Trump impeachment looms as U.S. House committee approves charges

The obstruction charge against Trump is based on his directives to current and former administration officials such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry, even if that meant defying subpoenas.

A senior Democratic aide said the tentative plans are for a debate as soon as Wednesday on the floor of the House followed by a vote that same day or Thursday on whether to approve the articles of impeachment and send Trump for trial.

There must be 216 votes in favor for impeachment to go ahead. Democrats hold 233 seats, compared with 197 Republicans and one independent.

Republicans say the president did nothing improper in his call with Zelenskiy, and that there is no direct evidence he withheld aid or a White House meeting in exchange for a favor.

The upheaval has not seemed to concern investors. U.S. stocks hit fresh record highs on Friday on optimism over a possible trade deal between China and the United States before paring gains.

Twenty Republican senators would have to join all 45 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the Democrats to vote to remove Trump from office.

The trial would be presided over by U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts. The length of the proceedings would depend on whether witnesses were called, a decision that is up to a majority vote in the chamber.

Trump has signaled an interest in calling many witnesses, including Biden and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, believing a big trial would be good for Republicans.

A lengthy trial would eat up weeks of time ahead of the first Democratic presidential nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire in early February.

Influential Republican senators have said they want to keep any trial as short as possible.

“This needs to come to a quick end,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, a Republican who is a staunch defender of Trump, wrote on Twitter.

Trump said on Friday he was open to either a short or long process in the Senate.

“I’ll do whatever I want … So I’ll do long or short,” he said.

“I wouldn’t mind a long process, because I’d like to see the whistleblower, who’s a fraud,” Trump said, referring to the anonymous intelligence official who set off the House impeachment investigation by raising a flag about Trump’s call with Zelenskiy in a whistleblower complaint.

A Democratic lawmaker called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, to recuse himself from the trial after he said on Thursday he was coordinating his approach with the White House counsel.

“He has effectively promised to let President Trump manage his own impeachment trial. The Senator must withdraw,” Representative Val Demings said in a statement.

Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Additional reporting by David Morgan and Lisa Lambert, Jeff Mason and Susan Heavey; Writing by Alistair Bell and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Paul Simao, Sonya Hepinstall and Tom Brown

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