The Democrats have announced they will bring articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, making him just the fourth US president in history to face the move.
Nancy Pelosi, the most senior Democrat in the House of Representatives, announced that after more than two months of an impeachment inquiry, the party had decided to table articles.
Ms Pelosi likened Mr Trump to a “king president” as she lent on history to justify the decision, talking about why America’s founding fathers created the power to impeach.
"With confidence and humility, with allegiance to our founders and a heart full of love for America, today I am asking our chairman to proceed with articles of impeachment,” Ms Pelosi said.
Debate now turns to which articles of impeachment will be brought against Mr Trump, how many and when they will be voted on. Impeachment is the process of formally removing a sitting president.
The articles are likely to be over abuse of power, obstruction of justice and possibly bribery – a term that was specifically included in the US Constitution’s definition of what warrants impeachment.
A vote in the House Judiciary Committee, which is in charge of drafting the articles, could come next week. A full vote in the House is expected in the week before Christmas.
The White House was quick to react, with Mr Trump’s press secretary Stephanie Grisham saying the Democrats “should be ashamed”.
The announcement means it is all but certain that Mr Trump will be impeached, given the Democrats have a clear majority in the House of Representatives.
Mr Trump would become only the fourth president to have the House Judiciary Committee pass impeachment articles if that happens, joining Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Mr Nixon resigned shortly after that moment.
Since the Democrats announced their impeachment inquiry on September 24 into Mr Trump’s attempt to get Ukraine to launch politically helpful investigations, party leaders have insisted they had made no decision on whether to bring articles of impeachment forward.
That ended shortly after 9am on Thursday morning as Ms Pelosi, who has been leading the impeachment drive, gave a short statement to cameras before a backdrop of American flags.
Ms Pelosi described how America’s founding father “feared the return of a monarchy” in the country after breaking away from Britain and wanted to avoid a ‘king president” from emerging.
Framing the justification for impeachment in its historical context, Ms Pelosi quoted one of the men who crafted the US Constitution as saying the president “is not the king, the people are the king”.
She added: “If we allow a president to be above the law we do so surely at the peril of our Republic. In America, no one is above the law.”
Ms Pelosi then said that Mr Trump’s actions – his push to get Ukraine to investigate his political rival Joe Biden, holding back almost $400 million in military aid while making the request – warranted impeachment.
She said Mr Trump “abused his power for his own personal benefit”, undermining America’s national security in the process.
“Our democracy is what is at stake. The president leaves us no choice but to act,” Ms Pelosi said. She called for a “sombre approach” to the next stages of the impeachment process.
Chief among the debates for Democrats is whether to draft articles of impeachment solely on the Ukraine scandal, or also on elements of the Russian election meddling investigation.
Some Democratic congressmen want to include Mr Trump’s alleged obstruction of justice to special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, but that push is being resisted by others within the party.
Should Mr Trump be impeached by the House of Representatives, the issue will move to the US Senate – the other body in the US Congress – to decide whether to remove him from office.
There the Republicans hold a majority, and 67 of the 100 senators would have to vote for removal for it to become binding, meaning a major Republican rebellion would be needed.
There are few signs that will happen currently, given Republican voters remain full-square behind the president according to opinion polls.
Ms Grisham said: “Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats should be ashamed. Donald Trump has done nothing but lead our country – resulting in a booming economy, more jobs & a stronger military, to name just a few of his major accomplishments. We look forward to a fair trial in the Senate.”
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