Democrats set December impeachment target but obstacles abound
Democrats hope to end probe by year's end but showdown looms over government funding
WASHINGTON Democratic lawmakers hope to complete their impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump by the year end and are coalescing around two articles of impeachment - abuse of power and obstruction, lawmakers and aides told Reuters.
But some Democrats fear that a costly distraction may be the looming battle between Mr Trump and Congress over funding the government when money runs out for many federal operations on Nov 21, Democratic aides said.
Some Democratic lawmakers said they believed they already had gathered enough evidence from the testimony of current and former US officials to impeach Mr Trump for asking Ukraine to investigate a political rival, Mr Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination next year.
Other Democrats were more cautious and said more information was needed to solidify the case for impeachment and make it an easier sell to a deeply polarised American public.
Only two US presidents have been formally impeached by the House of Representatives, and both were later acquitted by the Senate.
Ms Val Demings, a Democratic lawmaker who sits on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees, said congressional investigators should be able to wrap up their inquiry by December.
"We need to be thorough, we need to be methodical, but we need to be timely," she said.
Three congressional sources said there had been talk among some Democrats about trying to wrap up hearings and hold an impeachment vote by the Nov 28 Thanksgiving holiday, but this appeared highly unlikely.
Congressional investigators still have many witnesses to interview.
"I don't think we should short-circuit this because of an artificial deadline," said Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat on the Intelligence and Oversight committees.
"That being said, we are working pretty quickly. It is only the fourth week and look at all we have learnt so far."
Democrats, who control the House, are concerned not only with building the best possible case for the Republican-controlled Senate, which will hear the charges, but also for the American public, who face the possibility of a president standing trial while running for re-election.
While 45 per cent of independents think Mr Trump should be impeached, many of them do not appear to want another lengthy investigation that sucks up all of the energy out of Washington.
According to an Oct 18-22 Reuters/Ipsos poll, 54 per cent of independents agreed that "Congress should focus on fixing important problems facing Americans, rather than focusing on investigating President Trump".
As House Democrats debate if and when to impeach Mr Trump, it is taking place against the backdrop of a possible showdown with the President in the coming weeks over funding the government.
Mr Trump signed a stopgap measure last month to keep the government open through to Nov 21. - REUTERS