A deeply divided U.S. House of Representatives has taken a major step in the effort to impeach President Donald Trump after lawmakers approved rules for the next, more public, stage 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 allows for public impeachment hearings in Congress, which are expected in the coming weeks, portending a bitter battle ahead as the United States heads into a presidential election year.
Following the vote, Scott Lucas, a Professor in American politics at the University of Birmingham, told Euronews' Good Morning Europe that the decision to proceed marked a significant escalation in the seriousness of the inquiry.
“The strength of the evidence in the Trump-Ukraine case is that through more than a dozen current or former US officials, they have been able to document a campaign by Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani to pressure Kyiv into opening an investigation into the Presidential candidate Joe Biden, the Democratic Party and an investigation to cover up Russia’s interference into the 2016 election," he said.
“Specifically, this campaign went so far, that according to officials, Donald Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine. Which is, of course, facing a great deal of pressure from Russia that he withheld that military aid unless the investigations were opened.”
“If those allegations are established, it constitutes in the words of one current national security council official, a threat to US national security. That is a threat to US national security that is not for any reason related to US foreign policy, but for Donald Trump’s personal gain,” Lucas told Euronews.
With the White House expected to respond forcefully to the new maneuverings on Capitol Hill, Lucas said we can expect to see more Twitter tantrums as the investigation proceeds.
“Donald Trump never takes a step back and he believes the best defence is a good offence. We’ve gotten dozens of tweets and retweets using the same ritual he used for the Russia inquiry - (calling it) ‘a witch hunt’, ‘a hoax’ and ‘a sham’," he said.
“But the louder he shouts, the more you can see he realises that he may have stepped into this, because he deliberately, according to the evidence, embarked on an alternative foreign policy without authorisation from Congress and, probably, against rulings of the courts. So despite all the bluster, worried,” he said.
"But if you go through Trump's public statements and his Twitter lines, he's extremely rattled. He's concerned," Lucas said.