President Donald Trump waves to supporters after speaking at his Black Voices for Trump rally in Atlanta on Friday. Picture: John Bazemore/AP
President Donald Trump waves to supporters after speaking at his Black Voices for Trump rally in Atlanta on Friday. Picture: John Bazemore/AP

What to expect from the televised Trump impeachment hearings next week

By By Susan Cornwell Time of article published Nov 10, 2019

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Washington - U.S. Democrats launch the

public phase of their impeachment inquiry into President Donald

Trump next week, with open, televised hearings set for Wednesday

and Friday in the House of Representatives.

Since launching their inquiry on September 24 into allegations

that Trump abused his office for personal political gain,

lawmakers in the Democratic-run House of Representatives have

been holding hearings with current and former officials behind

closed doors. Now they want to take their case for impeachment

to the American public.

Here is what to expect from the hearings.

WHY ARE DEMOCRATS HOLDING THESE HEARINGS?

Democrats want to build a strong public case that Trump

abused his presidential powers by pressuring Ukraine to launch

corruption investigations involving the son of Joe Biden, the

former vice president who is vying to be the Democratic nominee

to run against Trump in the 2020 presidential elections.

Democrats want the broadest possible public support should they

choose to formally impeach Trump, which could happen by

December. Any trial would take place in the Senate, which is

controlled by Trump's Republican Party.

Televised hearings will "be an opportunity for the American

people to evaluate the witnesses for themselves," House

Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff said.

In the hearings, the Democrats want to present evidence that

Trump's officials delayed security aid to Kiev and, with the

help of Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, used the lure of

a possible White House meeting with Ukrainian President

Volodymyr Zelenskiy to try to get Ukrainian compliance with

Trump's demands.

Trump has denied doing anything wrong.

HOW DO DEMOCRATS PLAN TO MAKE THEIR CASE?

Democrats have invited three diplomats who have previously

testified behind closed doors to recount what they knew or heard

about Trump and Giuliani's dealings with Ukraine. These

witnesses will be questioned by committee staff attorneys as

well as lawmakers including Schiff and the senior Republican on

the committee, Devin Nunes.

The Democrats will ask the diplomats to discuss their

understanding of events before and after a July 25 phone call

between Trump and Zelenskiy. According to a rough White House

transcript of that call, the president pressed Zelenskiy to

investigate a discredited conspiracy theory involving the 2016

election about a Democratic Party computer server, as well as a

Ukrainian energy company in which Hunter Biden had been a board

member.

Democrats are also expected to try to use the hearings to

show that Trump obstructed justice - the basis of another

possible article of impeachment - by detailing how he has

blocked some witnesses from appearing and otherwise refused to

cooperate with their probe. The White House has called the

inquiry partisan and illegitimate as a basis for not

cooperating.

Trump has complained bitterly on Twitter that the process

does not allow him to be represented in the intelligence

committee. "I get NO LAWYER & NO DUE PROCESS," he wrote in one

tweet.

However, Trump and/or his lawyer would be allowed to attend

later hearings before the House judiciary committee, which will

debate what, if any, articles of impeachment should be filed and

sent to the floor for a vote.

WHO ARE THE WITNESSES?

The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, William Taylor, is

considered a critical witness to the case against Trump. Taylor

was upset to find out that security aid to Ukraine, as well as a

White House meeting between Trump and Zelenskiy, had been

delayed for political reasons.

"It's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a

political campaign," Taylor wrote earlier this year in a text

message released by House investigators.

Another senior U.S. diplomat, George Kent, will appear with

Taylor at Wednesday's hearing. Kent said in closed-door

testimony that he had been alarmed by efforts by Giuliani and

others to pressure Ukraine to accede to Trump's demands.

Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch will

testify on Friday. She says she was ousted from her post after

she came under attack by Giuliani. She says Giuliani's

associates “may well have believed that their personal financial

ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in

Ukraine.”

The Democrats also could announce additional witnesses they

expect to call to testify.

Republicans intend to request their own witnesses, possibly

including the whistleblower, the U.S. official whose complaint

about Trump's dealings with Ukraine touched off the impeachment

inquiry. Democrats can veto the Republicans' witnesses.

HOW DO REPUBLICANS PLAN TO RESPOND?

Republicans have painted the Democratic-led inquiry as a

partisan exercise and will seek to provide a different narrative

for the millions of Americans expected to watch the hearings,

while attempting to cast doubt on witness testimony.

They said on Friday Representative Jim Jordan, one of

Trump's most aggressive and tenacious defenders, would move to

the intelligence committee for the public hearings phase of the

inquiry.

Republicans may also follow the lead of Republican

Representative Michael Turner, a member of the intelligence

committee who said in September that Trump's telephone

conversation with Zelenskiy was "not ok," but impeachment would

be an "assault" on the electorate.

Republicans are already attacking the Democratic witnesses,

saying that Yovanovitch's recall as ambassador was a side issue,

and that other witnesses' knowledge of key events was largely

third-hand.

"He (William Taylor) is admitting that he had no first-hand

or second-hand knowledge of any of the developments," a

Republican party official told Reuters. "Yet Democrats are

presenting him as their star witness for this whole endeavor to

impeach the president."

Republicans can also be expected to argue that Ukrainian

officials did not feel pressured because they did not even know

the $391 million in security aid had been held up at the time

Trump asked them last July for a "favor." They have also

emphasized that the Ukrainians never announced the

investigations Trump wanted, and that Zelenskiy said he did not

feel "pushed" by Trump. 

AP

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