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Donald Trump: What Has Happened in the Impeachment Hearings So Far

Thursday, 21.11.2019
12:38 clock

Ten public testimonies were now in the secret service committee of the House of Representatives on Ukraine. It is to be clarified: Has President Donald Trump withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in planned military aid for Ukraine and used it as a lever to discredit his political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter with questionable investigations?

  

Even as witnesses were still being heard behind closed doors, disturbing details from Trump's apparently private Ukraine agenda came to light. Several people who had already testified in private were now publicly questioned. Even supposed witnesses were invited by the Republicans; but they remained pale or contradicted themselves.

  
The overview:

  
November 13: Bill Taylor

  

AFP / Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS

  
The US diplomat Taylor heads the US embassy in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, since November he is acting ambassador.

  He said one of his staff had overheard a phone call from the President to US ambassador Gordon Sondland, which was "investigating." According to Taylor, Sondland said to the employee's question what Trump had meant by investigation, Trump was more interested in the investigation into Biden than in Ukraine.

  

At the time of frozen military aid, Taylor said he told the US government "that it would be crazy to withhold security aid in exchange for help with a US domestic campaign." That a country in the war, the security support should be denied to achieve something, have alarmed him, Taylor said. In addition, Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani had laid an "irregular" diplomatic channel to Kiev, which undermined the official relations of the US government with Ukraine.

  
November 13: George Kent

  

  Kent, Deputy Secretary of State at the State Department, was interviewed publicly with Taylor. Already at the beginning of November a written statement of Kent had been published. In the live hearing he also raised allegations against Trump's lawyer Giuliani. This was trying to "dig out dirt" to harm Trump's rival Biden.

  Writing, Kent had stated that Giuliani had led a "campaign of lies" against the US ambassador to Kiev, Marie Yovanovitch. She was early withdrawn from her post in May. According to Kent, it was Giuliani, who had contributed significantly by means of a "smear campaign". "His allegations and allegations against former ambassador Yovanovitch were unfounded, wrong, period."

  
November 15: Marie Yovanovitch

  

  

Consequentially for the strategy of the democrats they called two days after Taylor and Kent the ex-ambassador Yovanovitch on – a multi-award-winning diplomat with decades of experience. She was a victim of a "smear campaign" as a result of her commitment to corruption in Ukraine. She blamed corrupt Ukrainian officials, as well as Giuliani. "I do not understand Mr. Giuliani's motives for attacking me."

  Allegations that she told US embassy staff or representatives of Ukraine that Trump's orders could be ignored because he was relieved of his duties were wrong. Trump – that's what the statement said – saw her as an obstacle to his plans against the Biden.

  Yovanovitch said she received a call from the US State Department on the evening of April 24 during a reception at the embassy. She was asked to return to Washington on the next plane. There she was told that Trump had lost confidence in her.

  
November 19: Alexander Vindman

  

  Vindman is a US soldier, child of Ukrainian immigrants, Ukraine adviser in the White House and listened to Trump's phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj. Trump had phoned his Ukrainian counterpart on the morning of July 25. It was this conversation that started the scandal. (A log of the phone call read here.)

  What Vindman claims to have nourished the suspicion that Trump forced Kiev to vote – the core of the affair, which could justify impeachment. "I could not believe my ears," ear witness Vindman said. The phone call was "inappropriate".

  
November 19: Jennifer Williams

  

ERIK S LASER / EPA-EFE / REX

  Williams, co-worker of US Vice President Mike Pence, called Trump's call for specific investigations into the bidens in the telephone conversation with Selenskyj "unusual" and "inappropriate". She also said, "For me, that gave rise to possible other motives behind the reluctance of military aid." It appeared that it was more about the President's "personal political agenda" than US foreign policy goals.

  
November 19: Tim Morrison

  

  Morrison, a former National Security Council official, was a witness Republican had invited to the committee. Her goal was that Morrison relieve Trump. Morrison emphasized that he had found nothing wrong with the suspicious phone conversation between Trump and Selenskyj. He was concerned, however, that the content of the conversation could reach the public. He also admitted that he had recommended restricting the access to the summary of the controversial telephone conversation.

