US lawmakers clash in latest phase of impeachment probe
Democrats have yet to show exactly what charges they will level against president
Republican and Democratic lawmakers grappled with the evidence against President Donald Trump on Monday as an impeachment inquiry into his dealings with Ukraine drew closer towards what is expected to be a fractious conclusion.
Lawyers for America’s two main parties made powerful statements before the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee as it weighed whether Trump should be removed from office amid claims he used military aid to pressure Kiev to dig up dirt on his political rival in next year’s election.
Daniel Goldman, a lawyer for the Democrats, described Trump as a “clear and present danger” for abusing his office in his dealings with the eastern European country. Louie Gohmert, a Republican lawmaker on the committee, however, dubbed the whole inquiry a “kangaroo court”.
Republican lawmakers also took aim at Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union, who testified earlier in the probe, suggesting the Democrats were relying too hard on evidence that could prove to be unreliable.
The day-long hearing also saw Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat and chairman of the judiciary committee, and the chamber’s top Republican, Doug Collins, rehearse familiar arguments on the case and rehash much of the evidence that has been gathered in the House in recent weeks.
Several miles away from Capitol Hill, Trump spoke with reporters at the White House on the sidelines of an unconnected event about schools, saying he had “watched a little” of the hearing and added: “It’s a disgrace, it’s a hoax.”
Away from the cameras, Democrats are discussing exactly how to phrase the impeachment allegations against Trump, given that they are unlikely to swing any Republicans to vote against a president with a loyal fan base.
A vote in the Democrat-run House in favor of impeachment could kickstart a trial in the Senate, which is controlled by the Republicans and where a two-thirds vote of members is needed to eject Trump from the Oval Office.
The Democratic-led House of Representatives launched impeachment proceedings against Trump on Sept. 24 following claims by a whistleblower that the commander-in-chief had sought to pressure Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 U.S. presidential elections.
In a July 25 phone call, Trump allegedly made $391 million in military aid to help Ukraine fight Russian-backed separatists and a coveted White House meeting for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky contingent on a “quid pro quo” arrangement.
In return, Zelensky was supposed to open corruption probes into Joe Biden, a former U.S. vice president, and his son, Hunter, who served on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma, as well as into alleged Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
The elder Biden is a leading candidate in the race to win the Democratic nomination and challenge Trump in 2020. Trump, a Republican, has accused Democrats of time-wasting and says the inquiry amounts to a “witch hunt”.