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US House Judiciary Committee begins impeachment process

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President Donald Trump speaks at Winfield House in London on Dec. 3 2019. The Associated Press

Public impeachment hearings moved on Wednesday to the House judiciary committee, where four constitutional law experts testified about whether alleged misconduct by Donald Trump investigated in previous impeachment hearings rises to the level of impeachable offenses.

The Democrat-led US House of Representatives is set to reach a turning point in its inquiry into whether President Donald Trump improperly pressured the government of Ukraine to interfere in US politics, moving from an investigative phase to deciding whether Trump should be impeached.

"The Democrats' impeachment inquiry is not the organic outgrowth of serious misconduct; it is an orchestrated campaign to upend our political system", the Republicans wrote.

Sondland would later testify that there was a "quid pro quo" of an announcement of investigations in return for a White House meeting with Trump.

The report also accuses Mr Trump of obstruction, becoming the "first and only" president in U.S. history to "openly and indiscriminately" defy the house's constitutional authority to conduct the impeachment proceedings by instructing officials not to comply with subpoenas for documents and testimony. The complaint prompted House Democrats in late September to announce a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump.

While Democrats hold the majority in the U.S. house of representatives, Republicans control the senate, and not one Republican member in the upper chamber has signalled support for kicking Mr Trump out of office.

The Republican president "placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States, sought to undermine the integrity of the USA presidential election process, and endangered U.S. national security", the report said.

If they pass as expected, Trump would then stand trial for removal in the Republican-controlled Senate, where he is likely to be exonerated.

"At the end of a one-sided sham process, Chairman Schiff and the Democrats utterly failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing by President Trump", White House spokesperson Stephanie Grisham said, in a reference to committee chairman Adam Schiff.

The president will be impeached if the House approves any of the articles of impeachment the House Judiciary Committee has recommended by a simple majority vote.

On Tuesday, congressional Democrats made a forceful case that Trump should be removed from office for abusing his powers by pressuring Ukraine for dirt on a Democratic election rival.

"In doing so, the President placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States, sought to undermine the integrity of the USA presidential election process, and endangered US national security", the report declared.

On Tuesday, the Judiciary Committee's Republican members told the panel's Democratic chairman, Jerrold Nadler: "Should you continue to pursue this impeachment inquiry and do so without regard for the fundamentally American principles of fairness and due process, we will resist vigorously".

The House Judiciary Committee will now discuss whether to vote to impeach Trump.

"In pressuring President Zelenskiy to carry out his demand, President Trump withheld a White House meeting desperately sought by the Ukrainian President, and critical US military assistance to fight Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine", the report said.

Support for the impeachment effort was vigorous in the Democrats' private meeting, though voting to remove Trump could come hard for some lawmakers in regions where the president has substantial backing.

Lawyers for the House have argued that they need to see that material in part because it could further illuminate the question of whether Trump lied to Mueller, a matter they have said is part of their impeachment inquiry. Trump at the time was withholding $400 million in military aid from the ally, which faced an aggressive Russian Federation on its border.

Evidence for impeaching Donald Trump for misconduct in office is "overwhelming", according to the panel leading the USA impeachment inquiry. "Fast and narrow is not a good case for impeachment", Turley said. Democrats, they argue, just want to undo the 2016 election. In a letter to Nadler on Sunday, Cipollone said the White House won't participate in the hearing, citing concern that the House panel won't afford Trump "a fair process".

Republicans firmly control the Senate and few in the chamber have given any hint they would break ranks and vote to convict Trump based on the current evidence.

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