Donald Trump impeachment moves closer as Democrats approve rules for investigation

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A sharply divided House of Representatives has approved the rules for its impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.

Thursday's near party-line 232-196 roll call was the chamber's first formal vote on a process that is likely to take months, possibly stretching into the early weeks of the 2020 election year.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Underscoring the gravity of the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi presided over the chamber as it voted on the rules package.

The vote was a victory for majority Democrats, who will control the investigation in the House.

It gives them the ability to curb the ability of Republicans to subpoena witnesses and of White House lawyers to present witnesses.

Republicans said the process was skewed against them and the White House.

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The vote showed how neither side has budged in their fight over whether Mr Trump's effort to squeeze Ukraine for dirt on his Democratic political foes merits forcing him from office.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says a vote to approve ground rules for their impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump is a solemn but necessary duty for lawmakers.

In a floor speech before the vote, Pelosi said, "This is not any cause for any glee or comfort."

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Standing next to a large U.S. flag in the well of the House, Pelosi said the impeachment inquiry was necessary to defend the Constitution and prevent an abuse of power by Trump.

"The times have found each and every one of us in this room," Pelosi said. She urged lawmakers to vote in favor of the impeachment rules "to protect the Constitution of the United States.

"What is at stake in all of this is nothing less than our democracy."