The US House of Representatives has voted to move to the next stage of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
The vote gives lawmakers the right to quiz senior officials at dramatic public hearings into Trump’s attempts to make the Ukrainian President investigate former US vice president Joe Biden.
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House, formally opened an impeachment inquiry into the matter towards the end of September. The Democrats’ accuse Trump of abusing his office to get dirt on Biden, a front-runner to be the next Democratic presidential candidate.
The motion to move on to the next stage of the impeachment inquiry was passed by 232 to 196 votes. No Republicans voted for the motion, but two Democrats voted against, exposing the deep divisions in US politics.
“It’s a sad day. No one comes to Congress to impeach a president,” Pelosi said before the vote.
Following the vote, Trump tweeted to say it was “the greatest witch hunt in American history”. He also tweeted: “The Impeachment Hoax is hurting our Stock Market. The Do Nothing Democrats don’t care!”
An impeachment inquiry is a first step during which the House decides whether there is enough evidence to impeach a president, a process that could see him kicked from office.
Should Trump be officially impeached by a simple majority in the House, the Senate – the US’s upper chamber – decides on what happens next. In Trump’s case, the Republican-controlled Senate is very likely to quash the charges.
The impeachment inquiry into Trump centres on whether the president sought to blackmail Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy into interfering with the 2020 election. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.
Trump is alleged to have tied the continuation of military aid to Ukraine to an investigation into whether Biden used his power to knock back a Ukrainian investigation into his son Hunter’s firm while he was vice president.
(Image credit: Getty)