US President Donald Trump attends an army-navy football game in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the US, December 14 2019. Picture: ANDRWE CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP
US President Donald Trump attends an army-navy football game in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the US, December 14 2019. Picture: ANDRWE CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP

Washington — Republican Donald Trump is likely this week to become the third US president to be impeached when the Democratic-led House of Representatives votes on charges stemming from his effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden.

Trump faces one charge of abusing his power by asking Ukraine to investigate Biden, a leading Democratic contender to oppose him in the 2020 US presidential election, and one of obstructing Congress’s investigation into the matter.

The president has denied wrongdoing and called the impeachment investigation a hoax and sham.

The House of Representatives is likely to take up the issue on Wednesday, setting the stage for a vote this week on whether to approve the charges and send the matter to the Republican-led Senate to hold a trial on whether to remove Trump from office.

Democrats, who enjoy a 36-seat majority in the House, are expected to win an impeachment vote, which requires a simple majority. Republicans hold 53 of the 100 seats in the Senate, where they appear likely to prevail in any trial against Trump, which would require a two-thirds majority of those present to remove him from office.

Key testimony

Seeking to shape any trial, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called on Sunday for testimony from White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, former national security adviser John Bolton, Mulvaney aide Robert Blair and budget official Michael Duffey.

Schumer made his appeal in a letter to Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, who said last week he was co-ordinating with the White House and has raised the prospect of a short impeachment trial in which no witnesses would be called.

“I hope we can come to an agreement about a fair trial,” Schumer told MSNBC in an interview on Monday.

House Democrats also sought testimony from the four men in their inquiry, but they did not appear.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Schumer letter.

A McConnell spokesperson did not directly address Schumer’s requests but said the Senate majority leader “plans to meet with leader Schumer to discuss the contours of a trial soon”.

No US president has been removed as a direct result of impeachment. Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before he could be removed, and Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were impeached by the House, respectively in 1868 and 1998, but not convicted by the Senate.

The House judiciary committee voted 23-17 on Friday along party lines to approve the two charges against Trump and to send the matter to the full chamber. Late on Sunday the panel released its full report — 658 pages — detailing the case against Trump.

Senior House Democrats expect to win any impeachment vote, albeit with the possibility of some defections from moderates facing tough re-elections next year in Trump-leaning districts.

In congressional hearings, Democrats have accused Trump of endangering the US constitution, jeopardising national security and undermining the integrity of next year’s US presidential election by asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a July phone call to investigate Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.

“It’s a clear and present danger ... to our democracy,” House intelligence committee chair Adam Schiff, whose panel spearheaded the investigation into Trump’s actions, told ABC’s This Week programme on Sunday.

“The misconduct hasn’t stopped,” Schiff added, saying that Trump has still urged Ukraine, as well as China, to investigate the Bidens and that Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, recently travelled to Ukraine to conduct a “sham” investigation.

Republicans have defended Trump and accused Democrats of a politically motivated effort aimed at overturning his upset 2016 victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Trump has alleged the Bidens were involved in corruption in Ukraine and should be investigated there but has offered no evidence. Biden, a former US vice-president, has denied wrongdoing.