Democrats plan first formal vote on impeachment inquiry

Democrats inquire about ipeachment
US President Donald Trump

US politicians will take a vote this week to formalise the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry amid President Donald Trump’s criticism that the probe is “illegitimate”.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the step is being taken “to eliminate any doubt” about the process as the administration tries to block witnesses and withhold documents.

In a letter to colleagues on Monday, Ms Pelosi said the resolution will “affirm the ongoing, existing investigation” and lay out procedures for open hearings and the next steps going forward.

She dismissed the White House’s argument that impeachment is not happening without a formal vote, saying that “of course, this argument has no merit”.

The Constitution does not require a vote to begin impeachment. But President Trump and his Republican colleagues have cited the lack of one to say that the probe is not real.

President Trump used that argument in a lengthy letter to the House earlier this month saying that he would not cooperate.

Many government officials have cooperated with the inquiry despite the president’s orders.

But Ms Pelosi’s letter comes as a national security official defied a House subpoena, escalating the stand-off between Congress and the White House over who will testify.

Charles Kupperman, who was a deputy to former national security adviser John Bolton, failed to show up for a scheduled closed-door deposition after filing a lawsuit asking a federal court in Washington to rule on whether he was legally required to appear.

In a statement, Mr Kupperman said he was awaiting “judicial clarity”.

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said Mr Kupperman’s suit has “no basis in law” and speculated that the White House did not want him to testify because his testimony could be incriminating.

Democrats are investigating President Trump’s pressure on the Ukrainian government to pursue politically motivated investigations as the administration was also withholding military aid to the country.

Two current National Security Council staff members, Alexander Vindman and Tim Morrison, are scheduled to appear this week and would be the first White House employees to testify in the inquiry.

Mr Morrison’s attorney, Barbara Van Gelder, said in an email that if Morrison is subpoenaed, he will appear.

Several of the State Department officials have already told lawmakers of their concerns as President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani took charge of Ukrainian policy and as Trump pushed out the US ambassador there.

William Taylor, the current top diplomat in Ukraine, testified last week that he was told aid to the country would be withheld until the country conducted investigations into President Trump’s potential 2020 Democratic rival Joe Biden and his family and into Ukraine’s involvement in the 2016 US presidential election.

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