Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday that she has asked key chairmen to draft articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, a historic step that signals the House is increasingly likely to vote to impeach Trump before the end of this year.
“Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our founders, and a heart full of love for America, today I am asking our chairmen to proceed with articles of impeachment,” Pelosi said, standing in front of a row of American flags.
Pelosi didn’t provide additional details, but Democrats have said they are considering multiple articles of impeachment against Trump, including abuse of power, obstruction of justice and obstruction of Congress. The House judiciary committee is expected to draw up articles of impeachment as soon as next week.
“His wrongdoing strikes at the very heart of our constitution. Our democracy is what is at stake,” Pelosi said in a 10-minute nationally televised address just outside the speaker’s balcony.
“The facts are uncontested,” she added. “The president abused his power for his own personal political benefit at the expense of our national security.”
Just ahead of Pelosi’s announcement, Trump delivered a defiant tweet.
“If you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast,” Trump wrote, adding that he wants a “fair trial” in the Senate. “We will have Schiff, the Bidens, Pelosi and many more testify, and will reveal, for the first time, how corrupt our system really is.”
Pelosi cast her decision as a heavy-hearted one but necessary to preserve American democracy in the face of a president who is seeking to corrupt the 2020 election. She repeatedly cited the vision of the constitution’s framers, who feared a president might try to assume the powers of a monarch and allow foreign influence to corrupt the American government.
Pelosi did not reveal any timeline for when the House would consider articles of impeachment. The California Democrat has long refused to put an end-date on Democrats’ investigation, cautioning she and her caucus would not prejudge the process before they were finished gathering evidence.
But senior Democrats have said privately they hoped to finish the inquiry, likely with a House vote to impeach Trump, before the end of December.
The six chairs of the committees investigating Trump, including judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, are expected to huddle privately after Pelosi’s announcement.
Pelosi has tightly controlled every step of Democrats’ impeachment investigation since first launching the inquiry on September 24 after a whistleblower complaint first came to light that Trump was pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate political rivals like former Vice President Joe Biden.
In recent weeks, Pelosi and her top deputies have made a point to be more public-facing, with more high-profile interviews like on CBS’s “Face the Nation” as they attempt to sway the public. She’ll participate in a CNN town hall on Thursday night.
Pelosi’s announcement comes one day after the House judiciary committee held its first impeachment hearing. The panel heard from four constitutional lawyers, three of whom — all Democratic witnesses — said Trump committed impeachable offenses.
The committee also signaled that Democrats are strongly considering including allegations connected to special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe in articles of impeachment. Nadler said Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine along with blocking Democrats’ investigation illustrated a clear pattern of abuse of power and obstruction that began with Trump’s efforts to thwart Mueller’s probe.
The debate over how much Democrats should rely on Mueller’s findings in potential articles — if at all — has resurfaced this month as a tricky issue within the caucus. Multiple moderate Democrats have cautioned Pelosi and other leaders against relitigating the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, which hardly budged public opinion on Trump. These lawmakers have urged a narrower scope focused on the Ukraine saga, which quickly unified the caucus.
The House intelligence committee, led by Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), collected hundreds of hours of depositions and public testimonies from 17 witnesses throughout October and November who detailed Trump and his allies’ maneuverings on Ukraine.
The witnesses, all current or former senior administration officials, detailed an extensive campaign by Trump and his allies to leverage much-needed military aid and coveted White House meeting in an attempt to force Zelenskiy to open the desired investigations.
House Democrats have broadly backed the impeachment inquiry. Just two moderates — Representative Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.) — remain opposed.
Many in the caucus have refused to say publicly whether they believe there is enough evidence to consider articles, even after the intelligence committee report came out Tuesday. But privately, the vast majority of Democrats assert that the case against Trump is clear and that the caucus is prepared to move ahead with the next step to draft articles and bring them to the floor.
Pelosi huddled with her caucus on Wednesday for a special members-only meeting on impeachment, where she asked lawmakers whether they are prepared to proceed with the impeachment process. Several in the room responded “yes.”
Kyle Cheney, Andrew Desiderio and Quint Forgey contributed reporting.
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