Democrats in the US House of Representatives launched a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, accusing him of seeking foreign help to damage the reputation of Democratic rival Joe Biden ahead of next year’s election.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the inquiry after a closed-door meeting with Democratic lawmakers, saying Trump’s actions undermined national security and violated the US Constitution.

What are the charges against Trump?
It is said that Trump had pressured Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in a July 25 phone call to investigate Biden, the Democratic presidential front-runner, and his son Hunter, who had worked for a company drilling for gas in Ukraine.

What does Trump say?
Trump promised to release a transcript of his phone call. He has acknowledged he discussed Biden in the call. However, he has denied that he withheld nearly $400 million in US aid to Ukraine as leverage to get Zelenskiy to launch a probe that would damage Biden, who leads opinion polls in the Democratic presidential race.

Procedure for impeachment
The impeachment inquiry could eventually lead to Trump’s removal from office. Even if the Democratic-controlled House voted to impeach Trump, the Republican-majority Senate would have to take the next step of removing him from office after a trial. A conviction would require a two-thirds Senate majority.

It will be the first impeachment inquiry in Congress since the 1998 probe of President Bill Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice in relation to his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

The House voted to impeach Clinton in December 1998, but the Democratic president was acquitted two months later by the Senate and remained in office. The only other president to be impeached, Andrew Johnson in 1868, was also acquitted by the Senate.

Source: The Hindu Businessline