House votes to formalize impeachment inquiry procedures

This image from video made available by House TV on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019 shows the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington and the vote count to approve the rules for its impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. (House TV via AP)

A sharply divided House has approved the rules for its impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.

Thursday’s near party-line 232-196 roll call was the chamber’s first formal vote on a process that’s likely to take months, possibly stretching into the early weeks of the 2020 election year.

Underscoring the gravity of the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi presided over the chamber as it voted on the rules package.

The vote was a victory for majority Democrats, who will control the investigation in the House. It gives them the ability to curb the ability of Republicans to subpoena witnesses and of White House lawyers to present witnesses.

Republicans said the process was skewed against them and the White House.

The vote showed how neither side has budged in their fight over whether Trump’s effort to squeeze Ukraine for dirt on his Democratic political foes merits forcing him from office.

Pelosi says a vote to approve ground rules for their impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump is a solemn but necessary duty for lawmakers.

In a floor speech before Thursday’s vote, Pelosi said, “This is not any cause for any glee or comfort.”

Standing next to a large U.S. flag in the well of the House, Pelosi said the impeachment inquiry was necessary to defend the Constitution and prevent an abuse of power by Trump.

“The times have found each and every one of us in this room,” Pelosi said. She urged lawmakers to vote in favor of the impeachment rules “to protect the Constitution of the United States. What is at stake in all of this is nothing less than our democracy.”

The investigation is focused on Trump’s efforts to push Ukraine to investigate his Democratic political opponents by withholding military aid and an Oval Office meeting craved by the country’s new president.

“House investigations have already produced evidence about the President’s actions that should be of great concern to all Americans who believe no one is above the law,” said Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Memphis). “Congressional oversight is the constitutional duty of Congress and we will proceed in a fair and deliberative manner to learn the truth.”

“Since day one, this impeachment inquiry has been a closed-door, one-sided process. Speaker Pelosi’s resolution changes nothing. It still fails to give the President the right to due process, and it continues to deny equal participation of Republicans in this broken and flawed process. It is clear that House Democrats only have one goal, to remove the President from office. These are the reasons that I emphatically voted ‘no’ on this impeachment resolution,” said Rep. Kustoff (R-Shelby County).

“The Greatest Witch Hunt In American History!,” Trump tweeted shortly after the vote.

It’s illegal to seek or receive foreign help in U.S. elections. Trump says he did nothing wrong.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy says Democrats are abusing their power and discrediting democracy by “trying to impeach the president because they are scared they can’t defeat him at the ballot box.”

The California Republican is speaking out against a package of impeachment rules approved Thursday.

McCarthy says that ever since Donald Trump’s election, Democrats have waged a “permanent campaign to undermine his legitimacy. They have predetermined the president’s guilt. They have never accepted the voters’ choice to make him president. So, for 37 days and counting, they have run an unprecedented, undemocratic and unfair investigation. This resolution only makes it worse.”

McCarthy says Democrats are “using secret interviews and selective leaks” to portray Trump’s legitimate actions as an impeachable offense. He is referring to the closed-door hearings in the House as Democrats gather evidence in the impeachment inquiry.

The White House says the House vote approving rules for its impeachment inquiry has enshrined “unacceptable violations of due process into House rules.”

Press secretary Stephanie Grisham says in a statement moments after the House vote that the process “is unfair, unconstitutional, and fundamentally un-American.”

Thursday’s near party-line 232-196 vote was a victory for Democrats, who will control the investigation in the House. It gives them the ability to curb the ability of Republicans to subpoena witnesses and of White House lawyers to present witnesses.

Grisham says President Donald Trump “has done nothing wrong” and that Democrats have an “unhinged obsession” with impeachment. Her statement was echoed by Trump’s reelection campaign which accused Democrats of trying to legitimize their process after the fact.

Campaign manager Brad Parscale says: “Voters will punish Democrats who support this farce and President Trump will be easily re-elected.”

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