Embattled Trump now one step closer to impeachment
Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi said yesterday she has directed a House committee to draft articles of impeachment against Donald Trump.
The direction relates to his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival that sets up a fight over whether to oust him from office.
In sombre tones, Ms Pelosi accused Mr Trump of abusing his power and alluded to King George III, the British monarch against whom the American colonies rebelled in 1776.
In the televised statement, she said: "When crafting the constitution, 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.
"Our democracy is what is at stake."
At the heart of the battle is Mr Trump's request last July that Ukraine launch an investigation targeting former US vice-president Joe Biden, a top contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
"Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our founders, today I am asking our chairman to proceed with articles of impeachment," Ms Pelosi said, referring to House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler.
Articles of impeachment represent formal charges against Mr Trump and would originate in the Judiciary Committee before going to the full House.
If the Democratic-led House passes the articles as expected, that would lead to a trial in the Senate on whether to convict Mr Trump and remove him from office. Republicans control the Senate and have shown little support for Mr Trump's removal.
The president reacted to the announcement on Twitter, writing: "The Do Nothing, Radical Left Democrats have just announced that they are going to seek to Impeach me over NOTHING."
Mr Trump also predicted that impeachment now "will be used routinely to attack future Presidents. That is not what our Founders had in mind".
Judiciary Committee Democrats on Wednesday said they may look beyond Mr Trump's relations with Ukraine.
They said they may also look at earlier efforts to impede Robert Mueller's inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election. However, they stopped short of saying that could trigger a separate charge.
No president has ever been removed from office through impeachment.
Polling has shown Americans are largely divided along party lines over the issue.
The committee is due to hold another hearing on Monday.