Americans vote on Tuesday in primaries that play a major role in who will challenge Donald Trump for the presidency, a day after key endorsements dramatically boosted Joe Biden’s hopes against surging leftist Bernie Sanders.
The backing of Biden by three of his ex-rivals marked an unprecedented turn in a fractured, often bitter campaign.
The Democratic establishment is desperate to unite around a moderate candidate who can triumph over frontrunner Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, and face President Trump in November.
Voting begins as early as 6:00 am (1100 GMT) in some areas.
As the five remaining Democratic candidates made their final pitch to voters in 14 states, Biden was capitalizing on momentum he seized at the weekend with a blowout victory in South Carolina.
The 77-year-old former vice president is consolidating support among moderates eager to blunt the advance of Sanders, who could take a potentially insurmountable lead in the all-important delegate count after Super Tuesday.
Biden has been riding high with key endorsements that built into a political crescendo on Monday.
He took the stage at a rally in Dallas, Texas joined by Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, who told the crowd she was ending her campaign and endorsing Biden for president.
Biden later introduced Beto O’Rourke, who made a big splash early in the Democratic race but then fizzled out. O’Rourke remains popular in Texas, the state with the largest delegate haul on Tuesday after California.
“We need somebody who can beat Donald Trump (and) in Joe Biden we have that man,” O’Rourke said, peppering his short speech with Spanish.
Hours earlier Pete Buttigieg, the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, threw his support behind Biden a day after quitting the race himself.
“I’m looking for a president who will draw out what is best in each of us,” Buttigieg said in Dallas, with the former vice president at his side.
Biden appeared reinvigorated by the support, and he repeatedly flashed his million-watt smile.
But he delivered a tough message intended to warn voters away from the seductions of Sanders, who has called for nothing less than a “political revolution” in America.
“Most Americans don’t want the promise of a revolution,” Biden told supporters. “They want results. They want a revival of decency, honor and character.”
The trio of endorsements could be political gold for a resurgent Biden.
His campaign was on life support after disappointing showings in the first three state contests, but he is suddenly the main challenger to Sanders on the biggest day of the primary campaign.
Buttigieg had strong showings in predominantly white early states but was unable to mobilize black and Hispanic support.
Klobuchar’s campaign never gained traction. By endorsing Biden, she could deprive Sanders of a large delegate claim in her home state of Minnesota on Tuesday.
New York billionaire Mike Bloomberg, who on Tuesday competes in his first primaries, has also spread his message to voters in a lavish multi-state ad blitz.
‘Massive effort’ to stop Sanders
Flush with money for ads, an extensive organization, and momentum in the polls, Sanders has focused on multiple states including delegate-rich California, Tuesday’s biggest prize.
In Utah, he said there was “a massive effort” trying to stop his campaign.
“The corporate establishment is coming together, the political establishment is coming together,” he added. “They are really getting nervous.”
Sanders leads Biden nationally in polling.
Among his backers is Jessica Chadwell, 24, who works for Planned Parenthood in Burlington, Vermont, where Sanders served as mayor decades ago.
“He is fighting for all these things the younger generation needs: fair pay, affordable housing, equal rights,” she said.
Biden hopes his newfound momentum can carry him through Super Tuesday with a delegate count close to Sanders, if not the outright lead.
The former vice president to Barack Obama says his strength with blacks, Hispanics, women and suburbanites will show in the coming contests.
Though Klobuchar joined Biden’s camp, Sanders has launched an appeal to to her voters.
“I hope her supporters will join us in our fight to defeat Donald Trump in November and win real change,” Sanders tweeted, before holding a rally on Klobuchar’s home turf.
Third-placed Bloomberg is competing against Biden for moderate voters and campaigned in Virginia on the eve of Super Tuesday.
“I’ve won three elections so far. I don’t plan to start losing now,” the former New York mayor said.
Bloomberg has spent an unprecedented $500 million of his own fortune saturating the airwaves with TV spots.
Bernie Sanders’ landslide victory in Nevada’s Democratic nominating contest has scattered his moderate challengers and injected his White House campaign with a fresh burst of momentum as he drives into the next crucial battlegrounds.
With his strong result Saturday, the Vermont senator demonstrated an ability to broaden a coalition beyond the narrow limits of leftist voters, undercutting the argument from several moderates that he would not be able to bridge the divide between progressives and centrists.
“He showed last night that he can energize our core base,” Howard Dean, a former presidential aspirant himself and former head of the Democratic National Committee, told CNN.
