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House Formalizes Impeachment Inquiry in Party-Line Vote

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wields the gavel as she presides over the House of Representatives vote on a resolution that sets up the next steps in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump in Washington, D.C., October 31, 2019. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

The House voted along party lines on Thursday to pass a resolution advancing the impeachment inquiry against President Trump.

The resolution passed 232-196 with the support of all but two House Democrats. It formalizes procedures for the “public-facing phase” of the impeachment probe, including open hearings before the Intelligence Committee. Republicans on that panel will be able to request witness testimony, but Democratic committee chairmen will have the option to decline those requests.

Following the Intelligence Committee hearings, Trump and his lawyers will be allowed to question witnesses and request testimony and documents before the House Judiciary Committee.

“Sadly, this is not any cause for any glee or comfort,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said during the debate before the vote. “This is something that is very solemn, that is something prayerful, and that we had to gather so much information to take us to this next step. Again, this is a solemn occasion. I doubt anybody in this place or anybody that you know comes to Congress to impeach the president of the United States, unless his actions are jeopardizing our honoring of our oath of office.”

Republicans have dismissed the non-binding legislation, saying the measure denies President Trump “due process” and have accused Pelosi and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff of conducting the impeachment probe in the dark.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said before the vote that Democrats have used “secret interviews and selective leaks to portray the president’s legitimate actions as an impeachable offense.”

Meanwhile, the GOP Senate majority has warned that the resolution is a non-starter in the upper chamber.

“They have denied President Trump basic due process and are cutting his counsel out of the process in an unprecedented way. House Democrats’ new resolution does not change any of that,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday. “The draft resolution that has been released does nothing of the sort. It falls way short, way short.”

The White House immediately slammed the vote, saying it does “nothing more than enshrine unacceptable violations of due process into House rules.”

“The Democrats want to render a verdict without giving the Administration a chance to mount a defense,” the White House’s statement said, adding that Democrats have “conducted secret, behind-closed-door meetings, blocked the Administration from participating, and have now voted to authorize a second round of hearings that still fails to provide any due process whatsoever to the Administration.”

Pelosi announced a formal impeachment probe last month after reports broke that during a July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump repeatedly asked Zelensky to investigate his election opponent Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, over allegations that the former vice president used his position to help a Ukrainian energy company avoid a corruption probe soon after Hunter was appointed to its board of directors. Trump has admitted that he temporarily withheld military aid from Ukraine that was intended to help the country ward off Russian aggression, prompting suspicion of a quid pro quo scheme.

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