House Democrats unveil articles of impeachment

Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said President Trump’s constant abuse of power left Democrats with no choice but to move forward with articles of impeachment.
21:59 | 12/10/19

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Transcript for House Democrats unveil articles of impeachment
This is an ABC news special. George Stephanopoulos. Good morning welcome to our special coverage of the impeachment of president trump let's go right to Capitol Hill right now are the house speakers expected in just moments. To formally unveil articles of impeachment against president trump you see there the committee chairman charged with this investigation. And speaker of the house won't come to the public. Good morning everyone. When the solemn day and I read. Call that the first order business. For members of congress. As the solemn act. To take an oath to protect and defend the constitution. Of the United States. As great respect. And gratitude. That I thank the chairs of the committees the six committee sent them working to help us honor our oath of office. Also want to thank the staff of those committees and the committee members. For all of their work over this period of time. To help us protect and defend. Cohen thanks each image issue very committee misting as their chair of the intelligence committee. Mr. Schiff the chair of the Ways and Means Committee. Chairman. Alan these chairman. Chairman Richie Neal of Massachusetts who chairs volunteers community. Eliot Engel. Of New York to cheer of the financial services committee Maxine Waters of California. The chair of the committee on government reform and oversight. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. I also want to acknowledge the important work that was done by our dear and departed may rest in peace. Elijah Cummings as chair of the committee of the oversight committee. Now pleased to yield to distinguish here. Of the Judiciary Committee mr. Nath and. Thank you madam speaker. Over the last several months. The investigative committees in the house have been engaged in an impeachment inquiry into president Donald Trump's efforts. To solicit foreign interference in the 2020 elections. Efforts at compromise our national security. And threatened the integrity. Of our elections. Throughout this inquiry. He has attempted to conceal the evidence from congress. And from the American people. Our president hose the ultimate public trust. When he betrays that trust and puts himself before country. He endangers the constitution. He endangers our democracy. And the endangers our national security. The framers. Of the constitution. Prescribed a clear remedy for presidents. Who so violate their oath of office. That is the power of impeachment. Today. In service to our duty to the constitution. And to our country. The house committee on the judiciary is introducing two articles of impeachment. Charging the president of the United States. Donald. With committing high crimes and misdemeanors. The first article. Is for abuse of power. It is an impeachable offense. For the president to exercise. The powers of his public office. To obtain improper personal benefit while ignoring. Or in injuring. The national interest. That is exactly. What president trump did when he solicited and pressured. Ukraine to interfere in our 2020. Presidential election. Thus damaging our national security. Undermining the integrity of the next election. And violating his oath to the American people. These actions moreover. Are consistent with president Trump's previous invitations. A foreign interference. In our 2016. Presidential. Election. And when he was caught up when the house investigated. And opened an impeachment inquiry. President trump engaged in unprecedented. Categorical. And indiscriminate defiance. Of the impeachment inquiry. This gives rise to the second article of impeachment for obstruction of congress. Here too. We see a familiar pattern in president trumps his conduct. A president who declares himself above accountability. Above the American people. And above Congress's power of impeachment. Which is meant to protect against threats to a democratic institutions. Is a president who sees himself. As above the law. We must be clear. No one not even the president. Is above the law. I want to recognize the great contributions of the investigative chairs particularly intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff. Foreign affairs chairman Eliot Engel. Committee on oversight reforms former chairman the late Elijah Cummings. And his new chairwoman Carolyn Maloney. Financial services chairwoman Maxine Waters. And ways and means chairman Richard Neal. Who helped lay the foundation. For the articles we aren't introducing today. I also want to thank my Judiciary Committee colleagues. We're critical in our work to hold the president accountable. And it drafting of these articles. Later this week. The Judiciary Committee will meet to consider these articles of impeachment. And to make. A recommendation to the full House of Representatives. We do not take this action lightly. But we have taken an oath to defend the constitution. And unlike president trump. We understand. That duty first and foremost is to protect the constitution. And to protect the interest of the American people. That is why we must take this solemn step today. Elections are the cornerstone of democracy in a foundational to the rule of law but the integrity of art next election is at risk. From a president who has already sought foreign interference. In a 2016. And 2020 elections. And who consistently. Puts himself above country. That is why we must act now. I went turned out to chairmanship. Who explained the evidence that supports these articles and the need for us to act. With such urgency today. Thank you mr. chairman. Thank you madam speaker and to my colleagues. Good morning. The framers of the constitution recognized. That someday a president might come to office who would abuse that office. Betray the public trust. And undermine national security to secure foreign help in his reelection. And who would seek to abrogate the power of congress to hold him accountable. They recognize this danger. And they prescribed a remedy and that remedy is impeachment. It is an extraordinary remedy and one that I've been rocked reluctant to recommend. Until the actions of president trump gave congress no alternative. We stand here today because the president's continuing abuse of his power has left us no choice. To do nothing would make ourselves complicit. In the president's abuse of his high office the public trust and our national security. The president's misconduct. Is as simple and as terrible as this. President from. Solicited a foreign nation Ukraine. To publicly announce investigations. Into his opponent. And a baseless conspiracy theory promoted by Russia. To help his reelection campaign. President trump abuse the power of his office by conditioning to official