International

US House votes to impeach Trump

Donald Trump has become only the third US president in history to be impeached by the House of Representatives.

The Democrat-controlled House has voted to impeach the Republican president on a charge of abusing of power.

They will now vote on a second charge of obstructing Congress.

Trump will now face a Senate trial next month, but members of his party control that chamber and it is unlikely to remove him from office.

The President has previously called the process an "attempted coup" and a "scam".

In a six-page letter on the eve of the vote, the 45th president of the United States argued he had been treated worse than "those accused in the Salem witch trials".

Surveys suggest the country is split on the process. US political website FiveThirtyEight's collection of national polls shows just over 47 percent back impeachment, while 46.4 percent oppose it.

As impeachment was debated in the House this morning, Trump was flying to Battle Creek, Michigan, for a 'Merry Christmas' rally along with Vice President Mike Pence.

Before the vote, all but a handful of the 232 House Democrats said they would back impeachment. Nearly 200 Republicans were united in opposition.

What are the charges?

The House Judiciary Committee approved two articles of impeachment against Trump last week.

The first is abuse of power. It accuses the President of trying to pressure Ukraine to smear his political rival, Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden.

Trump and his conservative allies have alleged without evidence, that while he was US Vice President, Biden encouraged Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor in order to stop him investigating a Ukrainian gas company that employed his son, Hunter Biden, as a board member.

Democrats say Trump dangled $400m of US military aid and the prospect of a coveted White House meeting for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as bargaining chips to prod the US ally into announcing a corruption inquiry into the Bidens.

The second charge is obstructing Congress. Trump, who blocked his aides from testifying, is accused of failing to co-operate with the House impeachment investigation.

The President has denied withholding US aid to benefit himself politically and maintains it was appropriate to ask Ukraine to look into alleged corruption.

Under the US constitution, a president "shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanours". It is a political process, not a legal one.

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