REUTERS

A Democratic-controlled House of Representatives committee on Friday took Republican President Donald Trump to the brink of impeachment when it approved two charges against him stemming from his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Democratic political rival Joe Biden.

A deeply divided House Judiciary Committee voted 23-17 to approve articles of impeachment charging Trump with both abusing the power of his office over Ukraine and obstructing House Democrats' attempts to investigate him for it, Reuters said.

If the full House votes next week to impeach Trump, as expected, the Republican will become the third U.S. president to be impeached. But the chances of him being removed from office are close to zero because the Senate, which is dominated by Republicans, will have the final say.

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In congressional hearings that have gripped Washington, Democrats have accused the president of endangering the U.S. Constitution, jeopardizing national security and undermining the integrity of the 2020 election by asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a July phone call to investigate Biden.

"Today is a solemn and sad day," the committee's Democratic chairman, Jerry Nadler, said. "For the third time in a little over a century and a half, the House Judiciary Committee has voted articles of impeachment against the president."

Republicans have defended Trump and accused Democrats of a politically motivated farce aimed at overturning his surprise 2016 presidential election victory.

"A sad, ridiculous sham in the U.S. House of Representatives. This needs to come to a quick end," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, a Republican who is often a staunch defender of Trump, wrote on Twitter.

If impeached, Trump will go on trial in the Senate early next year, just as the 2020 presidential campaign begins to pick up speed.

Biden, a former U.S. vice president, is a leading Democratic candidate to face Trump in November's general election. Trump has alleged that Biden was involved in corruption in Ukraine and should be investigated but the president has offered no evidence. The Democrat denies any wrongdoing.