Democrats in the United States (US) House of Representatives began an impeachment inquiry on September 24 to determine whether President Donald Trump abused his office for personal political gain when he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a July phone call to investigate a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
The contents of the call were revealed in a whistleblower complaint by an intelligence official. The testimony of current and former Trump administration officials, a rough transcript of the phone call released by the White House, texts between US diplomats and other documents have largely confirmed the whistleblower’s account.
Trump denies wrongdoing.
Here’s what we know so far:
– A rough transcript of the call on July 25 between Trump and Zelenskiy confirmed the whistleblower’s most damaging allegation – that Trump asked Zelenskiy to investigate Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company on which Hunter Biden, the son of Joe Biden, had served as a board member. Trump, a Republican, also asked Zelenskiy to “do us a favour” and investigate a debunked conspiracy theory that a hacked Democratic National Committee computer server was in Ukraine, according to the transcript.
– Text messages between Trump’s Ukraine special envoy, Kurt Volker, his European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, show that pressure was exerted on Zelenskiy to make a public statement committing himself to investigating Burisma before he would be allowed to meet with Trump at the White House, part of the “quid pro quo” – Latin for a favor for a favor – that is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.
– Sondland, a hotelier and Trump donor, testified to congressional investigators that Trump largely delegated Ukraine policy to Giuliani. He said Trump told him and other officials at a White House meeting to coordinate with Giuliani, who at the time was seeking to dig up dirt on Biden, a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 to run against Trump. Sondland expressed disquiet in his testimony about allowing a private citizen to have such an influential role in US foreign policy.
– In testimony considered the most damning to date, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, William Taylor, said Trump made their lease of US security aid to Ukraine contingent on Kiev publicly declaring it would carry out the investigations that the U.S. president sought.
Trump has contended that there was no quid pro quo related to the $391 million to help Ukraine fight Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine that he had withheld. Taylor said Trump had also made a White House visit by Zelenskiy contingent on his opening the investigations.
– In remarks on October 17 that stunned many in Washington, Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, acknowledged that the aid to Ukraine was indeed linked to Trump’s request for investigations into the debunked conspiracy theory and Hunter Biden. Mulvaney later contradicted himself in a statement from the White House that ruled out a quid pro quo.
– The former US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, testified that Trump had ousted her from her position based on”unfounded and false claims” after she had come under attack by Giuliani. She was abruptly recalled from Kiev in May. She expressed alarm over damage to diplomacy under Trump and warned about “private interests” circumventing “professional diplomats for their own gain, not the public good.”
– Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, testified that he had helped to connect Giuliani with a top aide to Ukraine’s president as the president’s personal lawyer continued to seek information damaging to the Bidens. Volker said he was unaware of Giuliani’s mission at the time and that in the now released text messages between him, Sondland and Giuliani there was no explicit mention of the Bidens.
– Michael McKinley, a former adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, testified that he quit a few days before his appearance to congressional committees because of departmental leadership’s unwillingness to defend Yovanovitch from the attacks on her. He also told investigators that some career diplomats had had their careers derailed for political reasons.
– Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton expressed alarm about Giuliani’s involvement in Ukraine policy and the efforts to press Zelenskiy to give Trump political help, the US president’s former Russia adviser Fiona Hill testified. Democratic investigators want to talk to Bolton.
– A top adviser to Trump on Ukraine has testified that he was so alarmed after hearing Trump ask Ukraine’s president to investigate Biden in the July 25 phone call that he reported the matter to a White House lawyer out of concern for US national security. Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman was the first person to have heard the phone call to testify at the inquiry.
– Two foreign-born Florida businessmen who helped Giuliani investigate the Bidens in Ukraine have been indicted for a scheme to illegally funnel money to a pro-Trump election committee and other US political candidates. They have pleaded not guilty.