WASHINGTON — Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Thursday that the House of Representatives would begin drafting impeachment articles against President Trump, pushing ahead with a rapid timetable that could set the stage for a vote before Christmas to charge him with high crimes and misdemeanors.
Wrapping her announcement in the words of the Constitution and the nation’s founders, Ms. Pelosi said it had become clear over the course of two months of investigation that Mr. Trump had violated his oath of office by pressing a foreign power for help in the 2020 election. Allowing Mr. Trump to continue in office without remedy, she said, would come at “the peril of our republic.”
“His wrongdoing strikes at the very heart of our Constitution,” Ms. Pelosi said in a formal address lasting less than six minutes, delivered against a backdrop of American flags from the balcony outside her office in the Capitol. “Our democracy is what is at stake. The president leaves us no choice but to act because he is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit.”
Ms. Pelosi’s hastily arranged announcement came a day after the House Judiciary Committee began formal impeachment proceedings against Mr. Trump, convening a hearing where three constitutional scholars invited by Democrats said Mr. Trump had engaged in conduct that clearly met the definition of impeachable offenses under the Constitution.
The decision follows a two-monthlong inquiry by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee that concluded that Mr. Trump abused his power by pressuring President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to announce investigations into former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and other Democrats, while withholding a White House meeting and $391 million in vital military assistance.
“The facts are uncontested,” Ms. Pelosi said. “The president abused his power for his own personal political benefit, at the expense of our national security.”
She added: “Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our founders and a heart full of love for America, today I am asking our chairmen to proceed with articles of impeachment.”
Returning to the ceremonial speaker’s hallway where she first announced in late September that Democrats were launching the inquiry, Ms. Pelosi sent a clear signal that she was confident they would have the votes they needed to impeach Mr. Trump, making him only the third president in American history to face removal by Congress. The proceedings, unfolding less than a year before the 2020 election, will play out amid profound partisan divisions, with Democrats pressing forward amid intense Republican opposition.
Before her announcement, Mr. Trump seemed to welcome the coming fight, calling Democrats “crazy” in a pair of tweets that urged them to get the process over with quickly so he could defend himself in the Republican-controlled Senate.
“If you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate, and so that our Country can get back to business,” he wrote.
Afterward, he said Democrats were trying to “Impeach me over NOTHING,” and setting a damaging precedent.
“This will mean that the beyond important and seldom used act of Impeachment will be used routinely to attack future Presidents,” he tweeted. “That is not what our Founders had in mind.”
Ms. Pelosi limited advance notice of her announcement to a tight circle of advisers, but there have been clear signs this week that Democrats were preparing to move forward with impeachment articles. On Wednesday, after the legal scholars told the Judiciary Committee the facts of the case met the standards for impeachment, the committee’s chairman, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, said explicitly that Mr. Trump’s conduct fit his three-part test for impeachment, and indicated his panel would press ahead with that in mind.
Hours after Ms. Pelosi’s statement, the Judiciary Committee announced a hearing on Monday for Intelligence Committee lawyers to present their findings. People familiar with the matter believe the Judiciary panel is on track to begin publicly debating and voting on articles by the end of next week.
In saying that she was instructing “chairmen” to draft the charges, Ms. Pelosi left open the possibility that the other five panels that have investigated Mr. Trump and his administration — including the Intelligence Committee that drew up the Ukraine report and the Ways and Means Committee that has pressed for the release of the president’s tax returns — could also play roles, a break with past practice.
On Wednesday, Mr. Nadler’s team made clear it was considering building charges going beyond the Ukraine matter, related to obstruction of the House’s inquiry. A lawyer for the chairman, Norm Eisen, also asked the witnesses to evaluate whether possible obstruction of justice by Mr. Trump laid out by Robert S. Mueller, the special counsel who investigated whether the Trump campaign had ties to Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, was also impeachable. The Democratic caucus, and Ms. Pelosi may decide to keep the case more narrowly focused on Ukraine.
The Intelligence Committee report released Tuesday laid out a broad framework for what articles of impeachment might look like. It found that the president had abused his power, endangered national security for his own personal benefit by seeking foreign interference in the 2020 election and obstructed Congress by ordering critical witnesses not to testify.