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Nancy Pelosi instructs House Judiciary Committee to draft articles of impeachment against Trump

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Nancy Pelosi instructs House Judiciary Committee to draft articles of impeachment against Trump
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US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she would instruct the House Judiciary Committee to draft impeachment charges against President Donald Trump.

"His wrongdoing strikes at the very heart of our Constitution," the top Democratic lawmaker said about the US president during a news conference at the US Capitol.

This means that the House Judiciary Committee will write formal impeachment charges against the US president that could if voted lead to a trial in the US Senate.

The announcement comes after three legal experts testified before the judiciary committee that the US President had committed impeachable offences.

"The facts are uncontested: the President abused his power for his own personal political benefit at the expense of our national security by withholding military aid and a crucial oval office meeting in exchange for an announcement of an investigation into his political rival," Pelosi explained.

Multiple US officials have testified in congressional hearings that the US withheld aid from Ukraine until President Volodymyr Zelenskiy would announce an investigation into Trump's Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son's ties to Ukraine.

"To withhold that assistance for no good reason other than help with a political campaign made no sense," top Ukraine diplomat William Taylor said in testimony earlier this month.

Pelosi says that US democracy is at stake and that no one is above the law.

"The founders feared the return of a monarchy in America, and having just fought a war of independence, they specifically feared the prospect of a king president corrupted by foreign influence," she said.

Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, tweeted that Pelosi and the Democrats "should be ashamed".

Grisham said they looked forward to a "fair trial" in the Senate.

Next steps

The House Judiciary Committee - essentially the legal arm of the House - will now draft charges against the US President.

"The judiciary will then vote on those charges and whichever of those charges get a majority vote in the committee will then go to the entire US House," Richard Pildes, a constitutional law professor at New York University, told Euronews.

If any of the articles of impeachment get a majority vote, there will be a trial in the upper chamber of US Congress - the Senate.

"It’s possible that the US House will be voting on these articles of impeachment before Christmas and that would mean that the Senate trial would take place starting in January of 2020," Pildes said.

A two-thirds vote in the Senate on any of the impeachment charges would constitute removing the President from office, he added.

"We’ve never had a president who’s actually been convicted and removed from office through the impeachment process," Pildes said.

Both US Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton went through a Senate trial but no charges received two-thirds votes. President Richard Nixon resigned during impeachment proceedings.

An impeachable offence

Legal scholars testified in a public hearing on Wednesday that Trump's actions went against the US Constitution.

Pamela Karlan from Stanford Law School said in her opening statement: "The very idea that a President might seek the aid of a foreign government in his reelection campaign would have horrified [the founding generation]. But based on the evidentiary record, that is what President Trump has done."

"If we are to keep faith with the Constitution and our Republic, President Trump must be held to account," Karlan said.

Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman said in his opening statement: "on the basis of the testimony and evidence before the House, President Trump has committed impeachable high crimes and misdemeanours by corruptly abusing the office of the presidency."

A legal witness for the Republican party, George Washington University School of Law's Jonathan Turley said that the evidentiary record was thin with "the narrowest grounds ever used" to impeach a president.

Trump called the hearing a "sham".

This article has been updated to add quotes from an expert.