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Timeline: How a phone call by Donald Trump turned into an impeachment inquiry

The impeachment story is complex and fast moving. We’ve broken down the key events.

donald-trump-poses-with-sheriffs-washington US President Donald Trump now faces the threat of impeachment over his phone call with the Ukrainian president. Source: Gripas Yuri/ABACA/ABACA/PA Images

US DEMOCRATS HAVE launched an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Triggered by a phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president, the story has been gathering pace in recent weeks. 

It all came to a head this week, with Democrats deciding that the time is right to commence impeachment proceedings. 

The story is complex, fast-moving and it can be hard to separate fact, fiction and rumour – so we’ve compiled a definitive timeline of the important events so far as this saga unfolds. 

25 July

Trump has a phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

A transcript of the call, released by the White House in September, shows Trump asking Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden, the former Vice-President and political rival running for president.

Trump and his supporters have claimed that Biden was involved in the efforts to remove Ukraine’s chief prosecutor to protect the former vice-president’s son. 

Biden’s son was a board member for a company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch. 

In the call, Trump tells Zelensky that he wants a “favour”. He suggests that he should work with the the president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani and the Attorney General William Barr to investigate Biden and his son. 

12 August

An anonymous whistle-blower lodges a complaint against Trump. This is not yet public. 

9 September

The intelligence community inspector general sends a letter to both the House of Representatives and the Senate Intelligence Committees. He informs them that a complaint from a whistle-blower exists in relation to Trump’s conversation with a foreign leader. 

On the same day, the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight Committees launch investigations into Trump and Giuliani to assess whether they had used asked a foreign power for assistance in the president’s re-election. 

“As the 2020 election draws closer, President Trump and his personal attorney appear to have increased pressure on the Ukrainian government and its justice system in service of President Trump’s reelection campaign, and the White House and the State Department may be abetting this scheme,” the Chairmen said in a joint statement. 

Under US law, it’s a crime to solicit or accept the assistance of a foreign government in an election. 

trump-impeachment-whistleblower Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, announced a formal impeachment inquiry this week. Source: J. Scott Applewhite/AP/Press Association Images

10 September

The Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff writes to the Acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire, to ask for information on the whistleblower complaint.

The letter accuses Maguire of withholding the disclosure. 

11 September 

The White House tells senators that it will release military assistance to Ukraine. Trump had been withholding military funding of around $400 million over concerns that appeared to be about corruption in the country. 

The funding, approved in the US federal government’s 2019 budget, was intended to support the country in its ongoing conflict with Russia. 

The delay had concerned officials in Ukraine, with Trump offering conflicting reasons since for his decision to give the state the military aid. 

pastedimage-22319 Part of the transcript of the conversation between Trump and the Ukrainian president. Source: The White House

22 September

Trump says that he did mention corruption accusations against Joe Biden during the call with the Ukrainian president. 

“The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, with largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place and largely the fact that we don’t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine,” he told reporters

24 September

Speaker Nancy Pelosi announces that there will be a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump. “The President must be held accountable and no one is above the law,” Pelosi said. 

25 September

The transcript of the phone call between Trump and Zelensky is released by the White House. It confirms that Trump did pressure Kiev to open an investigation into Biden. 

While not a verbatim transcript, it forms an approximation of what was said. 

“It was a friendly letter, there was no pressure,” Trump tells reporters and calls the impeachment proceedings “the single greatest witch hunt in American history”. 

26 September

The full whistleblower complaint is released. It was compiled by an experienced intelligence official.

In the complaint, the whistleblower says that White House staff tried to move the transcript of the call to a classified system as part of an attempt to hide what Trump had done in the call with the Ukrainian president.  

The acting director of national intelligence tells the House Intelligence Committee that the whistle-blower has “acted in good faith”.

“I have every reason to believe that they have done everything by the book,” he said. “I want to make it clear that I have upheld my responsibility to follow the law every step of the way in the matter that is before us today. I want to also state my support for the whistle-blower and the rights and the laws.”

27 September

Audio is released of Trump’s saying that he wants to know the identity of the whistle-blower. 

“I want to know who’s the person, who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that’s close to a spy. You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart?” he says. 

Beyond September

Further investigations into Trump, impeachment hearings and potentially votes in the House and the Senate on whether Trump should be removed from office. 

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