New York: The divided US House of Representatives on Thursday passed a resolution approving the rules to guide the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.
The resolution indicates that the Democrats have the confidence in the evidence gathered thus far. The inquiry will take the investigation from behind closed doors to Americans' television screens with a series of public hearings.
The first televised hearings could take place within two weeks. Trump is accused of trying to pressure Ukraine into investigating unsubstantiated corruption claims against his political rival, Joe Biden, and his son who worked with a Ukrainian gas company.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers took to the House floor to engage in a bitter debate over the impeachment process before voting largely along party lines on the resolution.
As the House took up the resolution, Trump boomed on Twitter, "The greatest witch hunt in American history!" "This farce should never be allowed to roll into a winter show trial," read the tweet -- suggesting Trump would want the Republican leadership in the Senate to shut the process down.
Earlier in the day, when the resolution was moved, he said: ‘‘The Impeachment Hoax is hurting our Stock Market’’.
The House Intelligence Committee will hold the first set of hearings under its chair and produce a report for the Judiciary Committee, which will have the final say in drawing up the charges against Trump in what is known as Articles of Impeachment.
After the full House votes to approve it with a simple majority, the Senate will hold a formal trial presided over by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on the charges.
Two-thirds of the 100 Senators will have to vote to convict the President and remove him from office. As of now it seems unlikely that there will be that many Senate votes for impeachment, making the process nothing more than a political catharsis.
The concerted attempt is not just to undo the last election but also influence the next one.
Trump's lawyers will be allowed to participate in the Judiciary Committee's proceedings by submitting evidence and cross-examining witnesses. But if Trump prevents witnesses from appearing before it or refuses requests for documents, Trump's lawyers will not be allowed to continue examining the witnesses.