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Impeachment trial told that 'Trump cared more about Joe Biden probe than Ukraine'

The acting US ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor said an “irregular policy channel” was pushing for a probe into the Bidens.

William Taylor, the acting Ambassador to Ukraine testifies during the House House Intelligence Committee Impeachment Hearings.
William Taylor, the acting Ambassador to Ukraine testifies during the House House Intelligence Committee Impeachment Hearings.
Image: UPI/PA Images

Updated Nov 13th 2019, 8:30 PM

THE FIRST TELEVISED hearings of the impeachment probe into Donald Trump begun today, revealing new evidence as Trump himself said he was “too busy” to watch it.

The top US diplomat in Ukraine levelled a stark new accusation about White House efforts to pressure on the Ukrainian government to investigate Trump’s Democratic rival Joe Biden.

William Taylor, the acting US ambassador to Ukraine, told the House Intelligence Committee today, that he was told Trump cared more about the probe into his likely 2020 rival Biden, than he did about Ukraine.

Trump is accused by Democrats in the House of Representatives of abusing his power by using US military aid to pressure Kiev into opening an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.

Trump, who maintains he did nothing wrong, dismissed the impeachment inquiry as a “witch hunt” and said he was too busy to watch the first televised hearings.

Details of Taylor’s evidence

Taylor, who testified in a closed hearing last month, said he had since become aware of a telephone call between Trump and Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the EU, that was overheard by a member of Taylor’s staff.

Taylor said the staff member heard Trump asking Sondland about the status of the investigations. He said the staff member asked Sondland after the call what Trump thought about Ukraine.

“Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cared more about the investigations of Biden,” Taylor said.

In his opening statement, Taylor recalled his opposition to making US military aid to Ukraine contingent on Ukraine opening an investigation of the Bidens.

“Withholding security assistance in exchange for help with a domestic political campaign in the United States would be crazy,” he said. “I believed that then and I believe it now.”

Taylor said an “irregular policy channel” involving former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, was pushing for the Ukrainian probe into the Bidens.

On Friday, Marie Yovanovitch, the US ambassador to Ukraine whom Trump removed earlier this year, will testify.

The grounds for impeachment

Democrats have amassed evidence that Trump sought to leverage Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky’s desire for a meeting between the two leaders and for some $391 million in aid to get Ukraine to find dirt on Biden, who could face Trump in next year’s presidential election.

The key evidence is the official White House transcript of a 25 July phone call showing Trump pressuring Zelensky to open investigations into Biden and the 2016 conspiracy theory.

The White House has refused to hand over other records on Ukraine policy or allow top Trump aides involved in the decision to pressure Zelensky to testify.

Yesterday, Trump’s chief of staff Mick Mulvaney – who has publicly confirmed the broad outlines of Democrats’ allegations – rejected a subpoena to appear before the committee.

Trump previously called the inquiry “corrupt” and “illegal,” and maintains he did nothing wrong.

“Democrats in Washington would rather pursue outrageous hoaxes and delusional witch hunts, which are going absolutely nowhere. Don’t worry about it,” he said confidently in a speech to the Economic Club of New York yesterday.

But the investigation threatens to make him only the third US president to be impeached, after Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998, and placed on trial in the Senate for possible removal from office.

“On the basis of what the witnesses have had to say so far, there are any number of potentially impeachable offenses: including bribery, including high crimes and misdemeanors,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who will lead the hearings, told NPR radio yesterday.

Neither Johnson or Clinton was convicted and removed. But in 1974 Richard Nixon resigned in the face of certain impeachment and removal from office for the Watergate scandal.

Hearings are expected to be fiery as a series of government officials take the stand to testify on Trump’s Ukraine machinations during the middle of this year.

Both sides have spent the past several days rehearsing for the showdown.

- © AFP 2019

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