House Democrats have urged quick action in the impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump, as the inquiry into the president entered a new phase with testimony before the House judiciary committee from constitutional scholars on whether his conduct merited removal from office.
Jerrold Nadler, the New York Democrat who chairs the judiciary committee, opened the hearing by saying impeachment proceedings should move rapidly, over protests from Republicans.
“We cannot wait for the election to address the present crisis. The integrity of that election is the very thing at stake,” he said. “The president has shown us his pattern of conduct. If we do not act to hold him in check now, President Trump will almost certainly try again to solicit interference in the election for his personal, political benefit.”
“The president placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the US, sought to undermine the integrity of the US presidential election process and endangered US national security,” said the report, which was compiled by the House intelligence, oversight and foreign affairs committees.
The judiciary committee is expected to draft articles of impeachment in the coming days, which will be voted on by the full House of Representatives as soon as this month. One person familiar with the Democrats’ thinking said the vote was likely to happen the week before Christmas.
While the president is likely to be impeached by the Democratic-controlled House, he is unlikely to be convicted and removed from office in an eventual trial in the Republican-controlled Senate.
On Wednesday, House Republicans sought to delay the proceedings and accused Democrats of partisanship.
Doug Collins, the Georgia congressman who is the most senior Republican on the committee, said: “This is not an impeachment. This is just a simple railroad job, and today’s [hearing] is a waste of time.
“It didn’t start with [Robert] Mueller, it didn’t start with a phone call . . . it started with tears in Brooklyn in November 2016,” he added, in a reference to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign headquarters.
Mr Collins also disparaged the law professors who were called to testify, suggesting they did not understand the facts of the case and saying Mr Trump would learn “nothing” from them.
Pamela Karlan, a professor at Stanford Law School, responded passionately to Mr Collins: “I would like to say to you, sir, that I read transcripts of every one of the witnesses . . . I would not speak about these things without reviewing the facts. I’m insulted by the suggestion that as a law professor I don’t care about those facts.”
Ms Karlan was one of three legal experts selected by Democrats to testify. The other two were Noah Feldman, a professor at Harvard Law School, and Michael Gerhardt from the University of North Carolina. All three concluded Mr Trump had committed impeachable offences.
The Republicans’ chosen witness, Jonathan Turley from George Washington University, said while he was not a Trump supporter and did not vote for Mr Trump in 2016, he questioned how the impeachment inquiry has been conducted.
“This impeachment would stand out among modern impeachments as the shortest proceeding, with the thinnest evidentiary record, and the narrowest grounds ever used to impeach a president,” he said
He added that all Americans were “mad”, but said he was worried about the future implications of impeaching Mr Trump: “We leave in the wake of this scandal will shape our democracy for generations to come. I am concerned with lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger.”
Mr Trump and his lawyers declined to appear at Wednesday’s hearing, despite being invited. Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, wrote in a letter to Mr Nadler at the weekend that “an invitation to an academic discussion” would not “provide the president with any semblance of a fair process”.
Mr Trump told reporters at the Nato summit in London on Wednesday that the Democrats were doing “a very bad thing for our country . . . You almost question whether or not they love our country.”