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Democrats to build case for abuse of power against Trump next week

Jennifer Haberkorn, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- House Democrats are going public next week with a case to impeach President Donald Trump that is narrowly focused on his alleged abuse of power with respect to Ukraine, putting aside -- for now at least -- other potential high crimes and misdemeanors in hopes of making as clear an argument as possible.

The opening salvo in the public hearings will be the argument Democrats find most compelling: whether the president abused his power with his request that the Ukrainian government investigate his political rivals as he was holding up congressionally approved aid to the country.

The hearings will feature three State Department witnesses who say they witnessed an effort led by Trump's lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to influence U.S. policy with the country.

The exclusion of other issues in next week's hearings -- such as obstruction of justice or violations of the constitution's ban on the president making profit from his office -- is not a sign that those issues won't potentially be included in articles down the road, according to a senior Democratic aide.

Beyond an article of impeachment over abuse of power, there is division among Democrats on how broad the impeachment inquiry should go. It is a division likely to come to a head as the House Judiciary Committee writes the articles of impeachment, which may not happen until December. Several Democrats say that no decision on articles has been made and that they will rely in part on evidence that comes out during public hearings.

"That will be a discussion," said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., a member of the House Oversight Committee.

 

Cautious moderates want a narrow case made around the president's phone call with the Ukrainian president, in which Trump asked for a "favor" of a political investigation of his rivals while holding up aid to the country.

"If you start piling on with everything, you're just going to make it very messy, very cloudy for the public," said one moderate Democratic lawmaker granted anonymity to speak freely about internal deliberations.

While all but two House Democrats supported a vote last week to set the rules for the public phase of the inquiry, several moderates are still skeptical about supporting articles of impeachment -- and they will be watching closely to see what resonates with the public and their constituents.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has insisted on the narrow approach. Several other Democrats speaking on condition of anonymity said they expect that to be the strategy unless further evidence is unraveled.

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