WASHINGTON – The leader of the House of Representatives committee weighing articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump contended Sunday that there is a “rock solid case” against the U.S. leader.
Congressman Jerrold Nadler declared on CNN that Trump would be found guilty in “three minutes flat” if he were facing charges before a criminal court jury that he abused his office by soliciting Ukraine to investigate one of his chief 2020 Democratic presidential challengers, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Nadler said if Trump “had any exculpatory evidence,” he would be making it known rather than rejecting participation, as the White House has, before the Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee’s consideration of impeachment allegations against the Republican president.
Nadler said the Judiciary panel, after a hearing Monday on evidence already collected by the House Intelligence Committee on Trump and his aides’ interactions with Ukraine, could possibly vote on the articles of impeachment by the end of the week. The full House then could be on track to impeach Trump before it recesses for its annual Christmas holiday break in two weeks, setting the stage for a January trial in the Republican-majority Senate, although Trump’s conviction and removal from office remains unlikely.
But Nadler declined to speculate on how many articles of impeachment will be brought against Trump and their content.
There is a division among the majority House Democrats advancing the impeachment case against Trump on whether to limit the allegations to abuse of power (asking a foreign government for help in a U.S. election) and obstruction of Congress (for refusing to turn over key documents related to Ukraine and to allow key Trump aides to testify) or to also include allegations that Trump sought to obstruct special counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Some more moderate Democratic lawmakers who won seats in the current session of Congress by capturing districts that Trump won in the 2016 presidential election have sought to limit the articles of impeachment to Ukraine, centered on his July 25 telephone request to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy “to do us a favor,” to investigate Biden, his son Hunter Biden‘s work for a Ukrainian natural gas company and whether Ukraine meddled in the 2016 presidential election Trump won, not Russia, as the U.S. intelligence community concluded.
More vocal Trump opponents among House Democrats say they want to include allegations related to Trump’s actions during the Mueller investigation.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff told the CBS “Face the Nation” show on Sunday that he thinks it is best to focus the impeachment charges on Ukraine.
“It’s always been my strategy … to charge those that there is the strongest and most overwhelming evidence and not try to charge everything, even if you could charge other things,” Schiff said.
Trump’s request to Zelenskiy for the Biden investigations came at a time he was temporarily withholding $391 million in military assistance from Kyiv it wanted to help fight pro-Russian separatists in the eastern part of the country, although Trump in September released the aid without Zelenskiy announcing any investigations.
Twenty years ago, when a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, was facing impeachment for lying about an affair he had with a White House intern, Nadler said the impeachment case against Clinton would lack legitimacy if it was almost entirely supported by Republicans and few Democrats, as was the case.
No current Republicans have supported the impeachment effort against Trump. Asked whether he was comfortable with such a Democrats’-only impeachment vote against Trump, Nadler said of Republicans, “It’s up to them to decide whether they want to be patriots or partisans.”
Trump has almost daily vented his wrath against the impeachment effort, even as his legal team has rejected Nadler’s invitation for it to participate in the Judiciary Committee’s hearings this week.
Trump said Sunday on Twitter, “Less than 48 hours before start of the Impeachment Hearing Hoax, on Monday, the No Due Process, Do Nothing Democrats are, believe it or not, changing the Impeachment Guidelines because the facts are not on their side. When you can’t win the game, change the rules!” It was not immediately clear what rules Trump was referring to.
One of Trump’s most vocal Republican supporters in the House, Congressman Mark Meadows, noted in another CNN interview that Trump’s request to Zelenskiy for the Biden investigations made no mention of a reciprocal deal for the military assistance Kyiv wanted.
“It’s appropriate to make sure nothing was done wrong in Ukraine,” Meadows said of Trump’s call for investigating Biden and his son. He said that “to give [Biden] a free pass, that’s just not appropriate.”
Trump could be the third U.S. president to be impeached, after Andrew Johnson in the mid-19th century and Clinton two decades ago, although both were acquitted in Senate trials and remained in office. Former President Richard M. Nixon resigned in 1974 in the face of certain impeachment in the Watergate political corruption scandal and cover-up.