Trump impeachment effort passes first test in split U.S. Congress

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A deeply divided U.S. House of Representatives took a major step in the effort to impeach President Donald Trump on Thursday when lawmakers approved rules for the next stage, including public hearings, in the Democratic-led inquiry into Trump’s attempt to have Ukraine investigate a domestic political rival. In the first formal test of support for the impeachment investigation, the Democratic-controlled House voted almost entirely along party lines – 232 to 196 – to move the probe forward in Congress. The vote demonstrated unity among Democrats who accuse Trump of abusing his office and jeopardizing national security for personal political gain. But they did not pick up a single Republican vote. “It’s a sad day. No one comes to Congress to impeach a president,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said before the vote. Televised public hearings featuring U.S. officials testifying in Congress about alleged wrongdoing by Trump could crowd out other issues like the economy and immigration as voters turn their minds to the November 2020 presidential election.That might damage Trump but some of his supporters say the impeachment drive could actually boost his re-election chances by showing him at loggerheads with Washington-based political foes. If the House eventually votes to impeach Trump, that would set up a trial in the Republican-controlled Senate. Trump would not be removed from office unless votes to convict him by a two-thirds margin, something that looks unlikely as congressional Republicans have been reluctant to move against the president. The U.S. Constitution gives the House broad authority to set ground rules for an impeachment inquiry and Democrats say they are following House rules on investigations. They have promised to hold public hearings on the case against Trump.