By Ken Bredemeier | VOA News |
The stage is set for a volatile American spectacle — public impeachment hearings starting Wednesday targeting U.S. President Donald Trump and whether the abused his office to help himself politically.
The facts of the case are fairly straightforward, but the nuances are many and disputed.
Trump, in a rough transcript released by the White House, asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a late July call for “a favor.” Trump wanted an investigation of his leading 2020 Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter’s work for a Ukrainian natural gas company, and a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election that Trump won, and not Russia, as the U.S. intelligence community concluded.
At the time of the call, Trump was withholding $391 million in U.S. military aid that Kyiv desperately needed to help it fight pro-Russian separatists in the eastern part of the country.
Trump never mentioned a specific quid pro quo in the call — the military aid in exchange for the Biden investigation — and for weeks has denied a reciprocal tradeoff. He has described the call with Zelenskiy as “perfect.”
But several U.S. diplomatic and national security officials have defied the Trump administration’s efforts to keep them from testifying behind closed doors at a Democratic-led impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives. They have recounted conversations they had with other U.S. officials who said Trump indeed intended to withhold the aid to Kyiv until he got a public statement from Zelenskiy that a probe to help him politically would be launched.