US. lawmakers in the House of Representatives are due to start debate on the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Wednesday, with a vote expected to follow a heated battle between Democrats and Republicans.
Democrats accuse the president of abusing his office by soliciting Ukraine to dig up dirt on his political rival, Joe Biden, and withholding military aid as pressure. He is also alleged to have obstructed Congress’ investigation of the affair.
Republicans reject both articles of impeachment against the president, saying he did nothing wrong in his contacts with Ukraine. Trump accuses the Democrats of trying to reverse the 2016 election, which he won.
The House has the power to impeach with a simple majority, but the trial in the Senate will require a two-thirds majority to remove a president from office, making the prospect very unlikely.
This will be only the third time a president has been impeached.
After weeks of contentious hearings in the House, in which career diplomats and national security officials testified that they were concerned about Trump’s behaviour, the debate will shift next year to the Senate.
Democrats are keen to call four witnesses in the trial in the upper chamber, including John Bolton, the former national security adviser, and White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Republicans are opposed.
Public opinion is sharply divided over impeachment.
Moreover, with the country heading to elections in November there is significant divergence, with some saying legislators should let voters decide the fate of the president, while critics of Trump expressed concern his behaviour risks the integrity of the election. (dpa/NAN)