By early Sunday, Sanders was comfortably ahead in Nevada with 60 percent of precincts reporting.
The 78-year-old senator was leading the Democratic pack with 46 percent of the vote, followed far behind by former vice president Joe Biden at 19.6 percent and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, at 15.3 percent.
Senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar trailed at, respectively, 10.1 percent and 4.8 percent.
Sanders was quick to claim victory, saying his “multi-generational, multi-racial coalition” was “going to sweep this country.”
Dean said the senator’s result in a state far more typical of America’s demographic variety than the two earlier-voting states was “incredibly impressive.”
But he quickly added that a more definitive result will come only after voters in 14 states cast ballots on March 3, or “Super Tuesday.”
Before that comes South Carolina, which votes on February 29.
Biden’s once-strong prospects had faded sharply for weeks, but he said Saturday that he felt “really good” about his second-place showing in Nevada and shouldn’t be counted out.
His team is banking on a strong showing in South Carolina, where Biden has enjoyed support among a majority-black Democratic electorate.
But after Sanders came in virtually tied for first in Iowa and then won last week in New Hampshire, his undeniable victory in Nevada places him squarely in the driver’s seat, at least for now.
He leads national polls by an 11 point margin over Biden and by 13 points over Mike Bloomberg, the former New York mayor who skipped the early voting states to focus on Super Tuesday.
Some Democrats worry
Sanders’s progressive policies, including universal health care, higher taxes on the wealthy and an increase in the minimum wage, have struck a chord with millions of Americans.
But they have raised alarm among some Democrats that he will make an easy target for President Donald Trump as a radical leftist, and that if he heads the Democratic ticket in November the party could face sweeping losses.
Trump on Saturday issued a sarcastic-sounding congratulations on Twitter to the man he calls “Crazy Bernie.”
Asked if the Democrats’ majority in the House of Representatives might be threatened if Sanders turned out to be Trump’s rival in November, one powerful South Carolina Democrat said that it might.
It “would be a real burden for us in these states or congressional districts that we have to do well in,” said James Clyburn, the House Democratic whip.
“In those districts, it’s going to be tough to hold onto these jobs if you have to make the case for accepting a self-proclaimed Democratic socialist.”
Buttigieg, while congratulating Sanders on his Nevada victory, offered a stern warning against picking someone who he said sees “capitalism as the root of all evil” to go up against the populist president.
Pressure seems certain to grow on some of the lower-polling Democratic moderates to withdraw to allow others to coalesce around a centrist who might fare better against Trump.
Republican campaign advisor Mark McKinnon, speaking on CNN, predicted that the lower polling candidates will be flushed out of the race after Super Tuesday.
But the centrist alternatives face steep challenges, he added: Bloomberg performed notably poorly in Wednesday’s Democratic debate, and “Biden does not have the resources.”
Progressive candidate Elizabeth Warren, speaking late Saturday in Washington state, which votes March 10, vowed to stay in the race despite a third straight mediocre showing.
She renewed her attacks on Bloomberg, accusing him of trying to “buy this election.”
Bloomberg, co-founder of the Bloomberg LP media company, has plowed a record $438 million of personal funds into his campaign.
McKinnon said, meantime, that if Sanders compiled a large enough lead after Super Tuesday it would make it hard for other Democrats to oppose his nomination at the national convention in July, even if he has not won a clear majority of delegates.
“There’s something going on here that defies the conventional wisdom,” he said: a 78-year-old man attracting highly energized young voters.
Sanders, he said, “is creating a passion among voters.”
Pete Buttigieg likes to remind people that a year ago, all he had when he launched his presidential campaign were four staff, a big idea and an unknown — and unpronounceable — last name.
“There were skeptics, an awful lot of skeptics,” he said after the first round of caucuses in Iowa, where he beat Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders by a hair.
“Iowa, you have proved those skeptics wrong!” said the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
At 38-years-old, just three years older than the minimum age to be president, “Mayor Pete” is driven by a self-confidence that would seem excessive — arrogant, even — if he wasn’t sitting in second in polls leading up to New Hampshire’s primary on Tuesday, where he faces off against candidates who entered politics before he was born.
This faith in his destiny is not new: Buttigieg recalls raising his hand in high school when a teacher asked who would like to be president.
“I don’t know what it is we expect, that somebody kind of gets struck by lightning and then they turn into somebody who might become president,” he said in a recent New York Times interview.
