The impeachment investigation into Donald Trump has entered a new phase as the House Judiciary Committee begins hearings into Trump’s conduct.
The public testimony by four experts on constitutional law comes one day after the House Intelligence Committee laid out the case for removing Trump.
The intelligence panel’s report said evidence of Trump’s misconduct was “overwhelming”.
If impeachment passes in the House, the US Senate will put Trump on trial, reports the BBC.
The White House has denied allegations made by Democrats – that Trump put his own personal political interests “above the national interests of the United States” by soliciting foreign interference in the 2020 US elections, as the 300-page report argues.
After the report’s release on Tuesday, White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said that it “utterly failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing”.
Speaking from London, where he is attending a NATO summit, Trump called the Democratic effort “very unpatriotic”.
Among formal impeachment charges expected to be considered by the judiciary committee are abuse of power, obstruction of justice and contempt of Congress.
Democrats are keen to hold a vote on impeachment in the House of Representatives before the end of the year, with the prospect of a trial in the Senate perhaps as early as January 2020.
What is the Judiciary committee’s role?
The judiciary committee has the power to formally draft articles of impeachment and submit them for a full vote in the House of Representatives.
The committee is hearing on Wednesday from four law professors – three picked by Democrats and one by Republicans.
Chosen by the Democrats are Stanford University’s Pamela Karlan, Harvard University’s Professor Noah Feldman and from the University of North Carolina, Michael Gerhardt.
George Washington University’s Jonathan Turley was picked by Republicans.
The lawyers will interpret the impeachment clause of the constitution, which allows for presidents to be removed from office due to “high crimes and misdemeanours”.
The White House was invited to participate in the hearing, but on Sunday declared that they would not send any administration officials to attend. Trump was scheduled to return from London to Washington later on Wednesday, after the first judiciary hearing has concluded.
But on Wednesday, Trump announced that he would depart early, skipping a final news conference “because we did so many over the past two days”. His hasty departure came soon after a video emerged of other world leaders at the NATO conference appearing to mock him.
What has Trump said about the experts?
“They get three constitutional lawyers… and we get one,” Trump said on Tuesday during a bilateral meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in London. “That’s not sounding too good, and that’s the way it is.
“It’s all nonsense, just wasting their time, and we get one. Ok. Nobody needs to know anything about constitutional law,” he said.