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Pelosi Puts House on Quick Timetable for Impeaching Trump

Erik Wasson and Billy House

(Bloomberg) -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi set the House in motion toward a historic vote to impeach President Donald Trump on a rapid timetable that could bring the process to conclusion before the Christmas holiday.

She directed the heads of the House committees that have been investigating the president to begin drafting articles of impeachment, saying that Congress must hold Trump accountable for his “profound violation” of the public trust.

“The facts are uncontested,’’ Pelosi said Thursday at the Capitol. “The president abused his power for his own personal benefit.”

The announcement puts Trump on track to become the third president to be impeached in U.S. history. But there are scant chances that the Republican majority in the Senate will convict him at a trial that likely would begin in January.

Speaking in somber tones against a backdrop of American flags, the California Democrat said Trump undermined U.S. security and jeopardized the integrity of the country’s elections by pressuring a foreign government for help in next year’s presidential campaign.

“His wrongdoing strikes at the very heart of our Constitution,” Pelosi said. “The president leaves us no choice but to act because he is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit.”

She spoke a day after Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler indicated the panel was moving toward at least three articles of impeachment: abuse of power, bribery and obstruction. Nadler announced that the his panel will hold its next hearing on Monday, with presentations by the chief counsels for both parties on the Intelligence and Judiciary committees.

Trump Defiant

Trump was defiant on Thursday morning, saying on Twitter that Democrats “have no impeachment case” and challenging them to move fast so the nation can move on.

“If you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate, and so that our Country can get back to business,” the president said in a pair of tweets shortly before Pelosi spoke.

Democrats are focusing on Trump’s actions in dealing with Ukraine. They allege the president withheld almost $400 million in security assistance to pressure the government there into announcing an investigation involving Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden, the former vice president, to benefit Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign.

Ukraine wanted the aid, and a White House visit for President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, as a demonstration of U.S. support as it confronts Russian aggression.

The Pelosi announcement suggest that impeachment articles will more likely focus on the Ukraine episode rather than on allegations of obstruction based on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian election interference.

Timing Question

Pelosi has insisted that she set no deadline for a full House vote on impeachment, though many Democrats indicated they would like to have the process finished before Congress’s scheduled departure on Dec. 20 for the holidays. Her announcement Thursday aides that schedule and sets up a trial in the Senate in January.

One variable that could affect the timetable is the response by Trump and House Republicans. Nadler set a Friday deadline for the White House to say whether Trump’s representatives intend to participate in any of the additional hearings, including seeking to call or cross-examine any witnesses, or submit evidence. House Republicans could also try to call witnesses, and that could potentially extend a hearing schedule.

At a news conference later on Thursday, Pelosi acted angrily when she was asked whether she hates Trump.

“I don’t hate anyone,” Pelosi said, jabbing her finger in the air. “I was raised a Catholic. In a Catholic house, we don’t hate anybody in the world.”

She called Trump’s policies cowardly and cruel but said that was a matter for voters to decide. The impeachment drive is about the constitution, she said, not hate.

“Don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that,” Pelosi said.

A report issued earlier this week by Democrats on the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees after a months-long inquiry concluded that Trump abused his power, compromised national security and then tried to cover it up.

At Wednesday’s Judiciary Committee hearing, three legal experts called by Democrats all concluded Trump has committed impeachable acts and warned in stark terms against allowing that to stand. But the scholar called by Republicans argued that this impeachment effort was hasty and the evidence so far has been insufficient to gain broad support for action from the public.

The White House has sent emissaries to Congress to bolster what had been a solid wall of support for Trump among Republicans. White House Legislative Affairs Director Eric Ueland said administration officials are “continuing to make our case very strongly on the fact that nothing happened wrong here, the process is fatally flawed, the House should not adopt articles of impeachment and there’s plenty of other work that Congress should be focused on.”

--With assistance from Steven T. Dennis and Laura Litvan.

To contact the reporters on this story: Erik Wasson in Washington at ewasson@bloomberg.net;Billy House in Washington at bhouse5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net, Laurie Asséo

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