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US House begins impeachment hearing against Trump

By Lalit K Jha
November 14, 2019 00:12 IST
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IMAGE: House holds Intelligence Committee hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Wednesday. Photograph: Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Controlled by Opposition Democratic party, the House of Representatives on Wednesday launched the first public hearing of Donald Trump's impeachment investigation with two career diplomats testifying before a key committee over allegations that the United States President used his office to pressure Ukraine officials for personal political gain.

Hours before Acting US Ambassador to Ukraine George Kent and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs appeared before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence for the first of the many impeachment hearings, Trump slammed the Democrats for this.

'The Democrats have stacked the deck against President Trump and the Republicans. They have leaked out everything,' Trump said in a series of tweet.


'Nancy Pelosi cares more about power than she does about principle. She did not want to go down this road. She realizes this is a huge loser for Democrats. The Founders envisioned the worst people being in politics, yet they couldn't envision this,' he said.

'You have these people taking the most powerful tool the legislative branch has, Impeachment, & they've turned it into a political cudgel, which is not at all what the Founders intended. When you hear Schiff use all these words like quid pro quo, it is because they can't specify that Donald Trump broke any laws or did anything wrong, and they have to move away from quid pro quo because there was no quid, and there was no quo,' Trump said.

'Ukraine got it's money (3 weeks early), and there was no investigation,' he said.

The hearing before the House Intelligence Committee marks the second phase of the impeachment investigation into allegations that Trump abused his powers by seeking help for his 2020 reelection campaign from Ukraine.

Trump, a Republican, is accused of trying to pressure Ukraine into investigating unsubstantiated corruption claims against his Democratic Party political rival and former vice president Joe Biden, and his son who worked with an Ukrainian gas company.

At the US Capitol Hill, in a hearing room overflowing with a battery of media and interested people, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B Schiff, laid the foundation for impeachment hearing against Trump.

"The questions presented by this impeachment inquiry whether President Trump sought to exploit that allies vulnerability and invite Ukraine's interference in our elections, weather President Trump sought to condition the official acts such as a White House meeting or US military assistance on Ukraine's willingness to assist with two political investigations that would help his reelection campaign," Schiff asked.

"And if President Trump did either, whether such an abuse of his power is compatible with the office of the presidency. The matter is as simple and as terrible as that," said the Democratic leader.

"Our answer to these questions will affect not only the future of this presidency but the future of the presidency itself and what kind of conduct or misconduct the American people may come to expect from their commander in chief," he said.

"There are few actions as consequential as the impeachment of the President. While the founders did not intend that impeachment be employed for mere differences over policy they also made impeachment a constitutional process that the Congress must utilize as necessary," Schiff said.

"If we find that the President of the US abused his power and invited foreign interference in our elections or if he sought to condition, coerce, extort, or bribe an ally into conducting investigations to aid his reelection campaign and did so by withholding official acts, White House meeting or hundreds of millions of dollars of needed military aid, must we simply get over it?" he asked.

"Is this what Americans should now expect from their President? If this is not impeachable conduct, what is? Does the oath of office itself requiring that our laws be faithfully executed, that our president defend the Constitution that balances the powers of its branches setting ambition against ambition so we become note monarchy still have meaning?" Schiff questioned.

Ranking Member David Nunes alleged that after the spectacular implosion of their Russia hoax, in which they spent years denouncing any Republican who ever shook hands with a Russian, the Democrats have now turned on a dime and now claim the real malfeasance is Republicans dealings with Ukraine.

"In the blink of an eye, we are asked to simply forget about Democrats on this committee falsely claiming they had more than circumstantial evidence of collusion between President Trump and Russians. We should forget about them reading fabrications of Trump-Russia collusion from the Steele dossier into the Congressional record, we should also forget about them trying to obtain nude pictures of Trump from Russian pranksters that pretended to be Ukrainian officials," he said.

Nunes alleged that after avowing publicly that impeachment requires bipartisan support, Democrats are pushing impeachment forward without the backing of a single Republican.

"The witnesses deemed suitable for television by the Democrats were put through a closed door audition process in a cult like atmosphere in the basement of the capital where Democrats conducted secret depositions, released a flood of misleading and one-sided leaks, and later selectively released transcripts in a highly staged manner," he said.

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Lalit K Jha in Washington, DC
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