Washington: The Democratic Party, which controls the US House of Representatives, has unveiled a resolution setting out the next steps in their impeachment efforts against President Donald Trump.
President Trump, a Republican, is accused of trying to pressure Ukraine into investigating unsubstantiated corruption claims against his political rival, Joe Biden, and his son who worked with Ukrainian gas company Burisma.
The eight-page resolution made public on Tuesday sets out a more public phase of the inquiry and hands the lead role in hearings to the chair of the intelligence committee, Adam Schiff.
The House is expected to vote on the measure on Thursday.
"There is mounting evidence that the president abused his power and betrayed our national security while compromising the integrity of America's elections," Rules Committee Chairman James P McGovern said.
"The House impeachment inquiry has collected extensive evidence and testimony, and soon the American people will hear from witnesses in an open setting. The resolution introduced today in the House Rules Committee will provide that pathway forward," the heads of four House committees said in a joint statement.
They four are Congressmen Adam Schiff, the Chairman of Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; Jerrod Nadler, the Chairman of Judiciary Committee; Eliot Engel, the Chairman of Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Carolyn Maloney, the Acting Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform.
"The evidence we have already collected paints the picture of a president who abused his power by using multiple levers of the government to press a foreign country to interfere in the 2020 election," they said.
Following in the footsteps of previous impeachment inquiries, the next phase will move from closed depositions to open hearings where the American people will learn firsthand about the president's "misconduct", they said.
Reacting sharply to the move of the Opposition Democratic Party, the White House described the resolution an "illegitimate sham".
"The resolution put forward by Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi confirms that House Democrats' impeachment (procedure) has been an illegitimate sham from the start as it lacked any proper authorisation by a House vote," White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said.
"It continues this scam by allowing Chairman Schiff, who repeatedly lies to the American people, to hold a new round of hearings, still without any due process for the president."
Grisham alleged the White House is barred from participating at all, until after Schiff conducts two rounds of "one-sided hearings to generate a biased report" for the Judiciary Committee.
Even then, the White House's rights remain undefined, unclear, and uncertain because those rules still haven't been written, she alleged, adding, "This resolution does nothing to change the fundamental fact that House Democrats refuse to provide basic due process rights to the administration." Later, justifying the impeachment procedure, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said consistent with its historic role, the judiciary panel will operate under equally serious procedures to govern its part of the House's ongoing impeachment inquiry.
"These procedures confer, among other things, rights for the minority and for the President equal to those provided during the (Richard) Nixon and (Bill) Clinton inquiries. This committee is committed to executing its part of the House's ongoing impeachment investigation with the highest fealty to the Constitution," Nadler said.
In a statement, the House Judiciary Committee said the procedures offer Trump several protection including that his counsel will receive copies of any statements of information and related documents and other evidentiary material furnished to the members of the committee.
The president and his counsel may attend the presentation of evidence by majority and minority committee counsel and the counsel may ask questions during the presentation, it said adding his counsel may respond to the presentation of evidence.
The president's counsel may submit written summaries of additional testimony or evidence the President wishes the Judiciary Committee to consider. The president and his counsel may attend all hearings of the Judiciary Committee, including any held in executive session, it said.
"The resolution permits the minority to issue subpoenas with the concurrence of the chair or authorised by a committee vote. Contrary to the claims of the president and Republican leadership, the minority did not have unilateral subpoena power in the Nixon and Clinton impeachment proceedings," the statement said.
Four top House Republicans, Whip Steve Scalise, Leader Kevin McCarthy, Conference Chair Liz Cheney, Ranking Member of the House Rules Committee Congressman Tom Cole and Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee Congressman Mac Thornberry termed the impeachment process "tainted", contending it "neglects real problems such as funding the military and lowering drug prices".
"We still wait to see what Speaker Pelosi is going to file. But the bottomline is that she admitted defeat in this failed process - this Soviet-style impeachment process that Adam Schiff is conducting," Scalise said.