He fully believes he can seize his moment: the representative of a new generation and the “total opposite” of President Donald Trump, he wants nothing less than to throw “Trumpism itself into the dustbin of history where it belongs” and begin a new American era.
He has no other political experience other than his eight years as mayor of the town where he was born — a town of 100,000 inhabitants — but he argues that he is the only major Democratic candidate to have served in the military. His Twitter profile begins with the phrase “Afghan veteran.”
Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg was born on January 19, 1982, in South Bend, to parents who were both English professors at Notre Dame University.
His father, a specialist in the Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci, was a Maltese immigrant who came to the US for his PhD, where he met Pete’s mother.
An only child, Pete grew up excelling in school. His path was typical of top students: he was accepted to Harvard, was awarded a prestigious Rhodes scholarship and spent three years at Oxford before being recruited by the elite McKinsey management consultancy in 2007.
“Nothing particularly sizzling,” Buttigieg said of his time at the consulting firm.
At 25-years-old, politics brought him home to South Bend. He ran for treasurer of Indiana but was handily defeated. But in 2011, the mayor’s office opened up, and he was elected. This would become his springboard into national politics.
A Navy reservist for several years, Mayor Pete put his mayoral duties on hold in 2014 and spent seven months in Afghanistan, where he worked as an intelligence analyst.
When asked if he joined the military to boost his political career, he admitted to the podcast The Daily that he has asked himself the same question.
“If the answer is yes, does that mean the service wasn’t pure in some way?” he asked rhetorically.
But all those years, Buttigieg lived with a deep secret: he is gay. “If you had offered me a pill to make me straight, I would have swallowed it before you had time to give me a sip of water,” he admitted last year.
He didn’t come out until 2015 before he was re-elected, mayor. Through Hinge, a dating application, he soon met Chasten Glezman, who would take his last name after they married in 2018. The couple has said they want children.
“My marriage to Chasten has made me a better man,” Buttigieg said. “It has moved me closer to God.”
Buttigieg has cultivated an image of a Midwestern man: traditional, devout (he was baptized Catholic but attends an Episcopalian church). The comedy show Saturday Night Live has parodied him as shy and boring.
His rivals are irked by his grand, sweeping phrases such as “we’ve got to fix the engine of our democracy,” and by his plans to reform the Constitution and the Supreme Court.
Critics point out that he has virtually no support among black voters, a large and important Democratic demographic.
But the former mayor’s strategy is not to win only Democrats. In November, he intends to seek votes from the centre, among disillusioned Trump supporters, what he likes to call “future former Republicans.”
When he officially announced his candidacy in April 2019, Buttigieg said he recognized the “audacity” of his White House bid — a clear reference to Barack Obama’s signature phrase “the audacity of hope.”
“If you are looking at the lessons of history over the last half-century, and every time we have won or my party has won the White House, it has been with a candidate who is new in national politics,” he said, evoking Obama as well as Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.
It’s an advantageous comparison: Carter and Clinton were governors, Obama a senator. But it’s true that the Obama camp soon took notice of the young mayor with sharp, clean sentences and a baritone voice.
Not long after Trump’s victory, Obama was asked by The New Yorker about the Democratic succession.
Obama mentioned senators Tim Kaine and Kamala Harris, but then added: “And then there’s that guy in South Bend, Indiana. The mayor.”
White House hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg — riding neck-and-neck in the polls ahead of the next Democratic primary contest — come under sustained attack on the debate stage from rivals seeking to challenge Donald Trump in November.
Buttigieg, a former mayor of South Bend, Indiana who at 38 is a fresh face on the national stage, defended himself against charges of inexperience and, in a dig at Sanders, urged Americans to elevate a nominee who will “leave the politics of the past in the past.”
The 78-year-old leftist Sanders, eyeing the moderate Buttigieg as his possible chief adversary, aimed his own shots at his far younger rival in the Manchester, New Hampshire debate — casting him as the candidate of Wall Street.
“I don’t have 40 billionaires, Pete, contributing to my campaign,” Sanders said.
Buttigieg and Sanders finished atop the pack earlier this week in Iowa’s chaotic caucuses, and both hope to renew the performance Tuesday in New Hampshire, as the Democratic Party seeks to pick a challenger to Trump in November.
But Sanders, a veteran senator calling for “political revolution,” was in the firing line from several rivals, including former vice president and fellow septuagenarian Joe Biden who branded his policies too radical to unite Americans.
