US lawmakers clash over Trump impeachment charges

WASHINGTON (AFP) – A deep partisan rift was on full display Thursday as United States (US) lawmakers slogged towards a fateful vote to advance the impeachment of US President Donald Trump for his alleged misconduct involving his dealings with Ukraine.

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee bitterly denounced the process, framing it as an illegitimate attack on the President and his supporters, while Democrats rejected their opponents’ efforts to quash the articles of impeachment.

In a sign the pending committee vote to advance the articles of impeachment to the House floor was a foregone conclusion, House Democrats reportedly have already planned a vote for next Wednesday to impeach Trump. Should the Democratic-majority chamber vote against Trump next week as predicted, he will become only the third US President to be impeached and placed on trial in the Senate.

Trump stands accused of abusing his powers by leveraging a White House meeting and critical military aid to pressure Kiev to open an investigation into his political rival Joe Biden.

He is also accused of leaning on Kiev to probe a debunked theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election to help Democrats. The panel was also examining a second charge – obstruction of Congress – for Trump’s defiance of subpoenas and other efforts to compel administration officials, including White House aides, to testify or turn over documents related to the Ukraine saga.

The two-day debate began on Wednesday, with the rancorous clashes tumbling into Thursday’s session as lawmakers conducted the procedural nitty gritty of possibly amending the impeachment articles. A fiery House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler chided Republicans who complained that Democrats were obsessing over taking down the president and seeking to “subvert” the ability of Congress to keep the executive branch in check.

“Do we want a dictator, no matter how popular he may be, no matter how good or bad the results of his policies may be?” Nadler said.

“No President is supposed to be a dictator in the US.”

Republicans repeatedly asserted that Trump has committed no crime, and they quickly moved to dismiss the first charge – abuse of power – in the nine-page resolution.

“Article one ignores the truth,” Republican Jim Jordan declared. “Those are not the facts.”