New revelations from first public hearings paint damning portrait of Trump.
Dramatic new disclosures on Day 1 of the House impeachment hearings painted an incriminating picture of Donald Trump as a President instinctively willing to sacrifice America’s interests for his own.
In the most critical step so far in the investigation into Trump’s alleged scheme to coerce Ukraine’s help for his reelection campaign, Democrats posed a question to every US citizen at the core of this dark national chapter.
“If this is not impeachable conduct, what is?” House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, asked, arguing that the republic’s values and the concept of an accountable presidency were at stake for future generations.
Using as their first witnesses two conscientious, apolitical diplomats who devoted their lives to national service, Democrats built a foundation for a case that Trump abused his far greater power. It is a story certain to play out again and again in the coming weeks as lawmakers contemplate whether to deal Trump the historic stigma of being only the third president to be impeached.
In Wednesday’s most striking moment, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, revealed a previously undisclosed call between Trump and the US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland that took place a day after Trump’s notorious talk with Ukraine’s President in July.
He said that an aide — who heard the call on a mobile phone while in a restaurant in a scenario that raised national security concerns — reported that Trump asked Sondland about “the investigations” into former Vice President Joe Biden that he had requested from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Trump told reporters on Wednesday he had no memory of the event.
“I know nothing about that. First time I heard it,” Trump said at the White House. “In any event, it’s more secondhand information. I don’t recall it, not at all, not even a little bit.”
The new detail deals a blow to Republican claims that there is no evidence of any direct link between Trump and an attempt to pressure Ukraine into targeting Biden. Since Trump has previously claimed of Sondland: “I hardly know the gentleman” the testimony also poked new holes in Trump’s denials. And it raised already extreme pressure on Sondland himself, who is due to testify next week.
Taylor and his colleague George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, also provided testimony to back up the theory that Trump demanded political dirt from on Biden.
In a political world ruled by fact and where polarized differences still allowed dispassionate debate, Trump’s position immeasurably worsened over an intense day of testimony.
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