The 77-year-old Biden, fighting to keep his White House hopes alive after finishing an unnerving fourth in Iowa, insisted liberal policies like Sanders’s flagship universal health care plan would be too divisive, expensive and difficult to get through Congress.
“How much is it going to cost?” Biden asked about Sanders’s Medicare for All bill which estimates the project would cost tens of trillions of dollars.
“Who do you think is going get that passed” in Congress?
Biden performed more aggressively than in previous showings, seizing a chance to argue that today’s global tensions required an experienced statesman to guide the nation out of a dark period.
Despite the Iowa setback he also made plain he still views himself as best placed to mount a centrist challenge to the Republican Trump, who this week survived an impeachment trial that did little to dent his electoral support.
A national unknown one year ago, Buttigieg has run an ambitious campaign that resonated with voters who appreciate his articulate explanations of policy.
But rivals including Senator Amy Klobuchar argued Buttigieg is an untested novice on the world stage.
“We have a newcomer in the White House, and look where it got us,” she said in a gibe at both Buttigieg and Trump.
Buttigieg draws on his experience as a military veteran to cast himself as a credible commander-in-chief.
And he advanced his central argument for generational change as the best way to take on the nation’s tests.
“The biggest risk we could take at a time like this would be to go up against the fundamentally new challenge by trying to fall back on the familiar,” Buttigieg said.
‘Trump’s worst nightmare’
Also on stage in New Hampshire were Senator Elizabeth Warren, entrepreneur Andrew Yang and billionaire activist Tom Steyer.
Klobuchar, a pragmatist from Minnesota, put in a forceful performance as she voiced her opposition to Sanders and Warren, arguing their liberal plans would only divide voters.
“Truthfully, Donald Trump’s worst nightmare is a candidate that will bring people in from the middle,” she said.
While Biden held his own, he acknowledged he was fighting an uphill battle in the first two voting states.
“I took the hit in Iowa and I’ll probably take it here,” he said, in apparent recognition that Sanders is likely to win New Hampshire, which borders his home state of Vermont.
Democratic tensions have simmered as the party struggles to decide whether to take incremental progressive steps or a more radical turn as proposed by self-declared democratic socialist Sanders.
At one point candidates were asked whether they would be concerned should a democratic socialist win the nomination. Klobuchar and others raised their hands.
As the seven debaters clashed, another candidate loomed in the background.
Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg chose to ignore the early nominating contests and has spent heavily on advertising, hoping to make a splash on “Super Tuesday” on March 3, when 14 states vote.
Warren, who calls for an end to the “corruption” of Washington, lashed out against Bloomberg — but also Buttigieg — who has raised large sums from wealthy donors.
“I don’t think anyone ought to be able to buy their way into a nomination or being president,” she said.
“I don’t think any billionaire ought to be able to do it and I don’t think people who suck up to billionaires in order to fund their campaigns ought to be able to do it.”
After New Hampshire, the candidates turn to Nevada on February 22, South Carolina on February 29 and then Super Tuesday.
Democratic prosecutors, declaring that “no one is above the law,” made a last-ditch appeal to senators at US President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial on Monday to vote to remove him from office for abuse of power.
“Your duty demands that you convict President Trump,” Colorado lawmaker Jason Crow said as prosecutors began presenting their closing arguments at just the third impeachment trial in US history.
“How many falsehoods can we take?” Crow asked the 100 members of the Senate who are serving as jurors and will decide the president’s fate. “When will it be one too many?”
The Senate is to vote at 4:00 pm (2100 GMT) on Wednesday on the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress and the Republican president is all but certain of being acquitted.
Republicans hold 53 seats in the Senate to 47 for the Democrats, but a two-thirds majority, or 67 senators, is needed to remove a president from office.
Crow, one of the seven members of the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives who have argued the case against the president in the Senate, said impeachment was an “extraordinary remedy” to be used in only “rare instances of grave misconduct.”
“It is in the Constitution for a reason,” he said. “In America, nobody is above the law, even those elected president of the United States.”
The House of Representatives impeached Trump on December 18 for withholding $391 million in military aid to Ukraine to demand that Kiev open an investigation into his potential November election rival, Democrat Joe Biden.
“Donald Trump has betrayed his oath to protect and defend the Constitution,” said Adam Schiff, the California lawmaker who has served as the chief House prosecutor.
“But it’s not too late for us to honour ours.
“Today we urge you, in the face of overwhelming evidence of the president’s guilt, and knowing that if left in office he will continue to seek foreign interference in the next election, vote to convict on both articles of impeachment and remove from office Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States,” Schiff said.
