Washington: The legal team of the Democrats in the US House of Representatives presented what it considers to be the "ABC's" -- abuse of power, betraying the national interest and election corruption -- in the impeachment case against President Donald Trump.
These alleged actions by the President, the Democratic legal experts said on Monday, constitute sufficient reason to draft the so-called "articles of impeachment" against Trump, that is to formally accuse him of committing "high crimes and misdeameanors" that may result in his removal from office, reports Efe news.
The lawyer for the Democrats, Daniel Goldman, said in his closing statement at the Monday House Judiciary Committee hearing, that Trump "directed a scheme to pressure Ukraine into opening two investigations that would benefit his 2020 re-election campaign, not the US national interest", and "used his official office and the official tools of US foreign policy - the withholding of an Oval Office meeting and $391 million in security assistance - to pressure Ukraine into meeting his demands", reports Efe news
Goldman said that "everyone was in the loop, from Vice President (Mike Pence) and Acting Chief of Staff (Mick Mulvaney), to Secretary of State (Mike Pompeo) and Secretary of Energy (Rick Perry)", and "despite public discovery of this scheme, which prompted (Trump) to release the aid, he has not given up. He and his agents continue to solicit Ukrainian interference in our election, causing an imminent threat to our elections and our national security".
Specifically, Democrats, on the basis of evidence they have compiled to date, believe that Trump attempted to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation into the activities of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter in Ukraine to try and dig up evidence of their corruption.
The former Vice President is one of the leading Democratic presidential hopefuls and may vie with Trump for the 2020 election, and thus any dirt that could be found on him or his family would presumably benefit the president's re-election bid.
Ukraine has already said that it has found no evidence that either Biden engaged in any corrupt activities.
Nevertheless, Trump had frozen some $391 million in US military aid to Ukraine and Democrats contend that this was a premeditated plan to blackmail Kiev into investigating the Bidens in exchange for having the aid released.
Meanwhile, in the House hearings, Republican lawyer Stephen Castor argued that the evidence against Trump so far was not sufficient to require impeachment and that Zelensky had publicly stated that he did not feel pressured by Trump, among other things.
Castro said that no clear evidence exists that Trump acted with "malicious" intentions in asking Zelensky to launch the probe into the Bidens.
He also contended that Trump had a "legitimate" reason to be concerned about Hunter Biden's role on the board of Ukrainian gas firm Burisma, a highly paid post he received while his father was Vice President and the mediator of the conflict over Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.
Republican lawmakers criticized the congressional investigation mounted by the Democrats as being "unfair" and "partisan" with the aim of damaging Trump's image before the 2020 election.
The tension in the committee room was palpable throughout the hearing, with Republican lawmakers shouting at committee Chair Jerry Nadler, a Democrat, and accusing him of committing "treason" by being one of the main figures leading the impeachment investigation against the president.
Once the impeachment charges against the president are drafted and receive the approval of the House Judiciary Committee, controlled by the Democrats, the whole House will vote on them and they are expected to pass given the Democrats 235-199 majority over the Republicans there.
No date has yet been set for that vote, but all indications are that it will be held before the end of the year.
After that, the second phase of the impeachment proceedings will take place in the Senate, where Republicans outnumber Democrats 53-47.
Given that the law requires a two-thirds majority of senators voting for impeachment to ensure that a President is removed from office, it appears to be virtually impossible for the anti-Trump forces to muster enough support to oust the president.