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After weeks of acrimonious debate and explosive hearings in Congress - the Democrats have acted

  • Video report by ITV News Washington Editor Robert Moore

With grim and unsmiling faces the Speaker of the House and the Committee Chairmen stepped forward to the podium.

Only a few times in US history have American presidents faced Articles of Impeachment. You can now add Donald J Trump, the 45th President, to that short list.

The Democrats looked glum for a reason - both real and political. They are portraying this as a solemn constitutional duty, nothing more. But they also know this is a real risk and it could backfire on them in 2020 - many Americans will feel that Trump’s fate should be decided at an election not in a process being orchestrated by his political opponents.

Donald Trump has been fighting potential impeachment for months. Credit: AP

So after weeks of acrimonious debate and explosive hearings in Congress, Democrats have acted. There are just two Articles against Trump: (1) abuse of power and (2) obstruction of Congress. This is a victory for more centrist Democrats who wanted the Articles to be narrow and focused.

But the reality is that Congress is so polarised - Republicans and Democrats living in different universes when it comes to judging Trump and his behaviour - that impeachment will be a party-line vote. All Democrats will vote for impeachment; all Republicans are likely to oppose the move.

If that holds true in both the House and the Senate then the outcome is clear: Trump will be impeached but will remain in office (that’s because Democrats control the House; Republicans have a majority in the Senate).

Democrats believe they have fully made the case that Trump betrayed his oath of office when he tried to persuade the Ukrainians to investigate Joe Biden.

Yesterday, in a committee session designed to showcase the need for impeachment, the top lawyer for the Democrats called Trump “a clear and present danger to America’s free and fair elections and to US national security.” Quite some accusation.

Republicans claim Democrats are engaging in a coup - trying to unseat a duly elected President. That’s how bitter the arguments will be over the next two months.

The Articles set the stage for Thursday’s decision in the Judiciary Committee, and then the full vote in the House of Representatives next week.

And remember these two facts: no American President has been removed from office through impeachment (Nixon resigned before the vote); and Trump will be the first President in American history who has a good chance of being impeached... And then winning a second term.