WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday Democrats will begin drafting articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.
If the Democratic majority in the House impeaches the President, a trial will be required in the U.S. Senate. Alabama's senators weighed in on the issue Thursday.
U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, a Republican, was sharply critical of the Democrat-led impeachment effort.
“This effort to impeach the President is a political circus engineered by the Democrats, distracting us from the important work we need to complete for the American people," Shelby said in a statement provided by his office. "If and when an impeachment resolution comes to the Senate, I will sit as a juror and carefully consider any evidence presented to reach a conclusion based on the facts – as outlined in our Constitution.”
U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, a Democrat, said during a conference call Thursday that he's tried to follow the impeachment proceedings in the House, but has also been engaged with work in the Senate. Jones said while the charges haven't been spelled out, it's becoming more clear that a House vote will lead to an impeachment and a trial in the Senate. Senators will essentially be the jury in the trial, the prosecution will be conducted by some House Democrats and the President chooses his own defense team.
Speaker Pelosi said the Democrats have found evidence that President Trump abused his power for his own political benefit. The impeachment inquiry has focused on the holding back of military aid authorized by Congress for Ukraine and whether that was linked to the President's request for an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden, who's running for President and his son, Hunter.
Jones said he'd like to hear from witnesses central to the questions surrounding President Trump's dealings with Ukraine, including White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former National Security Adviser John Bolton.
Jones said he and his colleagues have quietly been preparing for their role as jurors, reading the related material and rules for a Senate trial. Jones said they are also conscious of the gravity of the role they will play in the unfolding impeachment saga.
"'Everything that you're seeing though is not a witch hunt. It's not a hoax, it's not fake news. This is a serious constitutional matter the founders of this country envisioned a long time ago," Jones said. "This is not about an individual. It is not about one person. It is about the conduct of the presidency and how we want future presidents to conduct themselves while in office."
Lawyers for the House Judiciary Committee are expected Monday to formally present the evidence they expect to rely on for the impeachment charges. December 20 is the last day Congress is scheduled to be in session for 2019.