acts to get Ukraine to help his reelection. The release of hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid that nation desperately needed. At a White House meeting with a an ally trying to fend off Russian aggression. In so doing he undermine our national security and jeopardize the integrity of our next election. And he does so still. The evidence of the president's misconduct is overwhelming and uncontested. And how could it not be when the president's own words on July 25. I would like you to do us a favor though. Laid so bare his intentions. His willingness to sacrifice the national security for its own personal interests. And when the president got caught. He committed his second impeachable act obstruction of congress of the very ability to make sure that no one is above the law. Not even the president of the United States. The evidence is every bit as strong the president trump has obstructed congress fully without press event and without basis in law. If allowed to stand it would decimate congress' ability. To conduct oversight of this president or any other in the future. Leaving this president. And those who follow to be. Free to be as corrupt. Malfeasance or incompetent as they would like would no prospect of discovery. Or accountability. Now some would argue why don't you just wait. Why don't you just wait until you get these witnesses. The White House refuses to produce. What are you just wait until you get the documents. The White House refuses to turn over. And people should understand what that argument really means. It has taken us eight months to get a lower court ruling. That Don McGann has no absolute right to defy congress. Eight months. For one court decision. If it takes us another eight months to get a second court or maybe a Supreme Court decision people need to understand. That is not the end of the process. It comes back. To us and we ask questions because he no longer has absolute immunity. And then he claims something else that his answers are privileged and we have to go to back to court for another eight. We're sixteen months the argument why don't you just wait amounts to this. Why don't you just let him cheat in one more election. Why not let him cheat just one more time. Why not let him have foreign help just one more time. That is what that argument amounts to. The president's misconduct goes to the heart of whether we can conduct a free and fair election in 20/20. It is bad enough for candidate to invite foreign interference in our political process. But it is far more corrosive for a president to do so. And to abuse his power to make it so. Despite everything we have uncovered the presence was conduct continues to this day and apologetic league and right now. As we song. When he stood on the White House lawn then he was asked what did you want to not July 25 call and he said the answer was a simple. And not just a simple one on July 25 but a simple one today and that is he still. Wants Ukraine to interfere our election to help his campaign. Even this week the president's lawyer was back in Ukraine. Seeking to revive the same debunked conspiracy theory promoted at the president's behest. Which gets to the final. And most pernicious. Of the arguments that we have heard in the president's defense. That the president can do whatever he wants under article two. Including get foreigners involved in our elections and we should just to quote the president's chief of staff. Get over it. Ben Franklin said we have a republic if we can keep it. The president and his men say. You can't keep it and Americans should just get over it. Americans don't get to decide American elections anymore. Not by themselves. Not without foreign help. For the members of congress this is not a question of fact because the facts are not seriously contested. It is rather a question of duty. The president's oath of office appears to mean very little to him. But the articles put forward today we'll give us a chance to show. That we will defend the constitution. And that our roads. Means something. To us. I thank you mr. chairman. It appears the members will not take questions. There you have it the drive to impeachment full speed ahead right now Democrats led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Seeing the evidence is overwhelming an uncontested have now unveiled two formal articles of impeachment. Against president from both connected to his efforts they say to pressure Ukraine. To open investigations into Joseph Biden and Democrats in the prevent congress from looking into want to go to our chief White House correspondent John Karl in Washington right now. The date president trump has root for a long time. It's certainly something he wanted to avoid it's also something that he knew was coming. Increasingly obvious in recent weeks and before this press conference he. But tweeted his response because he knew this was coming this morning take a look at this George the president mrs. The line we will hear from them for a long long time. To impeach a president who has proven through results including producing perhaps the strongest economy in our country's history. To have one of the most successful presidencies ever most importantly was done nothing wrong this year political madness. So the president will portray this as a political lacked as a biased backed by Democrats. And the the point right now Ole vice as you've you saw right there are those were Democrats announcing. Those articles of impeachment and has a right now only Democrats. Publicly supporting. Led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi she was reluctant to pursue impeachment. During the Muller investigation after the mall report but in the wake of good the reports on this Ukraine phone call. She did come forward and Terry Moran who's up there on Capitol Hill was inside. The Rayburn room. Nancy Pelosi didn't say much this morning but no question she wanted to be there to show that she is driving and in charge of this process. In charge of the process and the tone of the process you want this to be not. Typical partisan politics she knows the Democrats some members have been eager to impeach this president from the moment he got into office. One of the challenges for Democrats is to persuade people this is the real deal. This time it's different and one of the ways you can tell she is insisting. That it is a solemn process that it is constitutional. And that it is a duty that Democrats are doing not a weapon. In their partisan war so they lay out the rationale they lay out the evidence and they make the case constitutional. As those that think they they do have a bit of a problem but she now is in control of this process its pace which is lick you be split. And its tone which is solemn and and serious. Likely split one word for it this is a fast process although the number of days is considered impeachment no longer the number of days of voting Bill Clinton's. Impeachment after the submission the Starr report back in nineteen. Thank