A resolution setting out the next steps in President Donald Trump’s impeachment have been published by House Democrats.
The motion sets out a more public phase of the inquiry and hands the lead role in hearings to the chairman of the intelligence committee, Adam Schiff.
The House, controlled by the Democrats, will vote on the measure on October 31.
A White House spokeswoman said the resolution was an “illegitimate sham”.
So far, hearings have been held behind closed doors. This vote to make the impeachment process public is about the procedure, and not a ballot on whether or not to impeach the president.
Meanwhile, Republicans have criticized Democrats for the closed hearings up to this point, in which Republican lawmakers have also taken part. However, Democrats insist they were needed to gather evidence ahead of the public stage of the inquiry, and deny allegations they have been secretive.
President Trump is accused of trying to pressure Ukraine into investigating unsubstantiated corruption claims against his political rival, Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden, who worked with Ukrainian gas company Burisma.
The president denies wrongdoing and calls the impeachment inquiry a “witch hunt”.
On October 29, the impeachment inquiry heard from Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a White House official who had monitored a phone call on July 25 between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
That call sparked a whistleblower complaint and led to the impeachment probe.
Col. Alexander Vindman said he was “concerned” by the call as he “did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a US citizen”.
The eight-page document sets out a two-stage process for the next phase of the inquiry.
In the first, the House Intelligence Committee will continue its investigations and hold public hearings. It will have the right to make public transcripts of depositions taken in private.
In the second phase, a public report on the findings will be sent to the House Judiciary Committee which will conduct its own proceedings and report on “such resolutions, articles of impeachment, or other recommendations as it deems proper”.
President Trump’s lawyers will be allowed to take part in the Judiciary Committee stage.
Republicans on the committees will be able to subpoena documents or witnesses – although they could still be blocked as both committees are Democrat-controlled.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said a House vote on the resolution would take place on October 31. She has previously said such a vote is not required under the US Constitution.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, speaking before the resolution was unveiled, said the entire process was a “sham.”
Referring to the closed-door meetings and depositions he said: “You can’t put the genie back in the bottle. Due process starts at the beginning.”
However, Hunter Biden acknowledged the possible political ramifications of his work, saying his failure to do so previously demonstrated “poor judgment”.
“Did I make a mistake? Well, maybe in the grand scheme of things, yeah,” he said.
“But did I make a mistake based upon some ethical lapse? Absolutely not.”
Hunter Biden stressed his record on the board of the UN World Food Program and work for US corporations to defend his lucrative role as a board member for a Ukrainian gas company.
He said: “I think that I had as much knowledge as anybody else that was on the board, if not more.”
However, he acknowledged the appointment may have resulted from his father’s clout.
“I don’t think that there’s a lot of things that would have happened in my life if my last name wasn’t Biden,” Hunter Biden said.
His foreign business ventures have pulled him to the epicenter of the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Trump.
President Trump and his allies have claimed that as vice-president Joe Biden encouraged the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor because the prosecutor was investigating Burisma, a gas company that employed Hunter Biden.
These allegations – though widely discredited – were raised by President Trump in a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
This call has fuelled the Democratic-led impeachment investigation. The inquiry is trying to establish whether President Trump withheld nearly $400 million in aid to nudge President Zelensky into launching an inquiry into the Bidens.
President Trump tweeted: “A big scandal at @ABC News. They got caught using really gruesome FAKE footage of the Turks bombing in Syria. A real disgrace. Tomorrow they will ask softball questions to Sleepy Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, like why did Ukraine & China pay you millions when you knew nothing? Payoff?”
The president has continued to seize on Hunter Biden’s dealings in Ukraine and China to stage political attacks against him and his father, charging both Bidens with corruption, without offering specific evidence.
In an interview on October 15, Hunter Biden dismissed the president’s claims as a “ridiculous conspiracy idea”.
Last week, Hunter Biden announced he would step down from the board of BHR (Shanghai) Equity Investment Fund Management Company.
His lawyer, George Mesires, told media his client had not acquired an equity interest in the fund until 2017, after his father had left office.
Hunter Biden said last week that he would not work for any foreign-owned companies if his father is elected president.
Former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch has told Congress she was ousted over “unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives”.
She said she was “incredulous” at being dismissed by President Donald Trump in May.
Marie Yovanovitch’s testimony is part of an impeachment inquiry against President Trump.
The Democratic probe is looking into whether the Republican president improperly pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rival Joe Biden.
