WASHINGTON: The US House of Representatives has passed a resolution to formally proceed with the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, ushering in a new phase of the investigation that poses the greatest threat to Trump’s presidency to date.
The lower chamber of Congress, which is controlled by Democrats, passed the measure on Thursday.
The House voted largely along party lines, 232 to 196, to formalize the process. Only two Democrats, along with all Republicans, voted against the resolution.
The measure detailed how the inquiry will move into a more public phase and was not a vote on whether to impeach the Republican president.
“Today, the House takes the next step forward as we establish the procedures for open hearings conducted by the House Intelligence Committee so that the public can see the facts for themselves,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said shortly before the vote.
Trump reacted almost instantly on Twitter after the House vote, calling the impeachment the “Greatest Witch Hunt” in US history.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham issued a longer statement, accusing opposition Democrats of having an “unhinged obsession with this illegitimate impeachment.”
“Democrats are choosing every day to waste time on a sham impeachment — a blatantly partisan attempt to destroy the President,” she said.
Trump’s 2020 election campaign manager called the resolution “an attempt to remove a duly-elected president for strictly political reasons.”
“Today’s vote merely proves that the entire impeachment process was a sham from the beginning,” Brad Parscale, said in a statement.
Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry in September after a whistleblower alleged the Republican president pressured Ukraine to investigate his main Democratic rival, former US vice president Joe Biden.
That request by Trump, and accusations he conditioned nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine on the political favor, form the basis of the impeachment inquiry that now threatens his presidency.
House Democrats say Trump has abused his office for personal gain and jeopardized national security with by asking Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskiy to to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter, who had served as a director for Ukrainian energy company Burisma.
On Tuesday, House Democrats unveiled a measure that formally laid out the next steps in their impeachment inquiry of Trump.
A poll conducted in early October showed that most Democrats wanted to impeach Trump, even if it increased the prospect for the re-election the Republican president in the 2020 US presidential election.
The Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll, conducted on Monday and Tuesday, found that 55 percent of Democrats said that their party leaders should press ahead with impeachment even “if it means a lengthy and expensive process that could weaken their chances of winning the presidency in 2020.”
The survey also found that 66 percent of Democrats agreed that Congress should pursue impeachment, “even if that means they will need to postpone efforts to pass laws that could benefit me.”
Overall, the poll found that support for impeachment remains unchanged overall among all Americans – holding at 45% since last week.