House endorses Trump impeachment inquiry - what happens next?

Televised hearings on the horizon as process shifts up a gear

Nancy Pelosi has suggested Donald Trump postpone his State of the Union address
(Image credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The US House of Representatives has passed a resolution to proceed with the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, in the first test of support for the process in the Democratic-controlled House.

The development marks a significant step in the on-going investigation but it was not a vote on whether the president should be removed from office. However, the Democrats’ path now seems “likely to lead to Donald Trump’s impeachment”, The Guardian says.

The White House has condemned the resolution, which outlines how the inquiry will move into a more public phase and sets out due process rights for Trump’s lawyers under the congressional inquiry.

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The vote was 232-196 and passed largely on party lines: two Democrats voted against the resolution, no Republicans supported it but one Independent voted in favour.

“This resolution sets the stage for the next phase of our investigation, one in which the American people have the opportunity to hear from the witnesses firsthand,” said the House intelligence chairman, Adam Schiff, ahead of the vote.

“We will continue to conduct this inquiry with the seriousness of purpose that our task deserves because it is our duty and because no one is above the law.”

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, who marked the vote with a bang of her gavel, called the vote a “solemn occasion” but said it was a necessary “step forward” to establish the framework for the open hearings.

Trump is accused of trying to press Ukraine into investigating unsubstantiated corruption claims against his political rival, Joe Biden, and his son who worked with Ukrainian gas company Burisma.

As the result of the vote was announced, Trump tweeted: “The Greatest Witch Hunt In American History!” Then, a White House statement insisted “the president has done nothing wrong” and called the process “a blatantly partisan attempt to destroy the president”.

What happens next?

CNN says Trump’s wider response to the impeachment process will be to go on the offensive. Stephen Collinson writes the president is pressing Republicans to take on a “factually dubious but bold message: Not only did he not abuse power in Ukraine but his conduct is that of a tough guy president beset by corrupt elites and boosting the US abroad”.

As for the Democrats, Sky News says that they must decide what pace to proceed at. “They may want to capitalise on some momentum,” writes Cordelia Lynch. “Go too fast and they risk looking like they're rushing or missing key evidence. Some think they could file articles of impeachment before Christmas.”

The BBC says the vote sets up a “historic clash” featuring “lots of Intelligence Committee sparring between Democrats and Republicans, a look at the transcripts from some of the high-profile witness depositions already conducted and, at some point, a formal report that could serve as the basis of articles of impeachment”.

There could also be televised hearings with weeks, chaired by Schiff of California, who has been spearheading the impeachment inquiry.

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