The country today entered a key phase in the process of impeachment of President Donald Trump with the decision to make public the sessions of an investigation that promises to increasingly trigger partisan tensions on the eve of an election year.
The House of Representatives passed a resolution backing the investigation launched in September by the Democratic majority in the House to determine whether Trump abused his power for electoral purposes in his contacts with Ukraine.
“What’s at stake in all this is nothing less than our democracy,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said before the plenary vote.
The measure, approved by 232 votes in favor and 196 against, will allow live television of witness interviews that have so far been conducted behind closed doors, a step with which Democrats seek to move public opinion in favor of a process of removal of the president.
“The American people must see all the evidence for themselves,” said Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, after the vote.
Only 48% of Americans currently support the opening of a political trial against Trump, according to an average of polls elaborated by the FiveThirtyEight website, and the opinion of citizens depends notably on their party: 84% of Democrats and 11% of Republicans support it.
Another objective of the resolution was to give legitimacy to an investigation that the White House has described as “unconstitutional”, with a vote in the Lower House that the Democrats had not wanted to program until now and that demonstrated the deep division in the plenary on the process against Trump.
No Republican supported the measure, which provoked an instant reaction from Trump, who had followed the vote live from his residence and tweet: “The biggest witch-hunt in American history”.
The text marks a road map, although not a calendar, to continue with an investigation that until now has been developed under rules set by the Democratic majority.
From now on, the questioning of witnesses can be opened and the Intelligence Committee will have to prepare a report with the objective of having the Judicial decide whether to write articles for an impeachment trial against Trump, which would take place in the Senate, where the Republicans have a narrow majority.
In addition, the measure allows Trump’s attorneys to participate in hearings and allows Republicans to call witnesses and request documents, although this would require the consent of a majority of legislators, which can create more hurdles.
“This is a farce, it’s a polluted process,” and “Soviet-style,” denounced Republican Congressman Steve Scalise after the vote.
White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham complained that the investigation gives “no guarantee of due process to the Administration”.
Meanwhile, the inquiry continued with the appearance of Tim Morrison, still in charge of Russia at the White House National Security Council (NSC), who only hours earlier had announced that he plans to leave office imminently.
Morrison is a key figure in the investigation into whether Trump abused his power when he pressured Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelenski in July to investigate former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful.
The official heard the phone call between Trump and Zelenski and today confirmed to the investigators that the president conditioned two things – the delivery of $400 million in military aid to Ukraine and the scheduling of a meeting between the two presidents – to the opening of an inquiry into Biden.
However, Morrison avoided directly criticizing Trump’s actions in his testimony behind closed doors, according to The Washington Post and Politico.
Last week, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor, already told lawmakers that Morrison had alerted NSC lawyers to pressure on the Zelenski government because he was concerned about the issue.