of the United States and undermined the integrity of the United States democratic process," the text said.
Read the articles:Read the full text of the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump
The inquiry bitterly divided Congress along party lines. Democrats contend Trump represents an urgent threat because he sought to interfere in the 2020 election.
But Trump has called the inquiry a partisan “WITCH HUNT!” a phrase he tweeted again Tuesday, and a “hoax.” Trump met Zelensky and released the $391 million in aid without an announcement of investigations. Congressional Republicans contend Trump had the authority to suspend aid and set foreign policy.