Top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine William Taylor testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, during the first public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump’s efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine William Taylor testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, during the first public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump’s efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

‘Sad day’ or ‘scam’? What to watch at Trump impeachment hearing

House Democrats let the public in to the impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump

A “solemn day” or a “show trial”?

Americans and the world can decide for themselves as House Democrats let the public in to the impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff opened the first hearings Wednesday into Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden’s family.

“Must we simply ‘get over it?’” Schiff asked in the hearing’s first moments.

Other big questions loom, including how strongly officials connected what Trump called that “favour” to U.S. military aid for Ukraine. Impeachable offences? Worthy of Trump’s removal? And, critically, will a parade of diplomats and their accounts nudge more Americans behind formally charging Trump in the shadow of the 2020 elections?

Here’s what to know about the first hearing, with the charge d’affaires in Ukraine, William Taylor, and a career diplomat, George Kent, at the witness table:

___

FIRST, KNOW THIS

“The President, Vice-President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanours.”

Expect numerous mentions of Article 2, Section 4 of the Constitution, especially on whether Trump’s own words and actions meet the vague threshold of “high crimes and misdemeanours.” Some Democrats and diplomats say conditioning U.S. aid on whether Ukraine goes after Biden’s son Hunter sounds like “bribery.” Republicans deny that, saying Trump did not explicitly offer aid for the Biden probe.

What it’s not: a trial, which would be conducted by the Senate if the House approves articles of impeachment. So no matter what the president tweets, he is not entitled to a defence attorney. The proceedings are the due process he says he’s being denied, though they are controlled by Democrats in ways Republicans will say is unfair.

READ MORE: Trump likens House impeachment inquiry to ‘a lynching’

___

… AND THIS

It’s only the fourth time in American history that Congress has launched impeachment proceedings against a sitting president. Two of those — against Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton 130 years later — resulted in their impeachments, or formal charges approved by the House. Both were acquitted by the Senate.

President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before the House could vote to impeach him.

___

THE SPIN

With only hours to go before the hearing, Republicans and Democrats from Congress to the campaign trail were spinning their points of view.

“Well, it’s a calm day, it’s a prayerful day, it’s a solemn day for our country,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday night on the eve of the hearings. “It’s a sad day, which I wish we never had to face.”

“A phoney show trial,” Trump groused a few hours later.

Trump also has called the process a “total impeachment scam.” He’s offering his own counterprogramming with a White House visit from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which is its own story of war, trade and tension.

READ MORE: Then and now: How Trump impeachment hearing is different

___

THE SPARK

A whistleblower’s complaint about Trump’s July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy ignited the impeachment investigation. Trump responded on Sept. 24 by releasing a rough transcript.

During the hearing Wednesday, listen for discussion about a key exchange during that 30-minute call, in which Zelenskiy invokes the still-blocked military aid and the U.S. president responds: “I would like you to do us a favour though.” Trump then asks Zelenskiy to investigate a debunked conspiracy theory about the 2016 election and later explicitly mentions the Bidens.

Trump says the call was “perfect” and contained no “quid pro quo,” or this for that.

Democrats say it shows Trump using his office to pressure a foreign government to help him politically.

___

‘INVESTIGATIONS, BIDEN and CLINTON’

Democrats chose Taylor and Kent to start the storytelling of public hearings. They will describe a parallel foreign policy toward Ukraine led by Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and other White House officials.

“I discovered a weird combination of encouraging, confusing and ultimately alarming circumstances,” Taylor testified in an Oct. 22 statement. He is a West Point graduate and Vietnam War veteran who has served under every presidential administration, Republican and Democrat, since 1985, and worked for then-Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J.

Kent, the bow tie-wearing career foreign service officer, testified on Oct. 15 that there were three words Trump wanted to hear from the Ukraine president: “Investigations, Biden and Clinton.”

He also told the investigators about the “campaign of lies” against former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch that he said was waged by Giuliani and contributed to her being recalled from the position.

___

THE RINGER

Republicans have added House Rep. Jim Jordan to the Intelligence Committee. Although Nunes is the senior Republican, look for the congressman from Ohio to act as an especially fierce attacker of the witnesses’ credibility and the Democrats’ case for impeachment.

