"We are getting an increasing appreciation for just what took place during the course of the last year - and the degree to which the president enlisted whole departments of government in the illicit aim to get Ukraine to dig up dirt on a political opponent."

By Ian Horswill


Posted on November 7, 2019

Two dates have been set aside for three diplomats who expressed misgivings about President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. They will be the first star witnesses when the opposition party, the Democrats, bring their impeachment case against US President Donald Trump into the lounge rooms of millions of Americans and people around the world next week.

In a preview of what is to come at the congressional hearings, Democrat politicians leading the impeachment probe released a testimony that showed the top US diplomat in Ukraine. William Taylor, believed a White House-led effort to pressure Kiev to investigate Ukrainian energy company Burisma was motivated by a desire to help Trump win the 2020 Presidential Election.

Taylor and George Kent, another career diplomat with experience in Ukraine, will testify before the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee on 13 November. Marie Yovanovitch, who was abruptly pulled from her post as US ambassador to Ukraine in May, will testify on 15 November. All three have already testified behind closed doors.

The first-hand accounts of US officials negotiating a quid pro quo in Ukraine in which nearly US$400 million in military aid would be used to pay for a political hit against Joe Biden, the president’s potential 2020 adversary, have been unchallenged so far in five transcripts of depositions released this week as part of the House impeachment inquiry. The Democrats are underscoring the common thread running through the witnesses’ accounts.

“I think you will see throughout the course of the testimony — not only their testimony but many others — the most important facts are largely not contested,” House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said on Wednesday (local time).

“We are getting an increasing appreciation for just what took place during the course of the last year – and the degree to which the president enlisted whole departments of government in the illicit aim to get Ukraine to dig up dirt on a political opponent.”

Nancy Pelosi Wikimedia Commons
Democrats House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed to the impeachment process and her career hangs on its success.

The transcripts reveal a widespread concern among US diplomats that the critical military aid intended to counter Russia’s aggression as well as a meeting between the two country’s presidents was conditioned on the politically motivated investigations sought by Trump’s allies.

The televised public hearings featuring US officials testifying in Congress about alleged wrongdoing by Trump will crowd out other issues like the economy and immigration as voters turn their minds to the November 2020 election.

The Republicans and Trump face great political risk in the hearings, but so do the Democrats. They must present themselves as sober and trustworthy investigators, former congressional aides and analysts said.

“The allegations – and what the president has admitted to – are serious enough. They don’t need embellishment. They just need explanation,” said Mieke Eoyang, a former aide to the House Intelligence Committee who works for the Democratic think tank Third Way, Reuters reported.

Lawmakers will have to avoid the urge to grandstand before a TV audience of millions, Eoyang said. “The hardest thing for members in an open hearing is to remember they are not the star of the thing.”

Republicans have painted the Democratic-led inquiry as a purely partisan exercise and will seek to present a different picture of Trump to the masses of viewers.

Trump has denied wrongdoing, and the expectation is that Trump would not be convicted at any trial in the Senate because it is controlled by his fellow Republicans, even if a House majority voted to impeach, similar to being indicted.

The hearings will likely be a ratings bonanza for television networks as Democratic President Bill Clinton’s impeachment case was in the 1990s.