Democrats in the United States have announced two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, accusing him of abusing his power and obstructing Congress.

Jerry Nadler, who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, unveiled the charges overnight following weeks of politically contentious hearings in Washington DC.

"We do not take this action lightly, but we have taken an oath to defend the Constitution — and unlike President Trump, we understand that our duty first and foremost is to protect the Constitution and to protect the interests of the American people," Mr Nadler said.

"That is why we must take this solemn step today."

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Mr Nadler said Mr Trump committed "high crimes and misdemeanours" by soliciting foreign interference in the 2020 election and blocking the House's efforts to investigate the matter.

The President allegedly used military aid and the prospect of a White House visit to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce an investigation into one of his chief political rivals, Democrat Joe Biden.

"Our president holds the ultimate public trust. When he betrays that trust and puts himself before country, he endangers the Constitution; he endangers our democracy; he endangers our national security," Mr Nadler said.

"Our next election is at risk. ... That is why we must act now.

"No one, not even the president, is above the law."

Should the articles of impeachment pass the House - and given Democrats control that chamber, they almost certainly will - the Senate will then hold a trial to decide whether Mr Trump should be removed from office.

Unless two-thirds of the Senate votes to kick him out, however, he will survive. At least 20 members of Mr Trump's own party would need to vote against him.

The President responded furiously to the Democrats' announcement, labelling it a "witch hunt" and saying the idea he put pressure on Ukraine was "ridiculous".

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The other point to mention is Mr Trump's assertion that "us is a reference to the USA, not me".

It's a very specific reference to one line in the transcript, where Mr Trump tells Mr Zelensky he would "like you to to do us a favour".

The favour in question is to announce two investigations - one into supposed Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election, and another into the Bidens.

While Mr Trump reacted on Twitter, the White House issued a more formal statement in response to today's news, saying the President expected to be "fully exonerated" by the Senate.

"Today, in a baseless and partisan attempt to undermine a sitting president, House Democrats announced the pre-determined outcome of their sham impeachment - something they have been seeking since before President Trump was inaugurated," Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said.

"Democrats have long wanted to overturn the votes of 63 million Americans. They have determined that they must impeach President Trump because they cannot legitimately defeat him at the ballot box."

She labelled the impeachment attempt "baseless" and "pathetic".

The Capitol is seen in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019, as Democratic leaders in the House push ahead with formal impeachment charges. Photo / AP
The Capitol is seen in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019, as Democratic leaders in the House push ahead with formal impeachment charges. Photo / AP

The Democrats submitted their articles of impeachment in a formal House resolution, which is expected to be approved by the Judiciary Committee this week before heading to a full House vote.

When that process is complete, Mr Trump will likely be the third US president to have been impeached, after Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Richard Nixon resigned before Congress could pass articles of impeachment against him in the 1970s.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said forgoing impeachment would risk saying "goodbye to the republic" and "hello to the president-king".

"It's a very sad day actually, a solemn day," Ms Pelosi told Politico's Women Rule Summit in Washington.

"I wish it were not necessary. I wish the president's actions did not make it necessary."

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE THIRD CHARGE?

Several House Judiciary Democrats, including Eric Swalwell, Karen Bass, David Cicilline and Pramila Jayapal, defended their decision not to include an article on obstruction of justice, saying they wanted to focus on the areas with the most consensus within the Democratic caucus.

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Engel said that adding an obstruction of justice charge to the impeachment articles would have been a "mixed bag of tricks" because it didn't have broad consensus in the caucus — and could've been tough to get the votes.

"Prevailing feeling was we were better off with two because the obstruction of justice brought in a whole bunch of things, and it was a mixed bag of tricks, and the consensus was we were better off standing with two rock solidly and not spread ourselves too thin," he said.

Ms Pelosi said "everyone came to the conclusion that this was it".

"Our members are six committees who have been having legislation, investigation, litigation for a long time," the House Speaker said.

"Everyone came to the conclusion that this was it.

"So this isn't talking about what it isn't, this is talking about what is, and that's how we're going forward."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, December 10, 2019. Photo / AP
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, December 10, 2019. Photo / AP

The impeachment hearings entered the second stage of the inquiry after Ms Pelosi last week announced that the US president "leaves us no choice but to act".

The Speaker said investigators have uncovered more than sufficient evidence to show that Mr Trump abused his office for political gain, violating the president's oath to the Constitution and warranting removal.

"Our democracy is what is at stake," Ms Pelosi said.

She said she was authorising House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler to proceed with drafting articles of impeachment "sadly but with confidence and humility".

"The president's actions have seriously violated the Constitution," Ms Pelosi said.

Mr Trump last week goaded the Democrats to move quickly.

"If you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate, and so that our Country can get back to business," he wrote.

"We will have Schiff, the Bidens, Pelosi and many more testify, and will reveal, for the first time, how corrupt our system really is."

In a statement, Mr Trump's campaign manager Brad Parscale said impeaching the president has long been a Democratic goal, "so they should just get on with it so we can have a fair trial in the Senate and expose The Swamp for what it is".

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham also released a statement criticising Ms Pelosi's decision to move forward.

"This impeachment process … moves this Country toward the most partisan and illegitimate subversion of the Constitution in our history," Ms Grisham said.

Counsellor to the President Kellyanne Conway also addressed the issue, saying the White House was "very ready" for a Senate trial.

Testifying at a House Judiciary Committee hearing last week, law professors Noah Feldman, Pamela Karlan and Michael Gerhardt all agreed that Mr Trump committed "the impeachable high crime and misdemeanour of abuse of power".

The hearing followed the release of a report detailing the findings of the House Intelligence Committee's investigation last month.

The report alleges the probe into Mr Trump "uncovered a months-long effort by President Trump to use the powers of his office to solicit foreign interference on his behalf in the 2020 election". He is also accused of attempting to withhold a White House meeting and $400 million in military aid from the Ukraine as part of an alleged bribe for political gain.

The House Intelligence Committee voted to send its landmark report on Mr Trump's conduct to the Judiciary Committee, which then wrote the articles of impeachment against the President.

At its heart, the 300-page report produced by chairman Adam Schiff's panel lays out the case that Mr Trump misused the power of his office for personal political gain and obstructed Congress by stonewalling the proceedings like "no other president in history".

The report does not offer a judgment on whether Mr Trump's actions stemming from a July 25 phone call with Ukraine rise to the level of "high crimes and misdemeanours" warranting impeachment. The entire House will decide that question as soon as this month.

The inquiry focuses on a July 25 phone call in which Mr Trump asked Ukraine's new president Volodymyr Zelensky to carry out two investigations – which could allegedly benefit him politically – including one targeting Democratic political rival Joe Biden.

During the call, the President asked Mr Zelensky to "do us a favour" and investigate the origins of the Russia probe, which by July had already ended, and to investigate Mr Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company.

Democrats say Mr Trump's use of the phrase "I would like you to do us a favour, though" when he was discussing military equipment with Mr Zelensky was proof of a quid pro quo.

But Mr Trump said that's not what "us" referred to.

"Read the Transcripts! 'us' is a reference to USA, not me!," Mr Trump wrote in a tweet.

The requests came immediately after the Ukrainian President thanked Mr Trump for America's defence support and said his country was "almost ready" to buy more US military technology. Mr Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and described the inquiry as a "witch hunt".

Republicans on the Intelligence Committee released their own report, exonerating Mr Trump for his actions with Ukraine by saying the military aid was never used as leverage and was eventually released on September 11.