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US House approves impeachment rules, ushering in new phase of inquiry

The House of Representatives voted to approve the rules governing the next steps in the impeachment inquiry, ushering in a new phase of the investigation that poses the greatest threat to the Trump presidency to date.

A resolution authorizing public hearings and laying the groundwork for eventual proceedings in the Judiciary Committee passed by a vote of 232 to 196. All but two Democrats voted for the measure, with all Republican members voting against it. The chamber’s sole independent joined Democrats in voting for passage.

“Sadly, this is not any cause for any glee or comfort. This is something that is very solemn, that is prayerful,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said ahead of the vote. “I doubt anybody in this place, or anybody that you know, comes to Congress to take the oath of office, comes to Congress to impeach the president of the United States, unless his actions are jeopardizing our honoring our oath of office.”

The vote was the first time the full House weighed in on the impeachment inquiry, after weeks of Republican objections that Democrats were proceeding without a floor vote on the merits of the probe. Democrats dismissed those criticisms and argued such a vote to open an inquiry is not required under the Constitution, but introduced Thursday’s resolution nonetheless, stressing the inquiry is already underway.

The House has formally pursued impeachment just three other times in U.S. history. Two presidents — Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton — were eventually impeached but acquitted in Senate trials. The third — Richard Nixon — resigned when it became clear he would be impeached by the House and removed by the Senate.

Prior to the vote, Republican leaders denounced what they called the “Soviet-style” nature of the investigation thus far, citing the use of closed-door hearings and lack of due process for the president.

The resolution approved Thursday authorizes the House Intelligence Committee to hold public hearings and craft a report to be delivered to the Judiciary Committee, where President Trump and his counsel will have the right to cross examine witnesses and review evidence. Republicans can request testimony from witnesses in either committee, subject to approval of the Democratic chairman or a full committee vote.

After receiving the report and holding its own hearings, the Judiciary Committee would be responsible for drafting any eventual articles of impeachment.

CBSNews