Trump impeachment drive enters crucial week in divided Congress

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The impeachment proceedings against United States (US) President Donald Trump in a sharply divided US Congress entered a new phase yesterday when the House Judiciary Committee convened a hearing expected to result in specific charges against the Republican leader.

Democrats accuse Trump of abusing his power by allegedly linking military aid for Ukraine and a White House meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky to a request that Kiev investigate a potential 2020 rival, Democrat Joe Biden, and his son Hunter.

The real estate mogul president has ridiculed the inquiry as a “hoax” but Democrats believe they have, in the words of Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler, a “rock-solid case” showing that Trump put his personal political interests above those of the country.

“I think the case we have, if presented to a jury, would be a guilty verdict in about three minutes flat,” Nadler, an attorney by training, told CNN last Sunday.

The congressman, a long-time foe of Trump who hails from New York, did not rule out the possibility of a vote on impeachment in the Democratic-run House of Representatives by the end of the week.

“My goal is to do it as expeditiously, but as fairly as possible,” he said.

That would put the proceedings – which began in late September with the opening of the House investigation – on a fast track to a trial in early 2020 before the Republican-controlled Senate, where Trump is expected to prevail.

The president has repeatedly blasted the House inquiry as a partisan attack – he tweeted last Sunday that the Judiciary hearings are part of a “hoax” by the “No Due Process, Do Nothing Democrats.”

And his spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham accused Democrats of “weaponising impeachment,” telling Fox News, “That’s a shame – and it’s dividing this country.”