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Democrats open impeachment hearings, hoping to sway public

Credit: Reuters - Politics
Published on November 13, 2019 - Duration: 02:48s

Democrats open impeachment hearings, hoping to sway public

Millions of Americans on Wednesday tuned in to watch the first televised presidential impeachment hearing in two decades.

Zachary Goelman reports.

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Democrats open impeachment hearings, hoping to sway public

For the first time in two decades Americans on Wednesday tuned in to watch a televised presidential impeachment hearing.

The Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee gaveled in the hearing, which he believes will build a case that President Donald Trump tried to pressure a vulnerable U.S. ally into carrying out his personal political bidding.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. DEMOCRATIC CHAIRMAN OF THE HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE ADAM SCHIFF, SAYING: "Is this what Americans should now expect from their president?

If this is not impeachable conduct, what is?" Trump's Republican allies rallied to defend the president against the accusation, and to attack the probe itself.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. REPUBLICAN RANKING MEMBER OF THE HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE DEVIN NUNES, SAYING: "T his is a carefully orchestrated media smear campaign." And after six weeks of closed-door testimony, the American people will have a chance to hear from the witnesses directly.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE GEORGE KENT, SAYING: "I do not believe the United States should ask other countries to engage in selective, politically-associated investigations or prosecutions." Wednesday's hearing marks a critical juncture in the Congressional investigation into the president.

The focus is a July 25 phone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to open a corruption investigation into into Joe Biden, a potential 2020 election rival.

Democrats are looking into whether Trump held back nearly $400 million in security assistance to Ukraine toward that goal.

The two witnesses called to testify Wednesday are career American public servants:

Class="kln">William Taylor is the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent is a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State.

Taylor told lawmakers he believed the White House sought investigations into Biden to help Trump win re-election.

(SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) ACTING U.S. AMBASADOR TO UKRAINE BILL TAYLOR, SAYING: "It had still not occurred to me, that the hold on security assistance could be related to the investigations." George Kent said he had been alarmed by efforts by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and others to pressure Ukraine.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE GEORGE KENT, SAYING: "In mid-August it became clear to me that Giuliani's efforts to gin-up politically-motivated investigations were now infecting U.S. engagement with Ukraine." Republican lawmakers argue Trump did nothing wrong, and that the evidence is second- and third-hand.

Trump has called the probe a witch hunt, and derided some of the current and former U.S. officials who have appeared before committees as “Never Trumpers.” Democrats are hoping to convince voters and perhaps even some Republican lawmakers that Trump's bid for dirt on a political opponent amounts to what the U.S. constitution terms 'high crimes and misdemeanors.'

This week's hearings are a likely prelude to a vote on articles of impeachment against Trump in the Democratic-controlled House.

That could trigger an impeachment trial in the Senate, where Republicans control the chamber and show little appetite for removing their leader.

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