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US Republicans introduce measure knocking Trump impeachment effort
[WASHINGTON] US Senate Republicans on Thursday introduced a resolution that condemns the ongoing impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump, arguing that the process examining the president is illegitimate.
The measure is the party's latest effort to attack the undertaking of the Democrat-led probe, even as administration witnesses provide congressional testimony painting a damning picture of presidential abuse of power.
The resolution, seen as a Republican test of loyalty to the embattled Trump, was crafted by Senate Majority Mitch McConnell and key Trump ally Senator Lindsey Graham as a way to pressure the House of Representatives against moving ahead without making critical adjustments that would allow Republicans a greater say.
"What's going on is a run around the impeachment process, creating a secret proceeding behind closed doors that fundamentally, in my view, denies due process," Mr Graham told reporters.
The resolution, which is non-binding, calls on the House to hold a "vote to open a formal impeachment inquiry and provide President Trump with fundamental constitutional protections."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched the investigation one month ago, bypassing a floor vote in a move that angered Republicans.
Mr Graham said his resolution has 41 Republican co-sponsors and climbing in the 100-member chamber, and believes its passage by the Senate will send "a strong signal to our House colleagues that you're off script here."
Justin Amash, a conservative Republican who recently left the party, hit back at Mr Graham on Twitter, saying, "The House impeachment is an indictment. The process he's demanding happens in the Senate trial.
No defendant participates in an indictment in the way he's suggesting," Mr Amash wrote.
Democrats, who lead the House, have been pressing an investigation into explosive revelations that Mr Trump urged Ukraine to conduct investigations for his own political benefit.
A White House summary of Mr Trump's July call with his Ukrainian counterpart showed the US leader asking for a probe into Joe Biden and son Hunter, who did business with a Ukrainian energy company while his father was US vice-president.
Joe Biden is narrowly leading the race to be the Democrat challenging Mr Trump in 2020. It is against US law for any American to seek help from foreigners in a domestic election.
'DENYING' PROCEDURAL RIGHTS
Mr Trump and several Republicans say the call was above board, but recent testimony by witnesses is being seen as particularly damaging.
Democrats say testimony this week from Washington's top Ukraine envoy shows Mr Trump was withholding almost US$400 million in military aid in a bid to force obedience from Ukraine - an ally battling aggression from US strategic foe Russia.
On Wednesday, dozens of Republicans stormed the secure deposition room in protest, delaying for five hours the private testimony of a Pentagon official responsible for the department's Ukraine policy.
Republicans have 47 members on the three House committees conducting the impeachment probe who have full rights to attend depositions and question witnesses.
Mr McConnell argued that House Democrats are "denying their own Republican colleagues basic procedural rights that the minority party was granted throughout previous impeachments."
Those include Mr Trump's right to be represented by counsel during all hearings and depositions, and for his counsel to call and cross-examine witnesses, Mr McConnell added.
He and Mr Graham said the minority party was afforded broad rights during impeachment processes against Richard Nixon in 1973-1974 and Bill Clinton in 1998.
Democrats counter that in those cases there were extensive investigations prior to the drafting of articles of impeachment, and that lawmakers are currently in that phase now.
They say they public hearings on impeachment are likely in the coming weeks or months.
Lawmakers expect Mr Trump will be impeached by the House.
The process would then shift to a trial in the Republican-controlled Senate, where a two-thirds majority is needed to convict a president.