The first public hearings of the Lower House investigation that could lead to a impeachment of President Donald Trump began today amidst great expectation and in the presence of hundreds of journalists.
These are the first hearings on a political trial of a president in two decades, since Bill Clinton (1993-2001) had to answer for his relationship with White House scholar Monica Lewinsky, a process from which he was acquitted.
“These are the first public hearings,” said Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, at the start of this phase.
Schiff, in a 15-minute speech, said the hearings seek to show that Trump abused the power of the presidency when he pressured Ukraine to open an investigation into the family of former Vice President Joe Biden, one of the Democratic candidates for the 2020 elections.
“Is this what Americans should expect from their president? If this behavior does not merit political judgment, then what does it deserve?”
The hearings are broadcast live on major television networks, and in the intelligence committee room there are dozens of television cameras and photographers, who have to take turns entering the room to take pictures for a few minutes while a long line waits outside.
Today, Bill Taylor, Ukraine’s interim ambassador, and George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for policy towards the European country and now wearing a yellow bow tie, will testify.
Both were followed by the photographers as they entered the room.
Behind closed doors, Taylor has already assured that Trump conditioned two things – the delivery to Ukraine of $400 million in military aid and the scheduling of a White House meeting between Trump and his counterpart, Volodymir Zelensky – on a commitment by Kiev to investigate Biden and the Democrats.
So he is expected to shed more light on this issue in his appearance.
The House of Representatives is expected to pass a permit for impeachment without problems because the Democrats have a majority; but in the Senate, where the impeachment would take place, Republicans hold most of the seats and seem unwilling to go against Trump.
Democrats have not set a specific timeline for completing their investigation, but it is estimated that the impeachment hearing in the Senate could occur in January or February.
That could shake up the process for the November 2020 elections, as the two-party primaries begin in February, first in the state of Iowa and then in New Hampshire.
Marie Yovanovitch, who until last May was the ambassador to Ukraine and was allegedly deposed under pressure from Trump, will testify publicly this Friday.