you David your world news anchor and Adam Schiff the chairman of the intelligence committee didn't directly address a question of why there are going so fast is to protect the next election. It's exactly what he said and this has been the central argument we heard it all day yesterday and those nine hours of contentious hearings Republicans making their final case before this was to happen. Along with Democrats as well but the Republican argument has been a fast track of impeachment. Even though you put out the Clinton impeachment was fewer days of what we've seen so far. And you heard Adam Schiff they're safe just a moment ago the central argument from Republicans. Has been why not just wait until you get the witnesses that you watt from the White House he tried to draw a parallel to dot began waiting eight months that we know they probably could speed that up at an impeachment. Inquiry but he said if we wait. Several more months for these witnesses for these documents that essentially the argument amounts to why don't you let him cheat in one more let. Point Andrew Giuliani being in Ukraine just this last week this bring in our legal team as almost from Murray professor of constitutional law at NYU in camera and mention that we saw the speaker. First since out of her mouth go straight to the constitution the Democrats want to explain the American people now this is what the founders envisioned when they were talked about impeachable offenses. She wears the proponent of original us on this morning this is exactly what the framers contemplated Adam Schiff reiterated that the framers contemplated the idea that there would be. A president at some point in history. Who's he ambitions would exceed. The oath of office it would go beyond but the oath of office required. And they're how to be a congressional remedy to check that not remedy. What's impeachment this is not political this is not a witch hunt this is their solemn duty. And Dan Abrams this is the distilled case. We saw from the Democrats tended to articles of impeachment I think there were three articles against Richard Nixon for for Bill Clinton. I think they're trying to make them a sort of understandable as possible based on the facts as we know them right which is once you get into something like bribery for example you get into a debate. About the constitutional version verses the current federal statute it setter a this is simple and easy to understand. The Democrats are saying he'd used his power he's trench he's trying to win the next election by cheating. That's an abuse of power. And you know what else he did they say he obstructed congress is effort to investigate once he got caught it's a cut it easy to understand narrative. And I think that's the route they've gone rather than going broader rather than adding other articles but. It'll be interesting to see how detailed for example abuse of power gets. Or obstruction of congress gets are they going to lay out evidence that happened in the Muller investigation even though it's not a specific article in and of itself and. And drummer and one of the ways they seemed that that perhaps are open nearly shoehorn in some of the facts and more investigation into these articles they talk about a pattern of conduct and the president a familiar pattern. Precisely that what they would have Skinner what they want in these impeachment articles is did Paris get me demonstrate not just. The Ukraine. Controversy and scandal is worthy of impeachment but that it echoes as you say the way he has governed. Since then one of the problems they have and that second article of impeachment no obstruction of congress. There is has as saying that if the president goes to court to defend the presidential prerogatives of privilege over his closest advisors that amounts to obstruction of trickier that the trick your argument I got wanted to pick up on that because I noticed that did that it I think was Jerry no government brings to the legal team added a word. Things describing the instruction used indiscriminate. And I think that was the point he was trying to address that to the point that Terri was making yep president's go to courts all the time the can zoom in a blanket way that's where you see the violation it. I think the whole idea here's a site that's sort of in big inning of article two to the president doesn't have to do anything that the president doesn't want and that leads to kind of indiscriminate. Determination that no officials and the White House can actually be brought to testify before congress. That's very different than what we've seen in other impeachment situations. And we also saw again it was appointed Adam Schiff was making near that if they let this stand this kind of blanket refusal to team to work with congress that would decimate the ability of congress have good conduct oversight in the future. We're right at it but I think that when you look at what happened here for simply compared it to Don began case which did take eight months to just get a district court ruling and they're the question was does Don again have immunity and that. Didn't even address the question up okay now the doesn't have immunity what privileges mighty tribe now invoke. So so he's got a fair argument that that has taken a long time. On the flip side of it it it impeachment proceedings David pointed out you could expedite it you could certainly get. An expedited ruling that happen in the Nixon can correct the problem is it would still be two levels it would first be the argument that. He's basically saying the president thus far. No one can testify and as a result you first have to address the question of full immunity. And you resolve that and the courts then they have to show up they show up and they invoke privilege and you have to go then back to the courts to determine. What would be privileged and what wouldn't be privilege so it is fair to say that even expedited it would still take awhile. To see if they did the White House knows what's gonna happen in the house are looking ahead of the senate. Yet George that is where they are hoping they can get a fair trial in the chamber that is controlled by their party the president has said that he would like. To see his top officials there testify he has floated the idea of himself testifying at. No one really thinks that that is actually going to happen but you know we are now one step closer to. President trump becoming the third president in American history to have. This impeachment stain on his legacy and while he told me publicly just the other day that he is not worried about this being on his legacy George we know privately. He is very much concerned about this going forward. And it could come as soon as next week thank you all very much would return after our regular programming for many view. That is Good Morning America had a good day. This has been a special. From ABC.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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