At its heart, the GOP argument is that the impeachment effort is unfair and sparked because “unelected and anonymous bureaucrats disagreed” with Trump’s decisions on Ukraine.

Some Republicans have urged the outing of the whistleblower.

U.S. whistleblower laws exist to protect the identity and careers of people who bring forward accusations of wrongdoing by government officials. Lawmakers in both parties have historically backed those protections.

The Associated Press typically does not reveal the identity of whistleblowers.

___

WHAT AMERICANS THINK NOW

An AP-NORC Center poll conducted in late October found Americans more approving than disapproving of the impeachment inquiry, 47% to 38%.

Even in the throes of impeachment, approval of the president’s job performance has not changed significantly.

___

NEXT UP

Yovanovitch, a two-time ambassador, testifies Friday as the next in the series of hearings expected to stretch through next week.

She has twice served as an ambassador — to the Kyrgyz Republic and to Armenia — before being confirmed as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in a Senate voice vote in July 2016.

Next week’s schedule:

— Nov. 19, morning: Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice-President Mike Pence; Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, director for European affairs at the National Security Council.

— Nov. 19, afternoon: Ambassador Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine; Tim Morrison, a White House aide with the National Security Council.

— Nov. 20, morning: Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union.

— Nov. 20, afternoon: Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defence for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian affairs; David Hale, undersecretary of state for political affairs.

— Nov. 21, morning: Fiona Hill, former National Security Council senior director for Europe and Russia.

___

Associated Press researcher Randy Herschaft and Associated Press writer Hannah Fingerhut contributed to this report.

Laurie Kellman, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Open as of April 17, Mountain Man Ice Cream, at 99 South Shore Road, is run by the Robertson family including Myles and Austin Robertson, as well as Brianne Thomassen. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Sweet new business opens its doors in Lake Cowichan

Mountain Man Ice Cream, located at 99 South Shore Rd.

Vandals burned a hole in the platform at the top of the Somenos Marsh Open Air Classroom early on the morning of Thursday, April 22. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Arson closes Somenos Marsh viewing platform

Fletcher estimates the damage at more than $5,000.

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist, an independent pharmacy in Toronto, Monday, April 19, 2021. Younger Canadians in several provinces are now able to get the AstraZeneca vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
AstraZeneca vaccine appointments fill up fast on Vancouver Island

More pharmacies expected to be added as supply increases

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map shows new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 11-17. (BCCDC image)
BCCDC says fresh COVID-19 cases down in most Island Health areas

Nanaimo sees its fewest new COVID-19 cases since mid January

More sleeping cabins for the homeless in the Cowichan Valley could soon be put in place if a $2.5-million grant application to the UBCM Strengthening Communities’ Services funding program is successful. (File photo)
Funding sought to expand homeless initiatives in Cowichan Valley

$2.5-million grant would see more sleeping cabins and outreach projects

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

The conservation service confirmed they do not relocate cougars from settled areas but that euthanasia is not necessarily the fate for an animal in the Fanny Bay area. The hope is that the animal will move on to wild areas. (File photo)
Woman hopes cat-stalking Fanny Bay cougar can avoid euthanization

Conservation officers do not relocate the animals from Vancouver Island

Tofino residents expressed frustration over a recent post by Long Beach Lodge owner Tim Hackett that falsely claimed all residents have been vaccinated. (Westerly file photo)
Resort owner apologizes for suggesting Tofino is safe to travel to

Long Beach Lodge owner Tim Hackett apologizes to community and visitors

BC Hydro released a survey Thursday, April 22. It found that many British Columbians are unintentionally contributing to climate change with their yard maintenance choices. (Pixabay)
Spend a lot of time doing yard work? It might be contributing to climate change

Recent BC Hydro survey finds 60% of homeowners still use gas-powered lawnmowers and yard equipment

Journal de Montreal is seen in Montreal, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The daily newspaper uses a file picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in traditional Indian clothing during his trip to India to illustrate a story on the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Montreal newspaper blasted for front-page photo of Trudeau in India

Trudeau is wearing traditional Indian clothes and holding his hands together in prayer beside a caption that reads, ‘The Indian variant has arrived’

Most Read