Crow told the Senate their decision would echo through history.
“What you decide on these articles will have lasting implications for the future of the presidency, not only for this president but for all future presidents,” he said.
Democratic prosecutors presented about an hour of final arguments before the Senate broke for lunch. They will be followed by White House lawyers, who will have up to two hours to present Trump’s defence.
Following the closing arguments, the Senate will adjourn as a court of impeachment and open a legislative session during which senators will have the floor for 10 minutes each to make remarks.
Final arguments in Trump’s trial were being held as voters held caucuses in Iowa to begin the process of choosing a Democratic candidate to face Trump at the polls in November.
Former vice president Biden is among the front-runners in Iowa along with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, whose campaigning in the midwestern state has been hamstrung by the requirement that they remain in Washington for the impeachment trial.
As the Democratic prosecutors addressed the sombre Senate chamber, Trump lashed out on Twitter.
“I hope Republicans & the American people realize that the totally partisan Impeachment Hoax is exactly that, a Hoax,” he said. “Nothing will ever satisfy the Do Nothing, Radical Left Dems!”
Trump was also asked about his impeachment during an interview with the Fox network ahead of Sunday’s Super Bowl.
“It’s been a very, very unfair process,” he said. “It should never happen to another president.”
He expressed confidence that the strong economy would help power him to re-election in November. “I don’t know how anybody could possibly beat me,” he said.
Trump was also asked whether he had given any thought to delaying Tuesday’s nationally televised “State of the Union” speech to a joint session of Congress.
“No, I’m gonna have it,” he said. “We’re gonna talk about the achievements that we’ve made.”
A narrow majority of Americans believe Trump abused his power and obstructed Congress by withholding documents and testimony during the impeachment inquiry, according to a new NBC/WSJ poll.
But they remain divided on whether he should be kicked from office, with 46 per cent hoping to see him removed and 49 per cent saying he should keep his job.
The Senate trial moved into the final arguments phase after Democrats failed last week in a bid to introduce witnesses and documents.
Only two Republicans — Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine — joined Democrats as the motion to introduce witnesses was defeated 51-49.
Democrats had been eager to hear from Trump’s former national security advisor John Bolton, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and other key administration figures caught up in the scandal.
Bolton reportedly says in a forthcoming book that Trump told him military aid to Ukraine was tied to Kiev’s investigating Biden — corroborating the central claim against the president.
The historic impeachment trial of US President Donald Trump opened the debate with fireworks Tuesday as Democrats accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of fomenting a “cover-up” with his proposed rules for the process.
The Republican McConnell proposed a set of ground rules that would place strict restrictions on witnesses and evidence for the first stage and move the trial quickly ahead, saying he would summarily block any Democratic attempts to change his rules.
US Democrats signaled Monday they were girding for battle over witnesses and fair process in the Senate trial of Donald Trump, days ahead of a historic House vote on impeaching the president for abuse of office and obstruction of Congress.
Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said he was aiming for proceedings to start January 6 that would mete out “swift but fair justice” to Trump, even as Republican loyalists acknowledged they were less interested in being impartial jurors than protecting the president.
Lawmakers were beginning a consequential week. House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler released a 658-page report Monday outlining the case for impeaching Trump and detailing his alleged wrongdoing, including pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democrats.
It alleged severe episodes of “criminal” conduct by the president including bribery — rebutting the Republican argument that Democrats have identified no specific criminal wrongdoing by Trump.
“President Trump’s abuse of power encompassed both the constitutional offense of ‘bribery’ and multiple federal crimes,” it said, adding Trump’s conduct was “unlike anything this nation has ever seen.”
The House Rules Committee was set to meet Tuesday to lay down guidelines for a floor debate on impeachment.
When the Democratic-controlled House convenes Wednesday to weigh the two charges approved by the Judiciary Committee, Trump is expected to become only the third US president to be impeached, after Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998.
Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 just before a House impeachment vote. Neither Johnson nor Clinton was convicted in the Senate.
‘Just the Facts’
Trump is also unlikely to be removed from office by the Senate, where Republicans hold a 53-47 majority.
But Schumer has pressed hard for a fair process, writing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to demand four key witnesses testify, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Trump’s ex-national security advisor John Bolton.
Schumer also sought to set limits on testimony length and questioning of witnesses, proposing a structure that would give Americans what he called “confidence in the process.”
