Congress committee begin Donald Trump impeachment debate
12 December 2019, 05:58 | Updated: 12 December 2019, 06:25
The House Judiciary Committee meet on Wednesday to consider formal articles of impeachment against the US president - over claims he abused his power and obstructed Congress's ability to investigate.
The Congressional committee took the first steps toward voting on articles of impeachment against Donald Trump.
The committee sat in a rare evening session to edit the articles against Mr Trump.
The hearing, titled “impeaching Donald John Trump, president of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanours," was opened by Judiciary Committee chair Jerold Nadler.
Each committee member was given five minutes to make an opening statement, an unusual move as normally only the Chair speaks.
“I believe that for such an important and solemn occasion as this, it would be appropriate for all members to have an opportunity to make an opening statement,” said Mr Nadler.
The committee will eventually vote separately on each of the two articles: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
The accusations against the President are that he abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rival and then obstructed lawmakers by directing his administration defy subpoenas for documents and testimony.
But Mr Trump claims his actions were justified and he refused to cooperate with the investigation which he viewed as partisan and biased.
The next move is for the panel to decide if they wish to adopt one or both of the articles if they do it would only be the fourth time in the history of the US.
The full House could then vote as early as next week on whether to impeach President Trump.
If approved, the Senate would hold a trial in early 2020, to decide whether to remove the president from office.
The resolution against the President reads: "President Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice, and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States."
Rhode Island Democrat, David Cicilline, said President Trump “will not be accountable” if he can get away with interference in the 2020 presidential election.
"He works for us. We the people," he said, urging his Republican colleagues to “put country over party.”
Democratic Representative, Eric Swalwell, said the witnesses in the impeachment inquiry had shown “courage” – an example to the lawmakers.
“If they can show that type of courage and risk everything, why can’t my Republican colleagues? The facts are not in dispute,” he said.
But, there were accusations of party politics from Republican Mike Johnson, who said he wanted his Democratic colleagues to “put country over party” and vote against impeachment.
“The founders of our country warned against a single party impeachment,” Johnson argued. Such an impeachment, Johnson said, would divide the country.
The White House Press Secretary, Stephanie Grisham, hit out at the impeachment articles, calling them a "baseless and partisan attempt to undermine a sitting president."
“House Democrats have long wanted to overturn the votes of 63 million Americans," Grisham said. "They have determined that they must impeach President Trump because they cannot legitimately defeat him at the ballot box."