As the impeachment proceedings against the US President continue, Donald Trump is reportedly going to release the transcript of yet another call with Ukraine. This new transcript will be from an April call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
At the centre of the impeachment inquiry is the official White House transcript of a call Trump made on July 25 to President Zelenskiy. The US president asked his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate the Bidens.
Democrats accuse Trump of abusing his power by using US military assistance and a possible White House meeting to pressure President Volodymyr Zelensky into opening a probe into the Democrat Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma.
Trump dismissed the probe in the Democratic-led House of Representatives as a "witch hunt" and said he was "too busy" to watch the first public hearings, during which he received staunch backing from Republican lawmakers. The investigation incidentally threatens to make Trump the third US president to be impeached, after Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998, although the Senate would need to convict him to remove him from office.
The impeachment inquiry is now being conducted through televised hearings. On Wednesday, two top US diplomats delivered gripping testimony about Donald Trump's efforts to get Ukraine to investigate his potential 2020 rival Joe Biden.
William Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, testified before the House Intelligence Committee and stated that he was told Trump cared more about the probe than he did about Ukraine. He added that, since testifying in a closed hearing last month, he had since become aware of a telephone call between Trump and the US's EU ambassador Gordon Sondland, which a member of Taylor's staff overheard. The staffer asked Sondland after the call what Trump thought about Ukraine and was told that "President Trump cared more about the investigations of Biden," Taylor said.
Trump, however, dismissed this saying this was the "first time I've heard it".
"Sondland "did speak to me for a brief moment, and I said no quid pro quo under any circumstances," he added.
Fellow witness George Kent, a career diplomat, was asked what interests former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney, was promoting.
"I believe he was looking to dig up political dirt against a potential rival in the next election cycle," said the deputy assistant secretary of state.
"I do not believe the United States should ask other countries to engage in selective politically associated investigations or prosecutions against opponents of those in power because such selective actions undermine the rule of law."
Republicans have sought to undercut the witnesses' testimony by focusing on Hunter Biden's role on the Burisma board, pointing out that he was paid $50,000 a month and questioning his qualifications. They also stressed that the Ukrainians were not aware for months that the White House had put a hold on the nearly $400 million in military assistance and that it was eventually released in September.
If the House impeaches Trump, it would then go to trial in the Senate, where Republicans enjoy a 53-47 majority. The next hearing is scheduled for Friday, featuring the US ambassador to Ukraine who Kent said was recalled by Trump after being subjected to a "smear campaign" by Giuliani. Eight more witnesses, including Sondland, are to appear next week, the second of several planned weeks of hearings.
(With agency inputs)