“Just the facts. We don’t need fishing expeditions,” Schumer told CNN. “We’re trying to have the kind of justice America is known for, which is swift but fair justice.”
Senate rules on impeachment are determined by a simple majority vote in the chamber. Although Schumer is looking to strike a deal with McConnell on the rules, it will be the will of the majority that wins out.
Democrats have bridled at McConnell’s recent promise of “total coordination” with the White House, as well as Senator Lindsey Graham’s apparent dismissal of the need to be an impartial juror in the process.
“I’m not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here,” the Trump loyalist said Sunday, rejecting the charges against Trump as “partisan nonsense.”
One of the two impeachment articles to go before the House charges Trump with abuse of power for conditioning military aid and a White House meeting on Ukraine’s announcing investigations into Democrats ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
The other charges him with obstructing Congress for refusing to cooperate with the inquiry and ordering other officials not to appear, a development Democrats say is unprecedented in American history.
The president has repeatedly assailed the process and the Democrats conducting it.
“The Impeachment Hoax is the greatest con job in the history of American politics!” he boomed Monday on Twitter.
The impeachment hearings have been a sometimes grim exercise for Democrats, who fear moderate members of the party from Trump-friendly districts could lose their seats next year if they vote to impeach.
One Democrat opposed to impeachment, New Jersey’s Jeff Van Drew, is expected to switch allegiance to the Republican Party this week.
A handful of freshman Democrats are mulling opposing impeachment. One of them, former CIA officer Elissa Slotkin, said Monday she would vote to impeach Trump.
If a president admits to inviting foreign interference in US elections and “solicits additional help from even more capable foreign governments (including China) then isn’t it our constitutional duty to provide a clear response to that abuse of power?” she wrote in the Detroit Free Press.
Democrats unveiled two articles of impeachment Tuesday against US President Donald Trump after weeks of arguing there is overwhelming evidence that the US leader abused his office and deserves to be removed.
If the charges — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — are approved by the full House of Representatives in a vote expected next week, it would put Trump in the historic position of being the third US leader ever impeached and placed on trial in the Senate.
“Our president holds the ultimate public trust,” said House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler.
“When he betrays that trust and puts himself before country, he endangers the constitution, he endangers our democracy and he endangers our national security.”
Nadler, in a solemn and deeply serious moment for the nation, was joined by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the US Capitol to lay out the charges facing Trump.
The president is alleged to have wielded the power of the presidency for personal and political gain by pressuring Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 US election.
His accusers say he conditioned vital military aid and a much-sought White House meeting on Kiev announcing it would investigate Democratic former vice president Joe Biden, who is the frontrunner to challenge Trump in the 2020 election.
He also pressed his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky to probe a debunked Kremlin conspiracy theory that it was Kiev, and not Moscow, that interfered in the 2016 US election.
The charges also focus on Trump’s efforts to block Congress from fully investigating his actions — which Democrats see as a violation of its constitutional right to conduct oversight of the executive branch.
“The evidence of the president’s misconduct is overwhelming and uncontested,” said House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, who oversaw weeks of public hearings in which witnesses including Trump administration officials and US diplomats testified about the pressure on Ukraine.
“To do nothing would make ourselves complicit in the president’s abuse of his high office,” Schiff said, adding that Trump’s “misconduct goes to the heart of whether we can conduct a free and fair election in 2020.”
Trump, who has long assailed the Democrats for pursuing impeachment, maintained his fighting posture early Tuesday, tweeting that the effort to oust him as “sheer Political Madness!”
Democrats on Monday laid out their case for ouster with a nearly 10-hour public hearing in which they declared Trump a “clear and present danger” to national security.
It is widely understood that Democrats were debating whether to unveil a third article of impeachment — obstruction of justice — against Trump, but concluded it would be better to keep the charges narrowly focused on Trump’s Ukraine pressure effort.
Should Trump be impeached, as expected, he faces a weeks-long trial in January in the US Senate, which is controlled by members of his Republican Party.
Removal from office is unlikely, given that conviction requires a two-thirds vote in the 100-member chamber, and no Republicans have yet signaled they would side with Democrats against the president.
Democrats were set Tuesday to approve their report on the impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump, paving the way for formal charges against the US leader that could include abuse of power, bribery and obstruction.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who has led the 10-week-old investigation, said it was important to move quickly because the evidence of Trump’s wrongdoing is “overwhelming.”
“We feel a sense of urgency,” Schiff told MSNBC late Monday.
