Friday 6 December 2019

TV impeachment hearings to heap pressure on Donald Trump

US president Donald Trump
US president Donald Trump

James Oliphant in Washington

This week will mark a new and unparalleled chapter in Donald Trump's tumultuous presidency, as the Democratic- led impeachment probe goes public with televised hearings into allegations about Mr Trump's dealings with Ukraine.

Beginning tomorrow, three witnesses will publicly detail their concerns, previously expressed behind closed doors, that the Trump administration sought to tie military aid to Ukraine to an investigation of the Republican president's potential Democratic rival for the presidency, Joe Biden.

The testimony will be carried by major networks and is expected to be viewed by millions, who will watch current and former officials from Mr Trump's own administration begin to outline a case for his potential removal from office.

It has been 20 years since Americans last witnessed impeachment proceedings, when Republicans brought charges against Bill Clinton.

Democrats in the US House of Representatives argue Mr Trump abused his authority in pressing the Ukrainian government to investigate Mr Biden and his son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma.

Representative Eric Swalwell, a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee which will hold the hearings tomorrow and Friday, accused Mr Trump of "extortion".

"We have enough evidence from the depositions that we've done to warrant bringing this forward, evidence of an extortion scheme, using taxpayer dollars to ask a foreign government to investigate the president's opponent," Mr Swalwell said on CBS's 'Face the Nation' on Sunday.

Mr Trump argued on Twitter over the weekend that he was not guilty of misconduct and that the probe was politically driven. "NOTHING WAS DONE WRONG!" he wrote.

Democrats consider the open hearings to be crucial to building public support for a formal impeachment vote against Mr Trump. If that occurs, the Republican- controlled Senate would hold a trial on the charges.

The House Intelligence Committee will first hear from William Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, who told the committee in closed-door testimony that he was unhappy US aid to the country was held up by the administration.

Mr Taylor said he also became uncomfortable with what he described as an "irregular channel" of people involved in Ukraine policy, including Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer.

George Kent, a senior State Department official who oversees Ukraine, will appear at tomorrow's hearing as well.

On Friday, the committee will hear from former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. She says she was ousted from her post after Mr Giuliani and his allies mounted a campaign against her.

Irish Independent

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