Trump im­peach­ment

US House for­mal­izes in­quiry process in land­mark vote

The Korea Times - - FRONT PAGE -

WASH­ING­TON (Reuters) — A deeply di­vided U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives took a ma­jor step on Thurs­day in the ef­fort to im­peach Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump when law­mak­ers ap­proved rules for the next, more pub­lic, stage in the Demo­cratic-led in­quiry into Trump’s at­tempt to have Ukraine in­ves­ti­gate a do­mes­tic po­lit­i­cal ri­val.

In the first for­mal test of sup­port for the im­peach­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the Demo­cratic-con­trolled House voted al­most en­tirely along party lines - 232 to 196 - to move the probe for­ward in Congress.

The vote al­lows for pub­lic im­peach­ment hear­ings in Congress, which are ex­pected in the com­ing weeks, por­tend­ing a bit­ter bat­tle ahead as the United States heads into a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion year.

Democrats who accuse Trump of abus­ing his of­fice and jeop­ar­diz­ing na­tional se­cu­rity for per­sonal po­lit­i­cal gain were al­most unan­i­mous in ap­prov­ing Thurs­day’s mea­sure, but they did not pick up a sin­gle Repub­li­can vote.

“It’s a sad day. No one comes to Congress to im­peach a pres­i­dent,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said be­fore the vote.

Tele­vised pub­lic hear­ings fea­tur­ing U.S. of­fi­cials tes­ti­fy­ing in Congress about al­leged wrong­do­ing by Trump could crowd out other is­sues like the econ­omy and im­mi­gra­tion as vot­ers turn their minds to the Novem­ber 2020 elec­tion.

That might dam­age Trump, but some of his sup­port­ers say the im­peach­ment drive could ac­tu­ally boost his re-elec­tion chances by show­ing him at log­ger­heads with Wash­ing­ton-based po­lit­i­cal foes.

Repub­li­cans ac­cused Democrats of us­ing im­peach­ment to over­turn the re­sults of his 2016 elec­tion vic­tory.

Trump told a U.K. ra­dio sta­tion the Democrats knew they were los­ing next year’s vote and so were try­ing to take him down.

“The Democrats are des­per­ate, they’re des­per­ate. They have noth­ing,” Trump told LBC Ra­dio in an in­ter­view. White House spokes­woman Stephanie Gr­isham de­nounced the process as “un­fair, un­con­sti­tu­tional and fun­da­men­tally un-Amer­i­can.”

A num­ber of opin­ion polls ahead of next year’s elec­tion show sev­eral lead­ing Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates lead­ing Trump.

The probe fo­cuses on a July 25 tele­phone call in which the U.S. pres­i­dent asked his Ukrainian coun­ter­part, Volodymr Ze­len­skiy, to in­ves­ti­gate Trump’s Demo­cratic po­lit­i­cal ri­val Joe Bi­den, a for­mer U.S. vice pres­i­dent, and his son Hunter, who had served as a direc­tor for Ukrainian en­ergy com­pany Burisma.

Bi­den is a lead­ing can­di­date in the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion race to face Trump in 2020. He and his son deny any wrong­do­ing.

Trump has also de­nied wrong­do­ing. Repub­li­cans have largely stuck by him, blast­ing the im­peach­ment push as a par­ti­san ex­er­cise that has given them lit­tle in­put.

Thurs­day’s vote showed that Democrats have enough back­ing in the House to later bring for­mal charges, known as ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment, if they feel they have enough ev­i­dence.

“It should not be Nancy Pelosi and a small group of peo­ple that she se­lects that get to de­ter­mine who is go­ing to be our pres­i­dent,” said Kevin McCarthy, the top House Repub­li­can.

Just two Democrats - Collin Peter­son of Min­nesota and Jeff Van Drew of New Jer­sey - broke with their party and voted against the mea­sure. Both rep­re­sent dis­tricts where Trump won in 2016. Other Democrats from Trump-lean­ing dis­tricts, such as Jared Golden of Maine, voted yes.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Justin Amash, who left the Repub­li­can Party this year and is now an in­de­pen­dent, voted for the mea­sure.

If the House even­tu­ally votes to im­peach Trump, that would set up a trial in the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Se­nate. Trump would not be re­moved from of­fice un­less the Se­nate votes to con­vict him by a twothirds mar­gin, some­thing that looks un­likely as con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans have been re­luc­tant to move against the pres­i­dent.

The U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion gives the House broad au­thor­ity to set ground rules for an im­peach­ment in­quiry and Democrats say they are fol­low­ing House rules on in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion is prob­ing whether Trump mis­used the power of his of­fice and, if so, whether that amounted to “high crimes and mis­de­meanors” that merit im­peach­ment and re­moval from of­fice un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion.

Demo­cratic lead­ers in Congress de­clined to say when pub­lic hear­ings would start, but they are ex­pected to be­gin in the next few weeks. The in­quiry has so far taken place be­hind closed doors in front of House com­mit­tee mem­bers.

Tes­ti­mony

Cur­rent and for­mer Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials have tes­ti­fied that the White House went out­side nor­mal diplo­matic chan­nels to pres­sure Ze­len­skiy to in­ves­ti­gate the Bi­dens.

The top U.S. diplo­mat in Ukraine, Wil­liam Tay­lor, said on Oct. 22 that Trump held back nearly $400 mil­lion in se­cu­rity aid in an at­tempt to get Ze­len­skiy to pub­licly de­clare that he would carry out the in­ves­ti­ga­tions that the U.S. pres­i­dent sought — a “quid pro quo” con­firmed by Trump’s act­ing chief of staff, Mick Mul­vaney.

On Thurs­day, law­mak­ers lead­ing the in­quiry heard closed-door tes­ti­mony from Tim Mor­ri­son, the top Rus­sia spe­cial­ist on Trump’s Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil. Mor­ri­son re­signed from his post on Wed­nes­day.

Xin­hua-Yon­hap

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pre­sides over a vote by the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives on a res­o­lu­tion for­mal­iz­ing an im­peach­ment in­quiry into Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton D.C., Thurs­day.

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