“This is a president who has sought foreign intervention in US elections twice now, and even in the midst of our impeachment inquiry, is again out publicly saying, not only should Ukraine do this, but China should also investigate my opponent,” he said.
“And so this is a threat to the integrity of the upcoming election, and we don’t feel it should wait, in particular when we already have overwhelming evidence of the president’s misconduct.”
Trump: impeachment is ‘a hoax’
In London for a NATO summit, Trump again accused the Democrats of playing a political game with impeachment.
“The impeachment is a hoax. It’s turned out to be a hoax. It’s done for purely political gain,” he said .
“All you have to do is read the transcripts, you’ll see there was absolutely nothing done wrong,” he added, referring to the records of his calls with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky earlier this year.
The completion of the Schiff report marks the end of the first stage of the impeachment process, which was sparked by an August complaint by an anonymous whistleblower detailing Trump’s pressure on Zelensky to investigate rival Democrats ahead of next year’s elections.
The report is expected to support charges of abuse of power, bribery, obstruction of justice and contempt of Congress, based on evidence from more than a dozen witnesses who depicted Trump withholding military aid and a White House summit unless Zelensky opened the investigations.
Schiff said the report will be made public Tuesday and, after formal approval by his committee, will be sent to the Judiciary Committee where formal charges, or articles of impeachment, will be drawn up.
The Judiciary Committee, led by longtime Trump nemesis Jerry Nadler, will open hearings on Wednesday with four legal experts expected to discuss whether the Democrats’ impeachment process and the charges against the president adhere to the US Constitution.
Trump’s White House counsel Pat Cipollone has refused an offer to take part, calling the inquiry “baseless and highly partisan” and violating “fundamental fairness.”
But Cipollone reserved the right to join in subsequent Judiciary hearings, in which the charges are debated and further witnesses could be called.
Impeachment by Christmas?
There is no formal timeframe for the impeachment process.
But Democrats have aimed to hold a full House vote on articles of impeachment before the body goes on break for Christmas, December 25.
If, as expected, the articles are passed by the Democrat-controlled House, the case will go to the Republican-controlled Senate for a trial in January.
Republicans pushed back on Monday ahead of release of the Schiff report, saying in their own review of the testimony that there was no evidence of wrongdoing.
“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.”
Divides between Democrats vying to challenge President Donald Trump in the 2020 election were laid bare in a combative debate Wednesday, as the campaign’s rising star Pete Buttigieg acknowledged he faced challenges in attracting black voters.
Buttigieg, the contest’s youngest candidate who occupies the same moderate lane as frontrunner Joe Biden, offered a unifying message as a way to bring Democrats and Republicans toward a broad political middle.
Democrats can seize a majority on issues like immigration and guns “if we can galvanize, not polarize that majority,” Buttigieg told the debate in Georgia.
But after an opening phase dominated by talk of impeachment of Trump, participants in the fifth Democratic debate locked horns over the costly universal health care program supported by liberal senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.
“I believe that commanding people to accept that option, whether we wait three years as Senator Warren has proposed or whether you do it right out of the gate is not the right approach to unify the American people around a very, very big transformation that we now have an opportunity to deliver,” Buttigieg said.
Former vice president Biden also took aim at the trillion-dollar reform, saying it would be wiser to build on existing Obamacare and provide a public option.
“The fact is that right now the vast majority of Democrats do not support Medicare for All,” Biden said.
Biden is the face of the Democratic Party establishment and is the current frontrunner. He turned 77 on Wednesday and appeared to stumble over his words on several occasions, including during his opening remarks.
Buttigieg, the military veteran mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who at 37 is less than half Biden’s age, sought to paint himself as a young outsider who should be elected commander-in-chief despite his slender resume.
“I get it’s not traditional establishment Washington experience, but I would argue we need something very different right now,” Buttigieg, mayor of a small city in Indiana, told his rivals.
But when pressed by Senator Kamala Harris, the only black woman in the race, about his low polling among African-American voters, Buttigieg acknowledged he had yet to convince one of the party’s most important constituencies.
“I welcome the challenge of connecting with black voters in America who don’t yet know me,” said Buttigieg, the first major openly-gay US presidential candidate.
“While I do not have the experience of ever having been discriminated against because of the color of my skin, I do have the experience of sometimes feeling like a stranger in my own country.”
Biden leads in national polling, followed by Warren and Sanders.
But Buttigieg has cracked into the top tier in the past month, and now tops the polls in Iowa which stages the first nomination contest in February.
