What’s com­ing in im­peach­ment: The in­quiry goes pub­lic

The Saline Courier - - NEWS -

WASH­ING­TON — For only the fourth time in

U.S. his­tory, the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives has started a pres­i­den­tial im­peach­ment in­quiry. House com­mit­tees are try­ing to de­ter­mine whether Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump vi­o­lated his oath of of­fice by ask­ing Ukraine to in­ves­ti­gate po­lit­i­cal ri­val Joe Bi­den’s fam­ily and the 2016 U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion all while the White House was with­hold­ing mil­i­tary aid to the East Eu­ro­pean ally that borders Rus­sia.

A quick fore­cast of what’s com­ing this week:

LIGHTS, CAMERAS, HEAR­INGS

Amer­i­cans will have their first pub­lic view of the im­peach­ment in­quiry, as the pro­ceed­ings emerge from the se­cure closed­door fa­cil­ity in the Capi­tol base­ment to live hear­ings.

House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­man

Adam Schiff, D-calif., will gavel in the ses­sions Wed­nes­day and Fri­day.

What’s un­clear, though, is what peo­ple will see in two days of hear­ings . Will the pro­ceed­ings serve as a clar­i­fy­ing mo­ment for the coun­try, when a com­mon nar­ra­tive emerges over the pres­i­dent’s ac­tions and whether or not they are, in fact, im­peach­able? Or in this era of peak par­ti­san­ship, will the days de­volve into a re­al­ity-tv episode show­cas­ing the di­vide?

Un­like Water­gate in the 1970s or even Bill Clin­ton’s im­peach­ment in the 1990s, Amer­i­cans con­sume their news at dif­fer­ent times and in dif­fer­ent ways, mak­ing it hard to know if this week will pro­duce a where-were-youwhen mo­ment.

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SPOT­LIGHT ON WIT­NESSES

Bill Taylor . Ge­orge

Kent . Marie “Masha” Yo­vanovitch.

Once lit­tle-known State Depart­ment of­fi­cials are about to be­come house­hold names as they tes­tify pub­licly in the im­peach­ment in­quiry.

Taylor, a Viet­nam War vet­eran who has spent 50 years in pub­lic ser­vice, will set the tone as the first wit­ness. All three have tes­ti­fied in the closed set­ting, de­fy­ing the White House’s in­struc­tions not to com­ply. But they are pro­vid­ing a re­mark­ably con­sis­tent ac­count of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ac­tions.

Re­pub­li­cans want to hear from oth­ers , in­clud­ing Bi­den’s son Hunter, as well as the anony­mous govern­ment whistle­blower who sparked the im­peach­ment in­quiry, but Democrats who have ma­jor­ity con­trol are not likely to agree to those re­quests.

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PER­SUAD­ING VOT­ERS Re­pub­li­cans have strug­gled to ar­tic­u­late a uni­fied de­fense of Trump. Democrats have had dif­fi­culty syn­the­siz­ing their ar­gu­ments into a sim­ple nar­ra­tive for the pub­lic.

Both will be sharp­en­ing ef­forts to per­suade Amer­i­can vot­ers.

Rep. Jim Himes, D-conn., said Sun­day on NBC’S “Meet the Press” what the pub­lic will hear is “im­mensely pa­tri­otic, beau­ti­ful ar­tic­u­lated — ar­tic­u­late peo­ple telling the story of a pres­i­dent who — let’s for­get quid pro quo; quid pro quo is one of these things to muddy the works — who ex­torted a vul­ner­a­ble coun­try by hold­ing up mil­i­tary aid.”

But Re­pub­li­cans have fo­cused their at­tacks with a res­o­lu­tion crit­i­ciz­ing the

House process. Some in the party want to re­veal the name of the govern­ment whistle­blower.

Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, R-S.C., said on Fox

News Chan­nel’s “Sun­day Morn­ing Fu­tures,” ‘’I con­sider any im­peach­ment in the House that doesn’t al­low us to know who the whistle­blower is to be in­valid, be­cause without the whistle­blower com­plaint, we wouldn’t be talk­ing about any of this.”

Gra­ham added that there’s a “need for Hunter Bi­den to be called to ad­e­quately de­fend the pres­i­dent. And if you don’t do those two things, it’s a com­plete joke.”

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WHAT WILL TRUMP DO?

For those watch­ing tele­vi­sion Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, the pres­i­dent is of­fer­ing some coun­ter­pro­gram­ming to the im­peach­ment in­quiry’s pub­lic hear­ing: a joint news con­fer­ence with Turkey’s pres­i­dent, Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, amid strains in re­la­tions be­tween the two na­tions.

On im­peach­ment, the pres­i­dent tried to give his al­lies on Capi­tol Hill some talk­ing points Sun­day, tweet­ing out his ad­vice for how they should de­fend him — namely by in­sist­ing, as he did, that his call with the Ukrainian pres­i­dent was “PER­FECT.”

“Read the Tran­script!” Trump in­toned on Twit­ter. “There was NOTH­ING said that was in any way wrong. Re­pub­li­cans, don’t be led into the fools trap of say­ing it was not per­fect, but is not im­peach­able.

No, it is much stronger than that. NOTH­ING WAS DONE WRONG!”

The White House re­leased a rough tran­script of his July call and Trump also says he will re­lease, probably on Tues­day, an ac­count of an April phone call he had with Ukraine’s leader, Volodymyr Ze­len­skiy, soon after Ze­len­skiy won elec­tion.

Tes­ti­mony in the closed pro­ceed­ings shows that the April con­grat­u­la­tory call did not raise con­cerns, but the tone shifted on the July call that caused alarms among U.S. of­fi­cials.

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MORE TRAN­SCRIPTS, MORE HEAR­INGS COM­ING

House in­ves­ti­ga­tors have been steadily re­leas­ing tran­scripts from hun­dreds of pages of tes­ti­mony they re­ceived be­hind closed doors.

More tran­scripts are ex­pected. Nearly a dozen peo­ple have tes­ti­fied in the in­quiry and in­ves­ti­ga­tors are build­ing the pub­lic record of their find­ings. But this week’s hear­ings will probably not be the last.

House in­ves­ti­ga­tors may still call oth­ers to tes­tify, most likely Lt.

Col. Alexan­der Vind­man, an Army of­fi­cer as­signed to the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, and Fiona Hill, a for­mer White House ad­viser on Rus­sia. Both tes­ti­fied be­hind closed doors of their con­cerns about the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­fort to push Ukraine to in­ves­ti­gate Democrats.

Even­tu­ally the In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee will send a re­port of its find­ings to the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, which would de­cide whether to pur­sue ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment against the pres­i­dent. A House vote on im­peach­ment could come by Christ­mas.

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