The scandal was sparked by a whistleblower complaint about a July phone call between President Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky.
During that conversation, President Trump described Marie Yovanovitch as “bad news”, according to a rough transcript released by the White House.
The decision to dismiss Marie Yovanovitch several months earlier reportedly followed President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and other conservatives arguing she was biased against the president.
Rudy Giuliani had been working in Ukraine to press the authorities to investigate widely debunked corruption allegations against Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter, who was associated with a Ukrainian company.
The lawyer is coming under increasing scrutiny over his work for the president. Asked by reporters on October 11 if Rudy Giuliani was still his lawyer, President Trump answered ambiguously: “I don’t know. He’s a very good attorney and he has been my attorney.”
In a prepared statement, Marie Yovanovitch said:“Although I understand that I served at the pleasure of the president.
“I was nevertheless incredulous that the US government chose to remove an ambassador based, as best as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.”
Marie Yovanovitch said she did not know Rudy Giuliani’s reasons for attacking her.
“Equally fictitious is the notion that I am disloyal to President Trump,” she said.
“I have heard the allegation in the media that I supposedly told the embassy team to ignore the president’s orders ‘since he was going to be impeached.’ That allegation is false.”
She warned of the harm that will come to the US when “bad actors” realize “how easy it is to use fiction and innuendo to manipulate our system”.
Marie Yovanovitch said she had never met or spoken with Hunter Biden and that Joe Biden had never raised with her the subject of his son or the Ukrainian gas company that employed him.
She also said she learned that President Trump had called for her ousting since 2018 despite Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan telling her she had done nothing wrong.
Marie Yovanovitch said: “He said that the president had lost confidence in me and no longer wished me to serve as his ambassador. He added that there had been a concerted campaign against me.”
A Barack Obama-appointee, Marie Yovanovitch was confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate and served as US ambassador to Ukraine from August 2016 until last May.
The whistleblower complaint noted Marie Yovanovitch’s surprise dismissal was a red flag for some officials.
President Donald Trump has branded a whistleblower allegation that he made a promise to a foreign leader – believed to be Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky – as a “ridiculous story”.
Donald Trump said his talks with leaders were always “totally appropriate”.
According to reports, President Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter – who was on a Ukrainian gas company board – in return for more US military support.
Joe Biden is frontrunner to be the Democrat’s 2020 presidential candidate.
He wrote in a statement: “If these reports are true, then there is truly no bottom to President Trump’s willingness to abuse his power and abase our country.”
Joe Biden called on President Trump to “immediately release” a transcript of the phone call “so that the American people can judge for themselves”.
In its report on the complaint by the whistleblower, the Washington Post said the intelligence official had found President Trump’s comment to the foreign leader “so troubling” that they went to the department’s inspector general.
The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, quoted sources as saying President Trump had urged President Zelensky about eight times to work with his lawyer Rudy Giuliani on an investigation into Joe Biden’s son, but had not offered anything in return.
On September 20, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that reports of the complaint raised “grave, urgent concerns” for US national security.
Presidents Trump and Zelensky spoke by phone on July 25. The whistleblower’s complaint is dated August 21.
Donald Trump described the complaint as “just another political hack job”.
Speaking alongside Australia’s leader Scott Morrison in the White House, the president said: “It’s a ridiculous story. It’s a partisan whistleblower. He shouldn’t even have information. I’ve had conversations with many leaders. They’re always appropriate.”
President Trump also called for Joe Biden’s finances to be scrutinized.
He told reporters: “It doesn’t matter what I discussed, someone ought to look into Joe Biden’s billions of dollars and you wouldn’t look into that because he’s a Democrat.”
On September 19, President Trump wrote on Twitter that he knew all his phone calls to foreign leaders were listened to by US agencies.
Ukraine says President Trump and President Zelensky will meet next week in New York during the UN General Assembly.
Democrats are trying to get the complaint turned over to Congress, with many details still unknown.
Earlier this month, before the whistleblower’s complaint came to light, House Democrats launched an investigation into President Trump and Rudy Giuliani’s interactions with Ukraine.
Three Democratic panel heads – Eliot Engel (foreign affairs), Adam Schiff (intelligence) and Elijah Cummings (oversight) – said Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani had attempted “to manipulate the Ukrainian justice system to benefit the president’s re-election campaign and target a possible political opponent”.
They allege that President Trump and Rudy Giuliani tried to pressure the Ukrainian government into investigating Joe and Hunter Biden.