US President Donald Trump Top may face impeachment or jail term if it is proved that he endorsed illegal hush-money payments to women, charges that come amid pressure on Trump over his alleged collusion with Russia ahead of the 2016 US presidential elections, according to senior House Democrats.
Incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, in turn, referred to prosecutors' filings in the case of Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen as evidence that Trump was "at the centre of a massive fraud".
Touching upon illegal payments made by Cohen, Nadler said that "whether they are important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question, but certainly they'd be impeachable offences because even though they were committed before the president became president, they were committed in the service of fraudulently obtaining the office".
Adam Schiff, the incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, for his part, claimed that there is "a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office, the Justice Department may indict him".
Schiff did not rule out that Trump may become "the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time".
"The bigger pardon question may come down the road as the next president has to determine whether to pardon Donald Trump", Schiff noted.
His remarks came after Trump denied prosecutors' accusations that the US president's former lawyer Cohen acted at Trump’s behest when making payments to silence two women, including former porn star Stormy Daniels, who claimed to have had affairs with Trump prior to his election campaign in 2016.
Since Trump won the 2016 presidential election, US authorities have been investigating allegations that his campaign team somehow colluded with Russia, claiming that Moscow hacked the election process in order to help him.
Russia has denied involvement, stressing that no evidence of election meddling has been presented by Washington to substantiate the accusations.
Over the past few months, US Congressmen have repeatedly called to remove Trump from office. In mid-August, US Congressman Ted Lieu said in an interview with CNN that Trump should be impeached if he pardons former campaign manager Paul Manafort.
The 69-year-old pleaded not guilty to tax evasion and bank fraud charges based on allegations that he hid income from the US Internal Revenue Service that was earned while working for a Ukrainian political party.
In a Washington Post-ABC News poll released in late August, a slight majority of voters — 49 percent compared to 46 percent — said that they want the US Congress to start impeachment proceedings on Trump's removal from office. The poll was preceded by similar surveys which also saw many respondents calling for Trump's impeachment.