Warning that American democracy is at stake, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday she has asked a House committee to draft articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, a historic step that sets up a fight over whether to oust him from office.
In a televised address, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday (December 5) threw her full support behind impeaching President Donald Trump.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. DEMOCRATIC SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE NANCY PELOSI, SAYING: "Our democracy is what is at stake.
The president leaves us no choice but to act." The Democratic Speaker said she was calling on Congress to formally draft articles of impeachment, setting up a vote in the House of Representatives before the Christmas holiday.
Pelosi was widely expected to endorse the proceedings.
But Thursday's statement marks how far her thinking has come since earlier in the year when she was fending off calls to impeach from within her own caucus.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. DEMOCRATIC SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE NANCY PELOSI, SAYING (FEBRUARY 28): "Impeachment is a divisive issue in our country." Republicans defending the president criticized Pelosi, saying she no longer held to her own standard.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. REPUBLICAN MINORITY LEADER KEVIN McCARTHY, SAYING: "Even of this year, of March, the Speaker of the House said impeachment was so destructive to the nation, that it had to be overwhelming, compelling and bipartisan.
That was the criteria she laid out for the nation, and for her conference.
It's just not the criteria she held herself to." But when presented with a whistleblower complaint accusing Trump of abusing his office for personal political gain, Pelosi gave Democratic committee chairmen the green light to begin an impeachment probe.
In televised hearings, U.S. officials testified to Congress that Trump tried to pressure Ukraine into opening politically motivated investigations to help his 2020 re-election campaign.
Throughout, Pelosi had said she wanted to see where the evidence led.
On Thursday, she announced her conclusion.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. DEMOCRATIC SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE NANCY PELOSI, SAYING: "The facts are uncontested.
The president abused his power for his own personal political benefit, at the expense of our national security by withholding military aid, and a crucial oval office meeting in exchange for an announcement of an investigation into his political rival." Trump denies wrongdoing and on Thursday dismissed the impeachment threat.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) EXCHANGE BETWEEN REPORTER AND U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: REPORTER: "Are you worried, sir, about the stain that impeachment might have on your legacy?" TRUMP: "No, not at all.
It's a hoax.
It's a hoax.
It's a big fat hoax." Republican defenders of the president say Democrats had long planned to impeach the president, simply because they hate him.
When a reporter put this question to Pelosi, she responded with uncharacteristic passion.
She returned to the podium to make herself clear.
She had caustic criticism of the president's policies: (SOUNDBITE) (English) DEMOCRATIC HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI, SAYING: "I think the president is a coward when it comes to helping our kids that are afraid of gun violence.
I think he is cruel when he doesn't help with our DREAMERS." But she said those policy decisions were up to the voters in 2020, and that impeaching the president now was a matter of upholding the law.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) DEMOCRATIC HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI, SAYING: "This is about the Constitution of the United States, and the facts that lead to the president violation of his oath of office.
And, as a Catholic, I resent your using the word 'hate' in a sentence that addresses me.
I don't hate anyone.
I was raised in a way, that is a heart full of love.
And always pray for the president.
And I still pray for the president, all the time.
So don't mess with me when it comes to words like that." With Democrats in control of the House, impeachment seems a foregone conclusion.
That would trigger a trial in the Senate, where it's unlikely the Republican-controlled chamber will vote to remove the president.