No choice but to proceed with Trump's impeachment: Pelosi
The process of impeaching US President Donald Trump has formally moved to the next stage, House speaker Nancy Pelosi has confirmed.
She delivered the announcement as Democrats push closer to a vote, possibly by Christmas.
"Our democracy is what is at stake," Ms Pelosi said.
"The president leaves us no choice but to act."
With sombre tones, Ms Pelosi stood at the speaker's office at the Capitol and said she was authorising the drafting of formal charges "sadly but with confidence and humility".
"The president's actions have seriously violated the constitution," she said.
"He is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit.
"The president has engaged in abuse of power, undermining our national security and jeopardising the integrity of our elections.
"Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our founders and a heart full of love for America, today I am asking our chairmen to proceed with articles of impeachment."
At the heart of the impeachment probe is a July call with the president of Ukraine, in which Mr Trump appeared to press the leader to investigate Democrats and political rival Joe Biden as Mr Trump was withholding military aid to the country.
Before Ms Pelosi made her statement, Mr Trump tweeted that if Democrats "are going to impeach me, do it now, fast".
He said he wants to get on to a "fair trial" in the Senate.
The president also added that he thought the Democrats have "gone crazy".
At the White House, press secretary Stephanie Grisham tweeted that Ms Pelosi and the Democrats "should be ashamed", then she too looked past the likely impeachment in the Democratic-controlled House to trial in the Republican-majority Senate.
Mr Trump later accused the "Do Nothing" Democrats of trying to impeach him over "two totally appropriate phone calls with the Ukrainian president".
"This will mean that the beyond important and seldom used act of impeachment will be used routinely to attack future presidents," he added. "That is not what our founders had in mind. The good thing is that the Republicans have NEVER been more united. We will win."
The chairmen of the House committees conducting the impeachment inquiry will begin drafting the articles and some politicians are expecting to remain in Washington over the weekend.
On Wednesday, Ms Pelosi met behind closed doors with her Democratic caucus, asking, "Are you ready?".
The answer was a resounding yes, according to those in the room.
Three leading legal scholars testified on Wednesday to the House Judiciary Committee that Mr Trump's attempts to have Ukraine investigate Democratic rivals are grounds for impeachment. However, a fourth legal expert called by Republicans warned against rushing the process, arguing this would be the shortest of impeachment proceedings, with the "thinnest" record of evidence in modern times.
Mr Trump is alleged to have abused the power of his office by putting personal political gain over national security interests, engaging in bribery by withholding $400 million in military aid Congress had approved for Ukraine, and then obstructing Congress by stonewalling the investigation.