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House set for vote to formally authorize impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump

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Oct. 31 (UPI) — The U.S. House will vote on a resolution Thursday to formalize the impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump — a major step that’s only been taken by the lower chamber four other times in U.S. history.

House Democrats will vote on the resolution, which is expected to pass with only a few party members voting against, on the chamber floor Thursday afternoon.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for the measure after the White House and congressional Republicans complained that the impeachment investigation has not received a full floor vote. Trump has called the inquiry “illegitimate” because it lacked a chamber vote.

“The process determining whether he should be impeached will be open to the public view, just as it should be,” House rules committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said.

Three House committees — on intelligence, foreign affairs and oversight — are leading the investigation, which seeks to learn whether Trump threatened to pull military aid to Ukraine as a pressure tactic for Kiev to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who formerly worked for a Ukrainian gas company.

So far, investigators have heard from more than a dozen witnesses in the case — including current and former members of the Trump administration. The administration has blocked testimony from some of the witnesses, resulting in multiple subpoenas

“I don’t know if it’s the final week but I think it’s getting close,” House foreign affairs committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., said.

Many Republicans have been critical of the guarded, private way Democrats have so far led the inquiry — leading several to storm the deposition last week of a Ukraine policy expert in the Defense Department.

“It’s been limited and closed and frankly I think we’re moving toward a preordained result,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., the ranking Republican on the rules committee.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, has called the inquiry a “sham” process and Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz called it “totally antithetical to our constitutional principles.” Gaetz led the Republican group that interrupted last week’s deposition.

Thursday’s resolution to formalize the proceedings would enable Republicans to request witnesses and documents, authorize committees to publicly release interview transcripts and outline public hearings. Trump and White House counsel would also be able to attend hearings, question witnesses and recommend additional testimony and evidence.

The full text of the resolution was made public Tuesday. Among other things, it directs “certain committees to continue their ongoing investigations as part of the existing House of Representatives inquiry into whether sufficient grounds exist for the House of Representatives to exercise its constitutional power to impeach Donald John Trump, president of the United States of America, and for other purposes.”

Only four other U.S. presidents have ever been the subject of formal impeachment investigations — James Buchanan in 1860, Andrew Johnson in 1868, Richard Nixon in 1974 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Johnson and Clinton were impeached, but acquitted in the Senate. The House decided against impeaching Buchanan and Nixon resigned before lawmakers could vote in his case.

Earlier this week, investigators questioned Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who became the first active White House official to testify in the case. Others who have also spoke to committee investigators are U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor and Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.

Thursday, investigators are scheduled to depose Tim Morrison, a former National Security Council leader on European and Russian policy. He was party to the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which the American leader spoke about investigating the Bidens. Democrats believe he has direct knowledge of the military aid that Trump temporarily withheld.

Politico reported Thursday that former national security adviser John Bolton and two White House attorneys are scheduled to give depositions next week — Bolton on Nov. 7 and National Security Council attorneys John Eisenberg and Michael Ellis on Nov. 4. If he appears, Bolton would be the highest-ranking official yet to give testimony in the impeachment proceedings.

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