The impeachment committee investigating whether Donald Trump abused his power for political gain has voted to pass a report that there is "overwhelming evidence" of wrongdoing by the president.
The House Intelligence Committee voted 13-9 along party lines to pass the findings of its hearings during which Congress was told that Mr Trump personally oversaw the attempt to get Ukraine to launch politically helpful investigations, abusing his presidential powers for his own gain.
The US president was accused of endangering America’s national security by withholding almost $400 million in military aid to Ukraine in an attempt to secure the investigations he sought, including into his possible 2020 election rival Joe Biden.
The 300-page report pointed the finger directly at Mr Trump’s inner circle, saying that the president’s acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and secretary of state Mike Pompeo were both aware of and approved the drive.
Mr Trump is also accused of attempting to “conceal” his behaviour from the public once the scandal came to light by withholding key documents despite subpoenas and “intimidating, threatening and tampering with” prospective witnesses.
One line of the report read: "The evidence of the president’s misconduct is overwhelming, and so too is the evidence of his obstruction of Congress."
Donald Trump impeachment | Five things we learned from the public hearings
The damning findings come on the back of more than two months of impeachment investigations and two weeks of public hearings, where a string of current and former US officials revealed what they knew under oath.
It indicates that the Democrats are preparing to bring forward articles of impeachment centred on abuse of power, bribery and obstruction of justice. Debate will play out on that in the coming fortnight.
The proceedings will move to the House Judiciary Committee, which will hold hearings starting on Tuesday. That committee is then expected to debate what articles of impeachment if any to bring against the president. A vote on articles in the committee is expected next week and, if passed, a full House of Representatives vote is likely in the last week before Christmas.
The White House was quick to dismiss the findings, with Mr Trump’s press secretary likening it to “the ramblings of a basement blogger straining to prove something when there is evidence of nothing”.
The Republicans, who are in the minority in the House Intelligence Committee, produced their own report denying anything impeachable had taken place.
The first finding of the Democrats’ impeachment report read: “Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States – acting personally and through his agents within and outside of the US government – solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 US presidential election.
“The president engaged in this course of conduct for the benefit of his reelection, to harm the election prospects of a political opponent, and to influence our nation’s upcoming presidential election to his advantage.
“In so doing, the president placed his personal political interests above the national interests of the United States, sought to undermine the integrity of the US presidential election process, and endangered US national security.”
The report’s nine central findings, based on witness testimony and other pieces of evidence gathered during the investigation, come down against Mr Trump on many of the central questions.
It concludes that Mr Trump had “conditioned” the release of military aid to Ukraine on the public announcement of the investigations he sought, using the money as “leverage”.
It also claims that Mr Trump did the same with the White House meeting that Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy was seeking, making clear it would only come when the probes were announced.
The report also dismisses the validity of the two investigations Mr Trump was requesting – one into Mr Biden, the former US vice president, and his son Hunter Biden, and the other into claims that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 US election.
It concluded that Mr Trump thought the two probes “would help his presidential reelection campaign”, while also calling the Ukraine meddling claims “baseless”. One witness said during the inquiry that the latter was spin being pushed by Russian spies.
Process of impeachment
“These investigations were intended to harm a potential political opponent of President Trump and benefit the president’s domestic political standing,” the report concluded.
Central to the report’s findings is the idea that Mr Trump upended America’s foreign policy – and its national interests – for personal political gain.
The report said that by holding back military assistance to a country locked in a war with Russia Mr Trump “compromised national security to advance his personal political interests”.
As for the Trump inner circle, the report says the president’s “closest subordinates and advisers” in the administration “had knowledge of, in some cases facilitated and furthered the president’s scheme”.
The report’s latter findings also accuse Mr Trump of “categorical and unprecedented obstruction in order to cover-up his misconduct” by defying subpoenas and telling US officials not to testify once the scandal broke.
The partisan nature of the findings – they are the work of the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee – was jumped on by Mr Trump’s defenders.
Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, took aim at Adam Schiff, the most senior Democrat on the committee who has led proceedings, in her rebuttal statement.
“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,” Ms Grisham said.
“This report reflects nothing more than their frustrations. Chairman Schiff’s report reads like the ramblings of a basement blogger straining to prove something when there is evidence of nothing.”
In their own 123-page report the Republicans on the committee produced a markedly different take on the evidence collected, calling the impeachment push an “orchestrated campaign to upend our political system”.
“The evidence presented does not prove any of these Democrat allegations, and none of the Democrats’ witnesses testified to having evidence of bribery, extortion, or any high crime or misdemeanor,” one line read, effectively clearing Mr Trump of committing an impeachable offence.
Mr Trump would be the third ever US president to be impeached if that happens, joining Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson. Richard Nixon resigned before that point.
Mr Trump has always denied any wrongdoing.
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