Americans will see live testimony this week in House Democrats’ bid to show that President Donald Trump abused his office and should be impeached for pressuring Ukraine to investigate a political rival while withholding U.S. aid.
In public hearings starting at 10 a.m. ET Wednesday, Democrats on the Intelligence Committee will try to make the case that Trump committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” — the U.S. Constitution’s standard for impeachment by the House and a Senate trial on whether to convict and remove a president from office.
Trump is accused of withholding security aid to Ukraine and a coveted invitation to the White House while pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and a conspiracy theory about alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.
Republicans have stood by the president, arguing there was no link — no “quid pro quo” — between the aid and the investigation request. Some say that even if there was, it’s not an impeachable offense. Republicans also call the process unfair, as the GOP can call defense witnesses only with majority Democrats’ approval and the president’s lawyer will not be allowed to participate in this phase.
How to watch the impeachment hearings live online—even without cable
- The Intelligence Committee will stream the video on YouTube here.
- PBS will carry the hearings live, as will Bloomberg, C-SPAN3, C-span.org and C-SPAN Radio.
- NBC News, ABC News, and CBS News plan to interrupt regular broadcasting with special reports on the hearings.
- CNN, Fox News and MSNBC plan more extensive airings.
Who is testifying at the public impeachment hearings?
Wednesday, November 13
- Top U.S. envoy to Ukraine William Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent will testify on Wednesday.
- Taylor has said that during his first several months in the post he grew increasingly concerned that Ukraine aid was being held hostage to White House demands for politically motivated investigations. He said he “always kept careful notes.”
- Kent is significant because he testified that Trump “wanted nothing less than President Zelenskiy to go to the microphone and say investigations, Biden and Clinton.” He didn’t directly speak to Trump about it, however.
Friday, November 15
- Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch will testify Friday.
- Yovanovitch described Rudy Giuliani‘s activities in seeking an investigation of Biden and the events that led Trump to remove her from her job in the spring.
Additional hearings are expected next week.
What is the process for public impeachment hearings?
- The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence will conduct the hearings, taking the lead after closed-door depositions conducted with the Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees.
- The hearing will follow rules set by a resolution approved Oct. 31 by the House, as well as by the House’s standing rules.
- The resolution gives Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff and top Republican Devin Nunes, both of California, equal time in 90-minute rounds to question each witness, though they can hand over the questioning to committee staff.
- The 20 other members of the Intelligence Committee will get five minutes each to question the witness per round. There may be multiple rounds.
- Republicans have sought permission from Democrats to call at least nine witnesses. Already, Schiff has said he won’t allow Biden’s son Hunter or the anonymous whistle-blower to be called. Nunes has asked for State Department officials David Hale and Tim Morrison and former White House Ukraine adviser Kurt Volker to testify. Schiff may agree to these requests.
- Schiff, by releasing transcripts of testimony, created a steady flow of negative news about Trump and Ukraine over weeks of closed-door depositions. The public hearings will be a test for the chairman, who drew criticism for an earlier public hearing on Ukraine. He parodied Trump’s call with the Ukrainian leader, giving the president an opening to say Schiff lied about the call.
- Nunes is one of Trump’s most staunch defenders in Congress. As Intelligence chairman during Republican control, Nunes had to turn the investigation into Russian interference over to colleague Mike Conaway after Nunes was accused of revealing classified information while defending Trump. He played a lead role in investigating the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, a probe that did political damage to Hillary Clinton before the 2016 election. Clinton was secretary of State at the time of the assault.
- House Republicans appointed Jim Jordan of Ohio to the Intelligence Committee so he can participate in the public hearings. Jordan, a combative House veteran, is the top Republican on the Oversight Committee and participated in the closed-door depositions.
- California Democrat Eric Swalwell emerged as an attack dog for the majority during numerous media interviews. Swalwell abandoned a presidential campaign earlier this year.
Who is questioning the witnesses for Republicans and Democrats?
A former Russian-mob-busting federal prosecutor from the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, will lead the opening 45 minutes of questioning controlled by Democrats. He was hired this year as senior adviser and director of investigations for the Intelligence Committee.
General counsel for Republicans on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform for more than 14 years, will lead the next 45 minutes of questioning. He has investigated matters including Internal Revenue Service targeting of Tea Party groups and the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi.
- William Taylor deposition transcript
- George Kent deposition transcript
- Marie Yovanovitch deposition transcript is here and here
- Rough White House transcript of July 25 conversation between Trump and Zelenskiy
Where will Trump be during the public impeachment hearings?
- Trump is scheduled to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the first day of House hearings Wednesday. He’s also sure to weigh in on the proceedings.
What happens next?
- After completing the hearings, the Intelligence Committee is to send a report summarizing its findings to the Judiciary Committee. That could come later this month.
- The Judiciary Committee then can hold public hearings, where Trump and his lawyers will be invited to attend, question witnesses and offer testimony. The committee would decide whether to draft articles of impeachment and vote on whether to send them to the full House for a vote to impeach the president.
- If the Senate receives articles of impeachment from the House, it must immediately begin a trial. Senators would sit as a jury, listening to the case from House managers and the White House defense, with Chief Justice John Roberts presiding. A two-thirds majority is required to convict in the Senate, which Republicans control 53-47. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that if the vote were held now, Trump would be acquitted.
The history of impeachment hearings
- Only two presidents have been impeached by the U.S. House. Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868 for firing his secretary of war over Congress’s objections and for other decisions related to the reconstruction of the American South after the Civil War. Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998 for perjury and obstruction of justice related to his sworn statements related to his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Both were acquitted by the Senate.
- Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 after the House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment related to the burglary of Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate building and the subsequent cover-up. His advisers had warned him that impeachment and removal were likely.
- The Trump inquiry differs from the Nixon and Clinton investigations because in those cases, the Judiciary Committee held hearings relying on evidence compiled and turned over by special prosecutors. In Trump’s case, House committees conducted the investigation themselves.
Related: How Trump’s impeachment hearings will differ from Clinton’s and Nixon’s