News Donald Trump cries ‘witch hunt’ as lawmakers back impeachment probe
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Donald Trump cries ‘witch hunt’ as lawmakers back impeachment probe

Representative Mike Quigley, D-Ill., walks by protesters outside the Capitol after the House vote on an impeachment inquiry. Photo: Getty
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The US House of Representatives has taken a major step in the impeachment effort against President Donald Trump as lawmakers approved rules for the next stage of the Democratic-led inquiry.

The Democratic-controlled House voted 232 to 196 to establish how to hold public hearings in Congress, which could be damaging for Mr Trump ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

It was the first formal test of support for the impeachment probe and showed that Democrats have enough backing in the House to later bring formal charges, known as articles of impeachment, against Mr Trump if they feel they have enough evidence.

House Democrats say Mr Trump has abused his office for personal gain and jeopardised national security by asking Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskiy to investigate Mr Trump’s Democratic political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Hunter Biden served as a director for Ukrainian energy company Burisma.

Before Thursday’s vote local time House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “a sad day”.

“No one comes to Congress to impeach a president,” she said.

Moments after the vote, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham called the process “unfair, unconstitutional, and fundamentally un-American”.

Republicans have largely stuck by Mr Trump, blasting the effort as a partisan exercise that has given them little input.

The vote largely broke along party lines. Only two Democrats voted against and no Republicans backed it.

Mr Trump has denied wrongdoing and called the inquiry a sham, taking to Twitter to describe the proceedings as the “greatest witch hunt” in US history which would hurt the stock market.

If the House eventually votes to impeach Mr Trump, that would set up a trial in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Mr Trump would not be removed from office unless the Senate votes to convict him by a two-thirds margin.

-with AAP