US House votes to formalise Trump impeachment inquiry

The US House of Representatives has passed a resolution to formally proceed with the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump

The US House of Representatives has passed a resolution to formally proceed with the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.

The measure details how the inquiry will move into a more public phase. It was not a vote on whether the president should be removed from office.

This was the first test of support in the Democratic-controlled House for the impeachment process.

The White House condemned the vote, which passed along party lines.

Only two Democrats - representing districts that Trump won handily in 2016 - voted against the resolution, along with all Republicans, for a total count of 232 in favour and 196 against.

The resolution also sets out due process rights for Trump's lawyers under the congressional inquiry.

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

Trump denies wrongdoing.

Republicans have criticised Democrats for the closed hearings - in which Republican lawmakers have also taken part. But Democrats insist they were needed to gather evidence ahead of the public stage of the investigation and deny allegations they have been secretive.

The resolution moves the inquiry to a new phase, which could eventually see articles of impeachment recommended against Trump. If that happened, and the House voted to pass the articles, a trial would be held in the Senate.

In the first stage, the House Intelligence Committee will hold public hearings in the coming weeks. It will have the right to make public transcripts of depositions taken in private.

In the second stage, a public report on the findings will be sent to the House Judiciary Committee which will conduct its own proceedings and report on "such resolutions, articles of impeachment, or other recommendations as it deems proper".

Trump's lawyers will be allowed to take part in the Judiciary Committee stage.

Republicans will be able to subpoena documents or witnesses although they could still be blocked as both panels are controlled by Democrats.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is the most senior elected Democrat, said the procedures would allow lawmakers to decide whether to impeach Trump "based on the truth".

"I don't know why the Republicans are afraid of the truth," she added.

But House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy argued that Democrats are trying to remove Trump "because they are scared they cannot defeat him at the ballot box" in next year's presidential election.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement: "Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats have done nothing more than enshrine unacceptable violations of due process into House rules."

More in World