President Donald Trump speaks at New York City's 100th annual Veterans Day parade, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, in New York. Picture: AP
President Donald Trump speaks at New York City's 100th annual Veterans Day parade, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, in New York. Picture: AP

Trump fumes over impeachment probe with public hearings days away

By James Oliphant Time of article published Nov 11, 2019

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Washington - President Donald Trump

seethed on Monday as Democrats in the U.S. House of

Representatives prepared to enter a crucial new phase - the

first public hearings - in their impeachment inquiry centered on

his request that Ukraine investigate political rival Joe Biden.

On Wednesday and Friday, U.S. diplomats William Taylor,

George Kent and Marie Yovanovitch are due to detail in public

their concerns, previously expressed in testimony behind closed

doors, that Trump and his administration sought to tie $391

million in security aid to Ukraine to an investigation of the

former U.S. vice president and his son Hunter Biden.

The public testimony before the House Intelligence Committee

will be carried by major broadcast and cable television networks

and is expected to be viewed by millions of people, as Democrats

seek to make the case for Trump's potential removal from office.

The panel's Democratic chairman, Representative Adam Schiff,

has been a target of the Republican president's attacks since

the impeachment probe was launched in September after a

whistleblower within the U.S. intelligence community brought a

complaint against Trump over his July 25 call with Ukrainian

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Democrats, who control the House, have argued that Trump

abused his power in pressing a vulnerable U.S. ally to carry out

investigations that would benefit Trump politically. Biden is a

leading contender for the Democratic nomination to face the

Republican president in the 2020 election. Hunter Biden served

on the board of a Ukrainian energy company called Burisma.

Trump has denied there was a quid pro quo - or exchanging a

favor for a favor - in his dealings with Ukraine, defended his

call with Zelenskiy as "perfect" and branded the probe a

politically motivated "hoax." Trump wrote on Twitter on Monday

that the inquiry should be ended and the unnamed whistleblower,

the whistleblower's lawyer and "Corrupt politician" Schiff

should be investigated for fraud.

Democrats, who control the House, consider the open hearings

to be crucial to building public support for a vote on articles

of impeachment - formal charges - against Trump. If that occurs,

the 100-seat Republican-controlled Senate would hold a trial on

the charges. Republicans have so far shown little

support for removing Trump from office, which would require

two-thirds of senators present to vote to convict him.

No U.S. president ever has been removed from office through

the impeachment process. It has been two decades since Americans

last witnessed impeachment proceedings against a president.

Republicans, who then controlled the House, brought impeachment

charges against Democratic President Bill Clinton in a scandal

involving his sexual relationship with a White House intern. The

Senate voted to keep Clinton in office.

GIULIANI'S ROLE UNDER SCRUTINY

The House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday will first

hear from Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine. Taylor told

lawmakers in closed-door testimony he was unhappy that the

administration had held up the congressionally approved aid to

help combat Russia-backed separatists in the eastern part of

Ukraine.

Taylor said he also became uncomfortable with what he

described as an "irregular channel" of people involved in

Ukraine policy, including Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal

lawyer.

Kent, a senior State Department official who oversees

Ukraine policy, will appear at Wednesday's hearing as well. Kent

was also concerned about Giuliani's role in conducting shadow

diplomacy - and has testified that he was cut out of the

decision-making loop on Ukraine matters.

On Friday, the committee will hear from Yovanovitch, who

Trump removed as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in May. She has

testified that she was ousted after Giuliani and his allies

mounted a campaign against her with what she called "unfounded

and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives."

Giuliani had been actively trying to get Ukraine to carry out

investigations of the Bidens.

"I hope everyone who testifies will go do so truthfully,

accurately. When they do ... I think America will come to see

what took place here," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told

WCSC-TV, a CBS News affiliate in South Carolina, on Monday.

"I was part of America's Ukraine policy. We were very clear.

We wanted to make sure that the corruption that has been

existing in Ukraine for an awfully long time was reduced,"

Pompeo said.

Some Republicans have argued that Trump was motivated by a

push to root out corruption in Ukraine, rather than a desire to

pressure a foreign government to smear one of his domestic

political rivals.

Democrats are likely to call further witnesses after this

week.

House Republicans have released their list of witnesses they

would like brought before the committee, including Hunter Biden

and the whistleblower. Schiff is unlikely to summon either to

testify, and even some Republicans have opposed the push from

Trump and some of his supporters that the whistleblower be

identified.

Trump and Giuliani have made accusations - without providing

evidence - that Joe Biden sought the dismissal of a Ukrainian

prosecutor to block a corruption probe of Burisma. The Bidens

have denied wrongdoing.

Republicans on the Intelligence Committee will be permitted

to question the witnesses this week and defend the president.

The president's lawyers will not be allowed to do so - something

Trump has complained about bitterly.

Reuters

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