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Judiciary Committee Democrats privately map out possible impeachment articles against Trump

The Boston Globe logo The Boston Globe 9/13/2019 Rachael Bade
Nancy Pelosi wearing a suit and tie: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi met with reporters in Washington on Thursday. Several people close to the investigation cautioned that the articles may never be drafted, particularly given Pelosi’s reluctance to move forward. © AP Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi met with reporters in Washington on Thursday. Several people close to the investigation cautioned that the articles may never be drafted, particularly given Pelosi’s reluctance to move forward.

WASHINGTON — A group of Judiciary Committee Democrats has begun privately mapping a list of possible charges against President Trump, sketching out the contours of potential articles of impeachment even as House leaders publicly resist taking such action, according to a half-dozen lawmakers and congressional aides.

The informal discussions, closely held and preliminary, could produce a range of allegations — some that echo charges in proceedings against President Richard M. Nixon: obstruction of justice, abuse of power and defiance of subpoenas, as well as violation of campaign finance law and allegations of self-enrichment, said the individuals, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of their work.

Members of the Judiciary Committee believe they have identified five areas of potential obstruction in former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election, episodes Democrats will explore further during a hearing Tuesday with former Trump campaign official Corey Lewandowski and other ex-Trump aides.

Additional potential impeachment articles being explored by the committee could focus on hush-money payments to two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump and allegations that the president has used his public office to benefit his private business, according to the people familiar with the discussions.

Several people close to the investigation cautioned that the articles may never be drafted, particularly given the reluctance of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, to move forward. But the behind-the-scenes planning reflects a growing desire among House Democrats to build a public case against Trump — and soon — even if there’s no chance the Senate would convict him.

The committee voted along party lines Thursday on new investigative procedures the panel will use ‘‘to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment with respect to President Donald J. Trump,’’ the resolution reads. Similar procedures have been used in impeachment proceedings against Nixon and President Bill Clinton.

The additional tools would allow the committee to designate certain hearings as impeachment sessions, allow counsels to question witnesses publicly, permit some evidence to remain private, and allow the president’s counsel to respond in writing to evidence and testimony.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway dismissed the notion of impeachment, telling reporters Thursday, ‘‘There’s no public appetite for that.’’

The public drama will unfold as the country moves toward a hotly contested 2020 campaign and Democratic hopefuls jockey for the presidential nomination — one of the reasons some Judiciary Committee Democrats fear time is running out. The party’s liberal base, most of its presidential candidates, and a majority of House Democrats — 134 of the 235 — endorse impeachment, putting pressure on Pelosi.

In a statement to The Washington Post, Daniel Schwarz, a spokesman for Judiciary Committee Democrats, played down any discussions about articles of impeachment, reaffirming the panel’s public position that ‘‘the committee is focused on its investigation to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment.’’

‘‘Any suggestion that such articles have already been drafted or that the committee’s work is already concluded is categorically false.’’

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