The public impeachment hearings come with a surprise: A new evidence against Trump is making waves. He is caught cold during the visit of Turkish President Erdogan. And now?
Crown witness number one took his time before he charged the president again. Bill Taylor, the executive US ambassador to Kiev, made a statement in Congress at the opening of public impeachment hearings against Donald Trump, which included 20 pages. Only on page 18 did he come to the actual message.
He knew about another phone call that trump Trump in the Ukraine affair.
So far, Trump's telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj on 25 July has been at the center of the crisis surrounding the extortion of Ukraine for Trump's personal interests. Now Taylor said Trump had a phone call with his EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland the day after and asked what the investigation was.
This means the investigation against Trump's domestic opponents, the Democrats and their possible presidential candidate Joe Biden, to which the Ukrainians were called.
The feverishly awaited start of the public hearing on a possible impeachment trial against Trump thus provided tangible news. Taylor, a veteran ambassador to the Ukraine, who was retired in the spring, and another career diplomat, George Kent, in charge of the US Department of State for Ukraine, were the first witnesses.
Nine interviews in seven days
The Democrats see in the affair an abuse of power that justifies the impeachment. The live hearings should mobilize public support for such a move. They are planning nine more surveys over the next seven days.
Taylor and Kent reiterated to the public what they had already said behind closed doors and then published in minutes: they described how in the name of Trump a shadow diplomacy had counteracted the official US policy towards Ukraine. In order to urge the Ukrainians to investigate Trump's political opponents, nearly $ 400 million in military aid and a symbolically important meeting of the new Ukrainian president were blocked in the White House. Taylor called this link "crazy" again.
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The news of another onerous telephone conversation spread like wildfire in Washington. It lays another trail that investigators in Congress can pursue. An employee of Taylor's overheard the phone call in a restaurant, the managing ambassador reported. Had Sondland made such a phone call with Trump on a mobile phone in a restaurant in the Ukraine, that would probably be a breach of security rules for sensitive conversations.
Immediately, Taylor's employee was ordered to testify. He will report behind closed doors on Friday.
However, this does not change the fundamental dynamic in the question of whether Trump is out of office. The perceptions of impeachment investigation and Ukraine affair are strongly influenced by the party political polarization in the country.
White house gets caught cold
And both sides can fuel the news with their arguments: The pressure in the Ukraine affair came from the President and has been passed, said the chairman of the relevant intelligence committee, Adam ship.
The Republicans rush to the fact that Taylor did not speak directly to Trump at any point. Again, he reported only that his employee had snatched the phone call. Trump's defenders knit the criticism that charge witnesses have their information second or third-hand.
Interestingly, Taylor's statement apparently caught the White House cold.
Trump stressed several times on Wednesday that he had not even followed the hearing on television. He was too busy for that. Nevertheless, during the hearing, the President dropped about two dozen tweets. The news of the phone call promptly caught the president's appearance with his controversial guest, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Trump calls himself "big fan" of Erdogan
Erdogan had been granted the visit to the White House, despite Washington's outrage over the Turkish invasion of northern Syria. While the US Congress plans sanctions on Turkey, Trump celebrated the president as a close ally. He praised Erdogan at the joint performance, calling himself a "big fan of the president". For the invasion, for which Trump had actually given the green light with a withdrawal of US forces in the region, the US President did not say a word of criticism over his lips.
For Erdogan a complete success, but in Washington, the appearance is likely to further criticize Trump's conduct in the diplomacy.
However, questions from American journalists at the joint press conference centered around the hearing and the phone call. Trump said he did not know about such a phone call to Sondland. "I hear this for the first time." He retreated to his familiar position that there was no pairing quid pro quo.
Sondland brings it back to the center of attention: A major donor for Trump's inauguration, which was rewarded with the post as US ambassador for the European Union, then he took in early summer all of a sudden with other Trump confidants of the Ukraine policy.
He was identified early as a central figure and had to correct in the meantime already his first submissions behind closed doors. On Wednesday he is summoned for public statement.