Republicans decry Trump impeachment process as a sham

US president accused of ‘high crimes and misdemeanours’ and obstruction of Congress

Republicans hit out at Democrats for filing articles of impeachment against US president Donald Trump on Tuesday, describing the process as a “sham.”

At a press conference on Capitol Hill, shortly after House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi and colleagues unveiled impeachment charges against the president, Republican leaders in the House lambasted the move.

"They were committed to impeachment regardless of the facts," minority whip Steve Scalise said of the Democrats, accusing Ms Pelosi of "[bowing] down to the most radical elements of her base".

House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, the most senior Republican in the House of Representatives, said Mr Trump “did nothing that is impeachable”.

"I just hope no Congress ever repeats what we're going through today," he said, arguing that the Democrats had rushed the process.

Mr Trump could become the third US president to be impeached after the House judiciary committee unveiled two articles of impeachment against him over his dealings with Ukraine.

Declaring that Mr Trump had committed "high crimes and misdemeanours", committee chairman Jerry Nadler said Mr Trump was being charged with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Outlining the reasons for the first charge, he said it was “an impeachable offence for the president to exercise the powers of his public office to obtain an improper personal benefit while ignoring or injuring the national interest”.

“That is exactly what President Trump did when he solicited and pressured Ukraine to interfere in our election,” he said.

Mr Trump was being charged with obstructing Congress for his "unprecedented categoric and indiscriminate defiance of the impeachment inquiry", Mr Nadler said, noting how the White House had defied congressional subpoenas.

Three months

A third charge of obstruction of justice, which had been considered, was not included ultimately, a sign of the Democrats’ desire to keep the focus of the impeachment charges as narrow as possible.

Tuesday’s development means that it is now likely that the House of Representatives will vote on whether to impeach Mr Trump next week.

It comes after almost three months of an impeachment inquiry into Mr Trump's motivations in his dealings with Ukraine. Ms Pelosi announced the inquiry in September after it was revealed that Mr Trump asked Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to do him a "favour" in a July 25th phone call.

During months of private and public hearings on Capitol Hill, several witnesses testified that Mr Trump pressured Ukraine to open two investigations – an investigation into former vice-president Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company while he was in office, and an investigation into unproven allegations that Ukraine, and not Russia, had interfered in the 2016 election.

Republicans have so far maintained a united front when it comes to the impeachment of Mr Trump. A House vote to move forward with impeachment proceedings on October 31st saw the lower house of Congress divide on party lines on the matter, with no Republicans voting in favour. That pattern is expected to be broadly repeated in the event of a full vote on impeachment next week.

Congressional work

In a sign that Democrats are ready to move forward with congressional work despite the impeachment, Ms Pelosi announced that her party had struck a deal with the Trump administration on a revised trade deal with Canada and Mexico, just an hour after the impeachment articles were unveiled.

She dismissed suggestions that this could be interpreted as a legitimisation of the work of a president she had just recommended to be impeached.

"He's the president of the United States, I respect that. I try to be co-operative when I can. But I also have to honour the constitution of the United States when I must, so that has an impact on the relationship," she said at an event later on Tuesday.