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As House Vote Looms and Senate Draws Battle Lines, Democracy Defenders Say No Choice But to Impeach Trump

"We know the facts. We know the Constitution. We know what needs to be done."

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer holds a press conference on the anticipated impeachment trial of US President Donald Trump by the US Senate at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, December 16, 2019. (Photo: Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images)

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer holds a press conference on the anticipated impeachment trial of US President Donald Trump by the US Senate at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, December 16, 2019. (Photo: Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images)

With an impeachment vote in the U.S. House of Representatives looming for Wednesday and the U.S. Senate preparing to decide President Donald Trump's future intensifying in the U.S. Senate, the battle lines were made clear Monday as Democrats in both chambers—and outside voices clamoring for the president's removal from office—spoke out about the need to hold the U.S. leader to account.

"[Trump] has threatened the heart of our democracy by demanding foreign interference in our elections and obstructing Congress. That is illegal."
—Vanita Gupta, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

"If we don't stand up now to a president who abuses his power, we risk sending a message to all future presidents that they can put their own personal political interests ahead of the American people, our national security and our elections," tweeted Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee.

Just after midnight on Monday, the House Judiciary Committee released its full 658-page report on impeachment—titled Impeachment of Donald J. Trump President of the United States (pdf)—which details the two primary charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice. The committee also released a summary of the investigation's key findings and offered excerpts from the report.

The Democrats argue in the report that Trump committed "multiple federal crimes" and that the president remains a "continuing threat" to the nation so long as he is "left in office."

From the committee's report:

Abuse of Power

President Trump's Abuse of Power: "President Trump abused the powers of the Presidency by ignoring and injuring national security and other vital national interests to obtain an improper personal political benefit. He has also betrayed the Nation by abusing his high office to enlist a foreign power in corrupting democratic elections… President Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law."

The Framers' Grave Fears of this Kind of Abuse of Power: "In warning against abuse of power, the Framers repeatedly returned to two very specific risks: betrayal of the national interest and corruption of elections. Informed by history, the Framers perceived these abuses as existential threats to the Republic. The United States could not survive if Presidents used their high office to conspire with foreign nations in pursuit of personal gain. And democracy would be in grave danger if Presidents used their powers to subvert elections."

And:

Obstruction of Congress

Our System of Checks and Balances: This Nation has no kingsUnlike a monarch, whose every word is law, the President of the United States answers to the Constitution and the American people. He ordinarily does so through elections, legislative oversight, judicial review, and public scrutiny. In truly extraordinary cases, however, the Constitution empowers the House of Representatives to hold the President accountable through its ‘sole Power of Impeachment.’”

The President’s Obstruction is Incompatible with Our Democratic System of Government: President Trump’s obstruction of Congress does not befit the leader of a democratic society. It calls to mind the very claims of royal privilege against which our Founders rebelled….Through this conduct, President Trump has shown his rejection of checks and balances. A President who will not abide legal restraint or supervision is a President who poses an ongoing threat to our liberty and security.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) was among those arguing that Trump's behavior has made impeachment a necessity:

With a full House vote expected on Wednesday, passage of the impeachment resolution, officially H. Res. 755, would be a historic rebuke of President Donald Trump's behavior while in office and set the stage for a contentious trial in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.

Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, issued the following statement in support of impeaching Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors.

"Protecting our democracy is our elected leaders' most important responsibility," Gupta said Monday. "But the facts are clear: our president has failed to do that. Instead, he has threatened the heart of our democracy by demanding foreign interference in our elections and obstructing Congress. That is illegal. 'We the people' need to trust that our vote matters — and that it can't be bought or stolen."

Fred Wertheimer, president of the watchdog group Democracy 21, characterized the president's offenses as a gross abuse of power and said every member of the House has a duty to vote for impeachment no matter what the expectations about what the U.S. Senate does subsequently.

"The conduct of President Trump in the Ukraine affair flagrantly contradicted our democratic norms and values and attacked the integrity of our elections," Wertheimer said in a statement on Monday. "President Trump's actions cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged, since failing to formally do so would establish the actions as precedents for future conduct and be used to validate future attempts by Trump to rig the 2020 elections.   The President must be held formally accountable by the House, regardless of what the Senate does."

Gupta agreed. "Every member of Congress has sworn an oath to protect and defend the Constitution," she said. "At this critical moment, they must fulfill their solemn duty and vote to impeach. No one is above the law, not even the president. If Congress fails to address this, they are declaring that anyone in elected office can hurt our country to secure personal gain."

During a press conference Monday afternoon on Capitol Hill, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer laid out his thoughts on what a trial in the Senate should look like if the House does vote to impeach. Schumer lamented that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to discuss the parameters of the trial with Democratic leadership, but instead vowed "total coordination" with the White House.

"In the coming weeks," said Schumer, "particularly Republican senators, will have a choice: Do they want a fair honest trial that examines all the facts, or do they want a trial that doesn't let the facts come out?"

While lawmakers make the case for and against impeachment, grassroots organizations nationwide are mobilizing for more than 500 local "Nobody Is Above the Law"protests scheduled to take place communities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia on Tuesday night—the eve of the House impeachment vote. 

According to organizers, more than 150,000 grassroots activists signed up via impeach.org to rally in support of impeachment. Find one near you here.

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