By Katherine Coble || News Editor
The House of Representatives took the dramatic step on Thursday to endorse the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, marking the beginning of a new and more public stage in the investigation.
The House voted 232-196 in order to set rules for the impeachment inquiry. Every House Republican voted against the measure, and two Democrats joined them in the ‘nay’ vote. These were Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, both of whom represent conservative districts.
Until now, the impeachment inquiry has been led entirely by Democrats and witnesses have been heard behind closed doors in private sessions. This has lead to extreme dissatisfaction among House Republicans, who attempted to break into the hearing room on October 23. The new rules, as voted upon last week, establish proper procedures for the inquiry going forward. Evidence against Trump will be publicly presented and his legal team will be able to mount an official defense against the allegations.
The vote signals that Democrats are ready to move forward: willing to have their members publicly vote on the matter, and willing to share their findings with the public. It is a gamble that is sure to impact the political landscape for the rest of the year and beyond. In a speech on the House floor on Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pointed to the American flag and proclaimed that “what is at stake in all of this is nothing less than our democracy.”
For their part, the Republican members of the House remain unimpressed with the vote and the progress Democrats are attempting to make. Despite their frustrations with the private nature of the inquiry, its newly-created publicness is still unpopular. Numerous GOP lawmakers described the inquiry and Thursday’s vote as a politically-motivated “sham.” President Trump and his White House responded similarly, with the president taking to Twitter to declare the vote “The Greatest Witch Hunt In American History!”
The impeachment inquiry centers upon a phone call between President Trump and the newly elected Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky on June 25. During the call, Trump appeared to imply that both a White House meeting with Zelensky and the release of American military aid to Ukraine would be dependent on Zelensky opening an investigation into Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, and his relationship to a Ukrainian energy company. The aid had already been voted on and approved by Congress, but Trump asked Zelensky to do him a “favor” before it would be released.
Ukraine has been at war with Russia over the highly contested and oil-rich region of Crimea since Russia forcefully annexed it in 2014. Consequently, the Ukrainian government relies heavily on American support in its quest to take back Crimea from a major rival. Zelensky, a former comedian and actor who ran on an anti-corruption campaign, has made ending the war with Russia a major focus of his presidency. The investigation Trump seeks of Hunter Biden and his Ukrainian employer appears to be based entirely on conspiracy theories floated by people like the President’s personal lawyer and major confidant, Rudy Guliani.
Congress is set to begin a weeklong break following this latest vote, but committees and their staff members will continue to hold closed-door depositions of important figures in the Trump administration. Many of these, such as former national security adviser John Bolton, have indicated that they will not testify unless a Congressional subpoena is upheld by a high court. Thus, the inquiry is destined to continue taking shape and making progress despite a hiatus from Congress itself.
Senior Katherine Coble is the news editor. Her email is email@example.com.