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Democrats unveil formal impeachment charges against Trump

They accuse Trump of abusing power and obstructing Congress, making him the fourth US president to face impeachment

WASHINGTON Democrats in the House of Representatives announced formal charges against President Donald Trump yesterday that accuse him of abusing power and obstructing Congress, making him only the fourth US president in history to face impeachment.

The full Democratic-controlled House is expected to vote on the charges, or articles of impeachment, next week.

It is almost certain to vote to impeach the Republican president, setting the stage for a dramatic trial in the Republican-controlled Senate, likely to begin next month.

ENDANGER

House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler told reporters that Democrats had to take action because Mr Trump had endangered the US Constitution, undermined the integrity of the 2020 election and jeopardised national security.

"No one, not even the president, is above the law," he said at a news conference that included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leaders of committees involved in the impeachment probe.

"Our elections are a cornerstone of democracy... The integrity of our next election is at risk from a president who has already sought foreign interference in the 2016 and 2020 elections."

Mr Trump responded to the announcement by calling the accusations "ridiculous".

He also renewed his familiar claim on Twitter that he was the victim of a "witch hunt".

Separately, White House spokesman Stephanie Grisham called the impeachment articles a "partisan, gratuitous and pathetic attempt to overthrow the Trump administration and the results of the 2016 election".

She said the President will address the two "baseless" impeachment charges during the US Senate trial phase of the proceedings.

"The President will address these false charges in the Senate and expects to be fully exonerated, because he did nothing wrong," Ms Grisham said in a statement.

Democrats have moved rapidly in their impeachment inquiry since launching an investigation on Sept 24 into allegations that Mr Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate a Democratic political rival, former vice-president Joe Biden.

WITHHOLD

Democrats say their investigation shows Mr Trump withheld US$391 million (S$531 million) in military aid and the White House meeting to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Mr Biden and his son Hunter, as well as a debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 US election.

Republicans argue Mr Trump did nothing improper in his call with Mr Zelensky and say there is no direct evidence he withheld aid or a White House meeting in exchange for a favour.

They also say Democrats are seeking to overturn the results of the 2016 election with a "witch hunt" against Mr Trump, who denies he did anything wrong.

"Americans don't agree with this rank partisanship, but Democrats are putting on this political theatre because they don't have a viable candidate for 2020 and they know it," Mr Brad Parscale, Mr Trump's 2020 re-election campaign manager, said in a statement.

Should Mr Trump be impeached, he faces a weeks-long trial in January in the US Senate, which is controlled by members of his Republican Party.

Removal from office is unlikely, given that conviction requires a two-thirds vote in the 100-member chamber, and no Republicans have yet signalled they would side with Democrats against Mr Trump.

But his impeachment may yet have an impact on the campaign trail as Democrats seek to retake control of the White House in the US presidential election in November 2020. - REUTERS

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