WASHINGTON – House Democrats are focusing on a framework for their impeachment case against President Donald Trump, which will focus on a simple narrative of "abuse of power" involving the actions concerning Ukraine, according to several people familiar with the deliberations.
While the Democrats continue closed-door testimonials with critical witnesses and preparing to move on to the next phase of public hearings, they are fighting over which elements and evidence to bring and which to leave out. The aim is to explain to the public the reasoning and relevance of any impeachment charges.
Democratic House chairmen and committee leaders are still debating the need for additional articles or accusations that go beyond relations with Ukrainebut speaker Nancy Pelosi has been firm in stating that the case against Trump must be targeted and easy to communicate in order to create public support, according to those familiar with the discussions.
This is especially true, as Democrats hope to get the votes of at least some moderate House Republicans, who will be invited to vote against a president who has expressed a willingness to release his vast campaign resources to party dissidents.
Neal Katyal, a former acting US attorney general and NBC News contributor, said that legally and politically, a comprehensive article on impeachment accusing "abuse of power" against Ukraine was "exactly right."
"The phrase captures the core evils of what Trump did in Ukraine," Katyal said, "and keeps the story focused there, not on distracting presentations."
House advisers emphasized that no decision has been made and it is too early to discuss the specific legal framework before all evidence is collected.
But one person familiar with the strategy said "abuse of power" when it comes to Ukraine is the "big point Pelosi has been hammering at home" and the umbrella under which "it all fits in to connect you and help you." the public to understand ".
"What made her abusive is that she was betrayed in a way that betrayed the country and our national security interests and helped her own interests politically," said another source involved in the discussions.
Pelosi is also considering a separate article on congressional obstruction or contempt related to the government's general rejection of subpoena requests for documents and witnesses related to its investigation of Trump's efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, according to multiple sources involved in the deliberations.
House leaders learned the importance of a simple message after Special Attorney Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 elections was "exceptionally convincing but very difficult to digest," said Chuck Rosenberg, a former US lawyer and senior FBI employee. "There seems to be a clear pattern of the president doing things for personal political gain" in Ukraine, while jeopardizing "US national security," he said.
"The narrative of abuse of power is much simpler," said Rosenberg, who is also a contributor to NBC News.
An October 17 memorandum on impeachment messages from Mrs Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., Who leads Democrats' electoral strategy for 2020 by 2020, highlights the approach. The memorandum was sent to the entire Democratic Chamber, describing a survey that found broad national support to advance the inquiry. Even in the 57 most competitive battleground districts, internal research found that 49% favored further research.
At those same battlegrounds, 54 percent of respondents said it is very or totally convincing that Trump is "abusing his authority" and that lawmakers need to "uphold the rule of law." The findings are important given that Pelosi was concerned about the political consequences for his party's most vulnerable Democrats in any impeachment investigation. In the memo, Bustos says "the numbers do not support the Republican stance that impeachment aggravates the political environment of House Democrats."
His first point of message orientation for Democrats reflects the poll results, noting that Trump "abused his power and placed himself above the law."
Trump and the White House deny any wrongdoing regarding negotiations with Ukraine and say the president was acquitted of wrongdoing in Mueller's report.
At a news conference last week, House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, D-California, said the next phase of the impeachment process is likely to be held in open hearings, where evidence is presented to the public and the House. .
This will include the most compelling testimony collected from witnesses, documents collected by House investigators, and sometimes even the president's own words. The three committees overseeing the investigation in Ukraine issued 12 subpoenas to witnesses, many of them diplomats or former diplomats and State Department officials.
The House Judiciary Committee, which has historically been tasked with drafting legal language for impeachment articles, also added a constitutional law expert, Joshua Matz, to your team.
The House investigation has resulted in a flood of new information in recent weeks, including evidence suggesting that Trump pushed US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch to a team of his political appointees – some calling themselves "the three friends". – could pressure the Ukrainian government to create a narrative of corruption and possible accusations against the Bidens.
There was no evidence of Biden irregularities.
Some evidence also suggests that there was an effort to hold a White House meeting requested by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, plus $ 391 million in aid Congress had appropriated to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression unless Zelenskiy agreed to Trump's request for "favor" by investigating an energy company linked to Hunter Biden.
In an Oct. 16 letter to the Democratic committee, Schiff warned that defying subpoenas would be considered "evidence of the president's effort to obstruct the impeachment investigation, and we can also use this obstruction as additional evidence" of "the president's underlying misconduct."
White House adviser Pat Cipollone wrote to Pelosi on October 8 that the government would not cooperate in any way with what he called "constitutionally invalidimpeachment inquiry. The White House has also attempted to block the testimony of witnesses, including US ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland, actions that could be central to any obstruction or disregard of the Congress article.
It is still debated whether the leaders will raise possible allegations of obstruction related to Mueller's investigation in the same article dealing with Ukraine, the sources said. In the case of Ukraine, House Democrats consider Cipollone's letter to be strong evidence of an intention to obstruct. Whether any potential evidence of obstruction related to Mueller's report would be included remains undecided given former White House lawyer Don McGahn's refusal to testify before Congress, the sources said.
Last week House attorneys in a McGahn-related lawsuit accused Trump of trying to "obstruct his own impeachment."
Multiple congressional committees have investigated possible additional charges against the president and his government, including those related to profits earned abroad and at home as president in violation of the provisions of the Constitution. Emoluments Clause, among others. Judicial Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., Wrote to the committee chairmen in August asking them to submit their most important findings.
There is some tension in the caucus as to whether the approach should include additional evidence-based articles collected, for example, by the House Judiciary, Financial Services and Oversight Committees. Having multiple articles may give some vulnerable Democrats the political advantage of allowing them to vote in favor of the broader abuse of the power charge while opposing others, a lawmaker involved in the discussions said.
Still, according to two sources close to the case, at this time, an additional article beyond the obstruction and Ukraine is "highly unlikely".
"Pelosi has been very focused on trying to make it airtight with any impeachment articles that are voted on and moving as strongly as possible," said a lawmaker close to the process.
In a recent interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Pelosi said: "We have to stay focused as far as the public is concerned that the US president has used taxpayer dollars to shake another country's leader. for their own political gain. "