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

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Angelique Houlihan gets her COVID-19 vaccine jab last week at the community-wide clinic. (Angelique Houlihan photo)
Vaccine clinic continues this week

Plenty of booking spots available

District of Houston
Council adds flexibility to spending decisions

Singles out road works as potential beneficiary

Filling potholes in Houston
Holes filled on Highway 16

Potholes aren’t restricted to District of Houston streets. Lakes District Maintenance crews… Continue reading

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

The father of Aaliyah Rosa planted a tree and laid a plaque in her memory in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
Final witness will extend Langley child murder trial into May or June

Lengthy trial began last autumn with COVID and other factors forcing it to take longer than expected

The corner of 96th Avenue and Glover Road in Fort Langley now has traffic signals, and new “touchless” signal activation buttons. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Busy Fort Langley intersection gets ‘touchless’ crosswalk signals

The new traffic light started operation in April

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 91, is disappointed the Legion does not qualify for COVID financial assistance from the provincial government. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C.’s pandemic aid package passing Legion branches by

Federal non-profit status stymies provincial assistance eligibility

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller said it would be “very challenging and not very safe” for him and his teammates to play as scheduled on Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Canucks’ return to ice postponed again after players voice COVID health concerns

Friday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers was called off after the team met virtually with the NHLPA

B.C. Attorney General David Eby, Minister Responsible for Housing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. announces $2B for affordable, middle-income family home projects

HousingHub financing to encourage more developers, groups – with low-interest loans – to build affordable homes

Most Read