What's next in impeachment: Articles, and committee vote

The House could get to the real work of impeachment this week, with articles expected to be introduced and possibly voted on in the House Judiciary Committee

WASHINGTON -- The House is rapidly headed toward the real work of impeachment this week, with articles expected to be introduced and voted on in the House Judiciary Committee.

If the Judiciary panel approves articles by Friday, as is expected, that would set up a final impeachment vote in the days before Christmas.

Before the articles are introduced, the committee will consider the evidence of impeachment in a Monday hearing.

What’s next in impeachment:

HEARING THE EVIDENCE

The House Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing Monday to hear evidence from the House intelligence committee, which investigated President Donald Trump's dealings with Ukraine. That committee concluded, in a report released last week, that Trump seriously misused the power of his office for personal political gain by urging the Ukrainian government to investigate Democrats and withholding military aid to the country.

The intelligence committee's top staff investigator, lawyer Dan Goldman, will present the evidence to the Judiciary panel, and Republican lawyer Steve Castor will also present. Judiciary committee lawyers will also be laying out evidence, an indication that special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation could somehow be incorporated into the articles of impeachment.

Trump's White House said on Friday that they won't take part in the hearings, even though House rules allow them to do so. In a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone defiantly wrote that “House Democrats have wasted enough of America's time with this charade."

ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said Sunday that he expects action in the days after the Monday hearing, though a vote hasn't yet been scheduled.

“We’ll bring articles of impeachment presumably before the committee at some point later in the week," said Nadler, D-N.Y.

Lawmakers and staff are expected to finish drafting the articles in the coming days, a process that is being led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House Judiciary Committee.

Democrats are expected to draft around two to four articles that encompass two major themes — abuse of office and obstruction.

In interviews on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and CNN’s “State of the Union,"Nadler declined to say ultimately how many articles of impeachment Democrats will present but said they will involve “certainly, abuse of power” and likely obstruction. He said final decisions will come after Monday’s hearing and discussions with the Democratic caucus.

An impeachment article accusing Trump of abuse of office, or abuse of power, would focus on the findings of the Ukraine investigation. Some lawmakers have suggested that Democrats could break out “bribery” as a separate article. Bribery would likely center on Trump withholding the aid to Ukraine, and also dangling a White House meeting to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in exchange for the political investigations.

Obstruction articles could be broken up into obstruction of Congress and obstruction of justice, or the two could be combined.

The administration's repeated refusals to provide documents and testimony would serve as the basis for an article charging Trump with obstruction of Congress. Mueller's investigation could be incorporated into that article or a separate article on obstruction of justice.

TO HOUSE, AND THEN SENATE

If the House Judiciary panel approves the articles, they will then move to the House for debate. Democrats are hoping to have that vote completed by Christmas.

Impeachment would then move to a weekslong Senate trial, where senators are jurors and select House members act as prosecutors, or impeachment managers. The chief justice of the Supreme Court presides. If the Senate approves an article of impeachment with a two-thirds vote of “guilty,” the president is convicted and removed from office. If all the articles are rejected, the president is acquitted.

This is the fourth time in history Congress has moved to impeach a president. If he were convicted by the Senate, Trump would be the first to be removed. But that is unlikely in the GOP-controlled Senate.