A handful of House Democrats officially introduced Wednesday five articles of impeachment against President Trump, accusing him of everything from breaking the Constitution’s emoluments clause to being mean in his tweets about the press.
Led by Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee, the Democrats say Mr. Trump has obstructed justice in his dealings with then-FBI Director James B. Comey, and his businesses are taking money in ways that are illegal under two parts of the Constitution.
The lawmakers also said Mr. Trump has undermined the judiciary by using his pardon powers on former Sheriff Joe Arpaio and that he has hurt the First Amendment by berating news outlets or calling them “fake.”
“It’s time for Congress to take action to stop this reckless and harmful behavior by removing Mr. Trump from office and to defend and uphold the Constitution of the United States,” Mr. Cohen said.
The charges brought by Democrats against Mr. Trump are a mixture of serious and bizarre.
The most biting is the accusation of obstruction of justice, which Democrats said stems from Mr. Trump’s dealings with Mr. Comey. They said Mr. Trump tried to impede Mr. Comey’s investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election last year.
Those accusations are not new and are reportedly part of the probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Democrats also say Mr. Trump is violating the Constitution because his hotels are collecting money from foreign governments for room rentals, and his golf properties collect money from U.S. agencies for services performed — such as the Secret Service renting golf carts to assist in patrols when Mr. Trump is at one of his properties.
That behavior is similar to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, who charged the Secret Service rent to use a cottage on his Delaware waterfront property while they were guarding him. Mr. Biden did not face similar calls for impeachment over that arrangement.
Democrats also said Mr. Trump was guilty of trying to pervert justice by pardoning Mr. Arpaio of criminal contempt of court charges, and trying to subvert the First Amendment by being mean to the press, including linking online to a video showing himself wrestling a man covered in a CNN logo.
Congressional Republican aides said that while impeachment is a matter to be taken seriously, they doubted the move will gain much traction.
“Under the Constitution, impeachment is an extraordinary remedy to remove certain elected officials from office who have committed high crimes and misdemeanors,” said an aide on the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the issue. “It’s the policy of the committee to consider impeachment articles if and when the constitutional criteria for impeachment exist.”
Even Democratic leaders don’t seem eager for the debate and have tamped down on suggestions that the party will rally to the issue.
“I am not talking about impeachment, because I’m talking about good jobs for folks. I’m talking about health care for all. I’m talking about making sure that we’re fighting for the issues that matter most,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez told ABC’s “This Week” program on Sunday.
But many liberal activists have been clamoring for such a fight — egged on recently by billionaire donor Tom Steyer, who is running millions of dollars in ads calling for impeachment.
Allan J. Lichtman, a history professor at American University who predicted Mr. Trump’s election win, was also among the first to predict Mr. Trump would be impeached and wrote an entire book on the matter.
He lists eight potential reasons for impeachment, including Mr. Trump’s travel ban and his decision to pull the U.S. out of the global warming agreement President Obama entered into.
Mr. Lichtman didn’t respond to a request seeking comment Wednesday.
Every recent president has faced similar calls for impeachment, though President Clinton and President Andrew Johnson remain the only ones to have been impeached by the House — and both were acquitted by the Senate.
Impeachment requires only a majority vote in the House, but conviction and removal from office requires a two-thirds Senate vote.
President Nixon resigned before he could be impeached, after a special prosecutor had amassed evidence of criminal behavior in the run-up to the 1972 election.
Some of the Democrats who signed onto the Trump impeachment push cast it as the beginning of an investigation rather than a conclusion that the president has earned an ouster.
The Republican National Committee said the quest for impeachment was a sign of the lack of an agenda on the part of the party out of power.
“House Democrats lack a positive message and are completely unwilling to work across the aisle, so instead they’ve decided to support a baseless radical effort that the vast majority of Americans disagree with,” said Michael Ahrens, a spokesman for the RNC.
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