  However, the summation of the phone call due to a "mistake" by White House staff has been stored in a highly confidential system. Morrison had doubts that the summary was deliberately withheld – a charge that the Democrats had also raised.

  
November 19: Kurt Volker

  

  Volker was US special envoy Trumps for Ukraine, he resigned in late September. He was also provided as a witness of discharge – and had to correct already at the beginning of his questioning a statement that he had made behind closed doors.

  According to his first statement, Volker had not talked to Gordon Sondland, US Ambassador to the EU, about the investigations against the Ukrainian bens. Sondland, however, had confirmed that now – and now Volker also said in the public hearing suddenly that the investigations were the subject.

  In addition, Volker said that a conspiracy theory circulated by some Republicans, according to which Ukraine and not Russia interfered in the US election campaign of 2016, had no basis. Also reports of alleged dubious business of Joe and Hunter Biden in the Ukraine were "not credible at all".

  
November 20: Gordon Sondland

  

  Sondland, US ambassador to the EU, was a heavy burden on the president in the Ukraine affair. Observers of right and left US media agreed that Sondland's statement was a "bombshell" in the trial.

  At length, Sondland described how he became an instrument of the Trump plan to persuade Ukraine and its president to make one statement, namely: "Investigations" were opened on the gas company Burisma, which is linked to Hunter Biden. And: It is examined influence on the US election 2016 from Ukraine.

  According to Sondland, the Ukrainian White House meeting with Trump was a prestigious meeting for Selensky with regard to the Ukrainian "announcement of investigations". And, as Sondland is sure, so is the military aid to Ukraine fighting in the east of the country against separatists supported by Russia.

  However, as Sondland said, Donald Trump never gave him, Sondland, direct instructions. Attorney Giuliani was the middleman. "Talk to Rudy!" The President said on one occasion. "We then followed these presidential orders," says Sondland. "Mr. Giuliani has expressed the wishes of the President, and we knew that these investigations were important to the President."

  The direct question of whether there was a "quid pro quo" – ie a direct exchange of courtesy and support from the US government – is answered by Sondland with a yes. In a telephone conversation with him, the president denied that. In it Trump Sondland should have said that he wanted nothing and "no quid pro quo". Selenskyj simply had to "do the right thing". However, this phone call took place when the revelations of a whistleblower had already triggered an investigation into the affair.

  

  
November 20: Laura Cooper and David Hale

  The Pentagon employee Cooper provided an important building block for a possible impeachment of the US president. It invalidated an argument by the supporters of the President that Ukraine had not been blackmailable because the country learned only after publications in August that some $ 400 million had been withheld from military aid. With that, money could not be used as a lever, Trump's defenders argue.

  Cooper's statement refutes this. The Russia and Ukraine expert in the Ministry of Defense said that in July, her colleagues from Ukrainian colleagues asked what was going on with the "Security Assistance to Ukraine".

  

  Hale, the highest-ranking member of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs so far in the proceedings, said once more in favor of Ukraine Ambassador Yovanovitch, whom Trump had taken. Hale said he defended her back then and considered a public statement in support of her. But they decided not to damage Yovanovitch any further.

  
What's next?

  On Thursday afternoon (Livestream on SPIEGEL ONLINE) ex-member of the National Security Council, Fiona Hill, and the staff of the US Embassy in Kiev, David Holmes, from.

  Above all, the Democrats fear one thing: that the process takes too long and could drag on until the hot campaign phase of 2020. Actually, they wanted to vote in the fall about an impeachment in the House of Representatives. It's almost over – but even a vote before the turn of the year seems ambitious.

  

A timetable, the US Democrats have deliberately not spent. "The timeline depends on the Truth Line and we're looking for it," said Nancy Pelosi, majority leader for the Democrats in the House of Representatives.

  Should the House of Representatives vote for an impeachment, then the Republican-dominated Senate would have to decide. How long that would take is open.

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