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, APA reports citing Reuters.
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 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.