Trump fumes over impeachment probe with public hearings days away
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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
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
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,"
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
Democrats are likely to call further witnesses after this
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
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.