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The impeachment of Donald Trump has been behind closed doors, but that's all about to change

The House of Representatives voted to pass impeachment rules today.

Republicans have attacked the legitimacy of the inquiry.
Republicans have attacked the legitimacy of the inquiry.
Image: Brian Cahn/PA Images

IMPEACHING US PRESIDENTS is a slow-moving, arduous process involving far more backroom legal wrangling than political theatre.

This has been the case up until now but the impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump got more public today with a vote in the House of Representatives.

The Democratic-led House is investigating Trump over his bid to pressure Ukraine into digging up dirt on presidential candidate Joe Biden and withholding nearly $400 million in military aid as an inducement.

It is likely to take weeks or more before the House votes on whether to actually impeach Trump. And it’s only then if the House impeaches Trump that the Senate would hold a trial to decide whether to remove him from office.

Today’s vote, which was passed and went along party lines, effectively set the ground rules when the House considers impeaching Trump.

It’s significant because it’s the first time the House got to vote on the impeachment process and both sides are whipping members to get maximum support.

Republicans have repeatedly attacked the legitimacy of the impeachment inquiry, arguing it’s invalid because the chamber had not voted to formally commence the work.

Democrats had insisted for weeks that they did not need a floor vote to proceed with investigation but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has now decided to hold a vote.

“Following in the footsteps of previous impeachment inquiries, the next phase will move from closed depositions to open hearings where the American people will learn firsthand about the President’s misconduct,” the leaders of the impeachment inquiry said on Tuesday.

Source: CNN/YouTube

The rules decided by the vote lay out how the House Intelligence Committee — now leading the investigation by deposing diplomats and other officials behind closed doors — would transition to public hearings.

That panel would issue a report and release transcripts of the closed-door interviews it has been conducting with diplomats and other officials with connections to Trump’s interactions with Ukraine.

The vote easily passed the Democratic-controlled House by 232 votes to 196.

Both parties’ leaders were rounding up votes as today’s roll call approached, with each side eager to come as close to unanimity as possible.

In the end, the vote went squarely along party lines with all Republicans against the resolution and all but two Democrats voting for it. 

Democrats’ chief vote counter, James Clyburn of South Carolina, was correct in his earlier assessment that “less than half a dozen” from his party would oppose the vote.

Despite expecting to lose, Republicans had said a solid ‘No’ vote would send a strong message to the Senate, where they have 53 of 100 members.

If the House were to impeach Trump, 67 senators would need to vote “guilty” on any count to convict and remove him from office. At least 20 Republican Senators would therefore have to defect and vote to remove Trump.

A summary of recent developments in the impeachment inquiry

  • House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has said five witnesses had backed up allegations of misuse of power that could underpin formal impeachment charges.
  • State Department diplomat Christopher Anderson said Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani injected himself into Ukrainian policy discussions to demand Kyiv open investigations that could aid Trump.
  • Another former State Department aide, Catherine Croft, said in prepared testimony that Trump’s chief of staff Mick Mulvaney ordered military aid to Ukraine frozen days before a 25 July phone call in which Trump pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate Biden.
  • National Security Council Ukraine expert Alexander Vindman said in written testimony that he witnessed Trump and a senior diplomat pressuring Ukraine for that help.
  • Former national security adviser John Bolton has been summoned to testify next week.
  • Tim Morrison, Trump’s top adviser for Russian and European affairs, is scheduled to testify today.

- With reporting by © – AFP 2019 and Associated Press

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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