Public impeachment hearings against US President Donald Trump began in the House of Representatives in Washington DC on Wednesday, hsing a light on closer actions that Democrats believe were an abuse of power.
The televised hearings began after weeks of closed-door interviews with actors concerning Trump's telephone calls and dealings with Ukraine.
The whole investigation was sparked after a whistleblower overheard a phone call Trump made with Ukraine, threatening to withhold vital security aid if Kiev did not open a probe into Democratic rival and former vice president Joe Biden.
“Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for,” testified William Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine.
Sondland was a Trump donor who was appointed as US ambassador to the European Union, who referred to Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
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Both Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent testified on Wednesday, defying White House orders not to appear after being subpoenaed.
Kent and Taylor went back to Ukraine under the order of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as Trump fired Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. They both defended her actions and work. Yovanovitch is scheduled to testify on Friday.
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Democrats described the move as 'bribery' and 'extortion'.
“The president sought to advance his political and personal interests at the expense of US national security,” said Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), the Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee, the group leading the probe.
Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA), the main Republican on the hearing committee, claimed that the Democrats were conducting a “scorched earth” investigation into Trump because their previous investigation into Russian dealings in the 2016 failed to result in impeachment hearings.
Impeachment of a president in the US comes under a vague set of criterion which includes “high crimes and misdemeanors”.
The public intelligence hearings will continue into next week. Closed-door hearings have been held by the Intelligence, Oversight and Reform, and Foreign Affairs committees. They will submit a report to the Judiciary committee who will oversee the process. They will hold their own hearings and vote, and then a vote would take place on the floor of the House.
If that passes, the other house of Congress, the Senate, would hold a trial.