Warren was the candidate to watch last month but her campaign has plateaued.
She has made headway by pledging to end a system that she described during the debate as working “better for… the rich and well-connected, and worse and worse for everyone else.
“I’m tired of freeloading billionaires,” she said.
As the 10 qualifying candidates rumbled in their nationally televised showdown, dominating the political discourse is the high-stakes impeachment hearings into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
Democrats accuse Trump of conditioning military aid and a White House meeting on Kiev’s announcing investigations of Biden and his son Hunter, who worked with a Ukrainian energy company while his father was vice president.
But some candidates warned that obsessing over the president could sabotage Democrats’ efforts.
“We cannot simply be consumed by Donald Trump,” Sanders said. “Because if we are, you know what? We’re going to lose the election.”
– Trump ‘punked’ –
With attention directed at Capitol Hill, the debate run-up has been low-key.
But candidates lept at the chance to critique Trump’s foreign policy on North Korea and Saudi Arabia.
Harris landed a sharp blow, saying Trump “got punked” by North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un.
One of the most heated exchanges came when Buttigieg ridiculed long-shot candidate Tulsi Gabbard for meeting “a murderous dictator” like Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad as the mild-mannered mayor snapped back at criticism over recent comments on Mexico.
There were lighter moments too. Senator Cory Booker, known for his moral calls to action, used humor to upbraid Biden for recently saying he opposed legalizing marijuana nationally.
“I thought you might have been high when you said it,” said Booker, who went on to declare that America’s war on drugs has been “a war on black and brown people.”
Senator Amy Klobuchar, entrepreneur Andrew Yang and investor-turned-activist Tom Steyer rounded out the contenders.
The field may soon expand to include billionaire businessman and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg who has recently filed ballot paperwork in two states.
It was unclear what kind of testimony the president had in mind.
His defence team would likely be highly resistant to the idea of him appearing before the House Intelligence Committee delving into the allegation that Trump pressured Ukraine to dig up dirt on a political rival to help his 2020 reelection chances.
During the lengthy probe led by special prosecutor Robert Mueller into accusations that Trump worked with Russians to boost his 2016 election chances, the president refused a face-to-face meeting and instead answered questions in written form.
Even so, his lawyers negotiated strict limits on what kind of questions could be put. In dozens of instances, Trump then said he could not “recall” the facts.
The Mueller report ultimately found that Russian agents sought to influence the US election but that there was no evidence of collusion with the Trump campaign.
Any testimony by Trump would potentially be risky and his tweet could be nothing more than a tactical move in the tussle with Pelosi’s Democrats.
However, the president’s testifying would not be unprecedented.
During his 1998 impeachment saga, president Bill Clinton, a Democrat, testified before a federal grand jury for four hours by video link. He then answered 81 written questions from the House Judiciary Committee.
Clinton was ultimately impeached in the House but acquited in the Senate.
Trump has become increasingly angry and frustrated over the impeachment process, which he insists is a “witch hunt.” Democrats say they are steadily revealing corruption and abuse of office at the heart of the real estate magnate’s presidency.
This week will see another stream of witnesses come before the Intelligence Committee, where they face questions from Democrats and Republicans.
Although the action is happening at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, Trump watches closely — so closely that on Friday he tweeted an attack on one witness as she testified.
Former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was telling lawmakers how she had been forced out of her post in oddly abrupt circumstances around the time of the alleged Trump scheme in the ex-Soviet republic.
In mid-testimony, Trump tweeted that “everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad.”
This caused widespread consternation in the hearing room and Yovanovitch called the president’s intervention “very intimidating.”
Trump and his supporters have argued that the allegations against him so far are not supported by first-hand witnesses. That will change, however, on Wednesday when the US ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, takes questions.
Sondland was in direct contact with Trump during the time when he was meeting with Ukrainian officials, allegedly as a key player in efforts by a small group of Trump confidants to push for the dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
The House, where Democrats hold a majority, is expected to impeach Trump, although Republicans will likely vote solidly against. A trial would then be scheduled in the Senate where the Republican majority is expected to toss out the case.
However, Trump, in this case, would still be only the third president ever impeached and the fight is likely to have unpredictable fallout in the 2020 election.
A poll released Monday confirmed that the country is split more or less down the middle on whether Trump should be removed from office.
Fifty-one percent of those asked said they think Trump should be tried and convicted in the US Senate, while another six percent favour impeachment but not removal, according to the ABC News-Ipsos poll.