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5 things to know about the impeachment announcement by House Democrats

Alex Wong/Getty

Here are 5 things to know about Tuesday’s announcement of impeachment articles by House Democrats:

What happened

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler announced two articles of impeachment against controversial Republican President Donald Trump. The articles charge Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Also appearing on the podium were other chairmen of committees who have been investigating Trump, including Richard Neal, the Massachusetts congressman who heads the House Ways and Means Committee.

What did not happen

Lawmakers had debated adding a third impeachment article charging the president with obstruction of justice based on the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of whether the Trump campaign had ties to Russian interference in the 2016 election. But moderate Democrats preferred to keep the impeachment articles focused on Trump’s actions in the Ukraine scandal, where they saw a clearer case.


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What’s next

The House Judiciary Committee will vote on the articles Thursday, and the articles will be sent from there to the full House, which is expected to vote on them next week, The Washington Post reported. A simple majority vote is needed to impeach the president – and the Democrats have a majority in the House. Trump’s impeachment in the House appears increasingly likely.

Impeachment is essentially a formal charging of the president for conduct. Next would be a January trial in the Senate, but a two-thirds supermajority is needed there to convict and remove Trump – and the Republicans hold the majority of Senate seats. So political observers say, as of now, there’s little chance Trump will be removed.

Trump’s reaction

Trump, in a tweet before the Democrats’ announcement, touted the performance of the economy and boasted of “one of the most successful presidencies ever.” He also said he had “done NOTHING wrong” and that impeaching him would be “sheer Political Madness!” After the announcement, Trump denied in a tweet that he had pressured Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election, which is the core allegation of the abuse of power impeachment article. He said the idea was “ridiculous.” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement, “The president will address these false charges in the Senate and expects to be fully exonerated, because he did nothing wrong.”

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What it’s all about

Democrats say Trump abused his power when he pressured Ukraine – by withholding military aid and a White House meeting between Trump and Ukraine’s president – to publicly announce investigations that would help Trump, one into his Democratic rival Joe Biden and the other into a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 US elections. “The evidence of the president’s misconduct is overwhelming and uncontested,” Schiff said Tuesday.

The obstruction of Congress article stems from Trump’s subsequent refusal to cooperate in the House’s investigation of the Ukraine scandal. Schiff said Trump had “obstructed Congress fully, without precedent, and without basis in law.” He said if Congress didn’t act, Trump or any other president in the future would be “free to be as corrupt, malfeasant, or incompetent as they would like, with no prospect of discovery or accountability.” Addressing the argument that the House is rushing to impeach Trump, Schiff said, "The argument, ‘why don’t you just wait?’ comes down to this: Why don’t you just let him cheat in just one more election? Why not let him have foreign help just one more time?”

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Martin finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com