The US House of Representatives announced an impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump on Sept. 24, 2019, sparked by a whistleblower complaint that warned of "urgent concerns" regarding the president's actions in Ukraine. Since the investigation was launched, members of the House have heard testimony from multiple officials, including both political appointees and career foreign service staff.
Below is a timeline of key events, which will be updated as the impeachment process continues.
The House of Representatives took two historic votes to impeach the 45th president of the United States Wednesday on charges of abusing the power of his office and obstructing a congressional probe. The vote was almost entirely along party lines — 230-197-1 on the first article of impeachment to charge Trump with abuse of power, and 229-198-1 for the second article, obstruction of Congress. Republicans, who are in the minority in the House, began the day with a failed motion to adjourn — one attempt to stall the proceedings that continued into the evening.
Trump is the third president in American history to be impeached, following Bill Clinton in 1998 and Andrew Johnson in 1868.
A trial in the Senate will likely begin in January, in which the upper chamber of Congress acts as jury to decide whether or not to remove the president from office. Lawmakers from the House will act as managers, responsible for presenting evidence, and the president will have defense lawyers, likely to be led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone.
No president in the 243-year history of the United States has been removed from office by impeachment. That would require a two-thirds majority in the 100-member Senate, meaning at least 20 Republicans would have to join Democrats in voting against Trump — and none have indicated they will.
In contentious debate Tuesday, House Rules Committee approved the resolution to guide the House vote on articles of impeachment, which was set for Wednesday.
Trump sent House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a rambling six-page letter expressing outrage at what he referred to as a “partisan impeachment crusade.”
“You have cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!” Trump wrote.
Using bombastic phrases, the president derided Pelosi, Democrats and the FBI, claiming he had been "deprived of basic Constitutional Due Process." "More due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem Witch Trials," the president claimed, without providing evidence. The White House chose not to participate in the impeachment inquiry in the House, blocking officials from testifying and refusing to handover requested documents.
Pointing to his electoral college victory in 2016, Trump accused Pelosi of trying to "nullify" the votes of the American people. (Trump lost the popular election to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes.)
Calling the impeachment "illegal," "invalid" and a "fantasy," the president did seem aware of the anticipated vote in the House that will almost certainly lead to his impeachment. "I write this letter to you for the purpose of history and to put my thoughts on a permanent and indelible record."
William Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, spoke to lawmakers behind closed doors. In his opening statement, William Taylor said that “in August and September of this year, I became increasingly concerned that our relationship with Ukraine was being fundamentally undermined by an irregular, informal channel of US policymaking and by the withholding of vital security assistance for domestic political reasons.”
Sondland, a Trump donor and political appointee spoke to Congressional investigators. One of the “three amigos” who replaced core policymakers for Ukraine, according to testimony, Sondland was initially stopped from testifying by the State Department on Oct. 8. He revised his Oct. 17 testimony on Nov. 4.
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters directly that the Trump administration suspended military aid to Ukraine in order to force an investigation into the 2016 election — and that it was perfectly normal to do so.Mulvaney later walked that statement back, accusing reporters of misconstruing his words.
McKinley, a former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, testified to House lawmakers. McKinley, who resigned from his post the previous week, told impeachment investigators Wednesday that career diplomats were mistreated and their careers impacted negatively for political reasons, according to the Washington Post. He referenced former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, whose ouster he viewed as unjustified. McKinely told Pompeo of his resignation more than a week before he left on Friday, Oct. 11. His 37-year-long service was not publicly acknowledged by Pompeo.
George Kent, a career diplomat in charge of Ukraine policy, testified before congressional investigators that he was instructed to defer to the "three amigos" — Volker, Sondland and Rick Perry — on issues relating to Ukraine. Kent also defended Yovanovitch, who was a target of a "classic disinformation operation."
Fiona Hill, Trump’s former national security adviser on Russian and European affairs, testified for more than nine hours in front of House lawmakers. Hill left her post in the White House in July, before the president’s call with Zelenskiy. She said she was concerned about an abuse of power related to Yovanovitch’s ouster. Hill was also part of a July 10 meeting attended by senior Ukrainian officials, National Security Adviser John Bolton, Sondland and others in which Sondland brought up investigations. Hill and Bolton were concerned after the meeting, and Hill said Bolton told her to speak with NSC lawyer John Eisenberg, according to WSJ. Hill was the first White House official to testify in the impeachment inquiry.
Yovanovitch testified behind closed doors for more than nine hours. Yovanovitch is a career diplomat who has served as a foreign service officer for 33 years under four Republican and two Democratic administrations. In her opening statement, Yovanovitch noted the bipartisan policies of advancing anti-corruption in Ukraine and protecting Ukrainian sovereignty from Russian expansionism. Yovanovitch says she was a victim to a smear campaign that lead to her ouster in May 2019. The president reportedly “lost confidence” in Yovanovitch, though the Deputy Secretary of State told Yovanovitch that she had “done nothing wrong and that this was not like other situations,” according to her statement. Yovanovitch noted that individuals connected to Giuliani “may well have believed that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.”
Two associates of Giuliani were arrested on campaign finance charges at Dulles International Airport before boarding a one-way flight to Frankfurt. Ukrainian American Lev Parnas and Belarusian American Igor Fruman were large donors to the Trump campaign, contributing more than $600,000 to Republican candidates and PACs, including $350,000 to America First Action, a PAC supporting Trump. According to the indictment, they “conspired to circumvent the federal laws against foreign influence by engaging in a scheme to funnel foreign money to candidates for federal and state office so that the defendants could buy potential influence with the candidates, campaigns, and the candidates’ governments.” Parnas and Fruman are also linked to the ouster of Yovanovitch, who was working on anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine interfering with their business interests. Trump denies knowing the men personally, though there are multiple photographs showing Trump with either of the men.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone told Congress the White House would refuse to comply with House investigators, calling the impeachment inquiry “constitutionally invalid” and making several questionable claims regarding the process.
Trump publicly invited China to investigate his political rivals: "And by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine."
Rep. Adam Schiff's claims that the whistleblower had not had contact with his committee are refuted by The New York Times and Washington Post, which report that a staffer had communicated with the whistleblower about the outlines of the concerns before the complaint was filed.
Pompeo informed House Democrats that the Department would not comply with requests to make five employees available for depositions, calling the request "an attempt to intimidate, bully, and treat improperly the distinguished professionals of the Department of State." George Kent, a career foreign service officer, disputed Pompeo's claim in later testimony.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry. The House of Representatives has the sole power of impeachment, according to the Constitution, though it is the Senate that has the power to try all impeachments and remove a president from office.
“The actions of the Trump presidency revealed dishonorable fact of the president's betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections,” Pelosi said in a statement.
An anonymous whistleblower filed a complaint about Trump's dealings with Ukraine that was forwarded to Congress. The complaint was deemed urgent and credible.
Trump calls to congratulate Ukraine’s recently elected president, Zelenskiy, on his party's success in the parliamentary elections.
In the phone call, Zelenskiy expressed an interest in acquiring American military equipment. Trump — who had withheld military aid from Ukraine — responded, “I would like you to do us a favor, though.”
At least four national security officials were so troubled by what they heard on the call, according to The Washington Post, they raised concerns with a White House lawyer.
Reuters contributed reporting.
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