After two weeks of public hearings on U.S. President Donald Trump's dealings with Ukraine, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are moving closer to formally impeaching the president on yet-to-be determined charges.
While a vote to impeach by the full House is not expected until before Christmas, the pace of the impeachment inquiry under way since late September picks up this week with the presentation of a Democratic report on their findings and recommendations.
The report, prepared by the House Intelligence Committee which conducted the recent hearings, will outline the Democrats' allegations that Trump abused his office by pressing Ukraine to investigate Trump's Democratic political rival, Joe Biden, and a debunked theory about Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The report will allege Trump used hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid and a coveted White House meeting between the U.S. and Ukrainian leaders as leverage. The report will also recommend specific articles of impeachment.
The exact charges remain unknown. Under the U.S. Constitution, a president can be impeached for treason, bribery, or "other high crimes and misdemeanors."
Members of the intelligence committee will review a draft of the report late Monday. They are scheduled to meet behind closed doors Tuesday to adopt the report and incorporate the Republican response before forwarding it to the House Judiciary Committee, which votes on articles of impeachment. The report will then be made public.
A 110-page report prepared by Republicans on the Intelligence, Oversight, and Foreign Affairs committees accuses Democrats of carrying out "an orchestrated campaign to upend our political system."
"House Democrats have been trying to undo the results of President Trump's historic election since before he was sworn in," House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said, adding that Democrats have not found "a single legitimate reason" for impeachment.
"Instead, Democrats have relied on smears, hearsay, and presumption to build their false narrative," he said.
The Democratic Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, reacted to the Republican report by saying the impeachment probe "will not serve as a vehicle to undertake the same sham investigations into the Bidens or 2016 ... or to facilitate the president's effort to threaten, intimidate, and retaliate against the whistleblower who courageously raised the initial alarm."
The Judiciary Committee has scheduled a public hearing for 10 a.m. Wednesday. It will focus on the constitutional grounds for presidential impeachment. Four legal scholars will appear as witnesses. They are law professors Noah Feldman of Harvard University; Pamela Karlan of Stanford University; Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina; and Jonathan Turley of George Washington University.
Last week, Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler sent a letter to Trump, inviting him and his lawyer to attend the Wednesday hearing and to ask questions of witnesses.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone said late Sunday the White House will not participate in the hearing "while it remains unclear whether the Judiciary Committee will afford the president a fair process through additional hearings."
Moreover, Cipollone criticized Democrats for scheduling the hearing while Trump is attending a NATO summit in London.
Monday, Nadler called the White House's decision not to attend the Wednesday hearing "unfortunate," saying "allowing the president to participate has been a priority for the House from the outset."
White House opportunity to participate
Nadler has also given the White House until Friday to indicate whether the administration will participate in additional impeachment hearings and what rights Trump wants to exercise at those hearings.
Cipollone said the White House will respond by the Friday deadline, but indicated the administration will not participate short of major concessions by the Democrats, including allowing witnesses invited by Republicans.
Republican leaders want testimony from Hunter Biden, the son of former vice president Joe Biden, and the unidentified intelligence community whistleblower who alerted the inspector general about Trump's dealings with Ukraine. Democrats have dismissed the demand.
"It is too late to cure the profound procedural deficiencies that have tainted this entire inquiry," Cipollone wrote.
VOA's Kenneth Schwartz contributed to this report.