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Trump denounces historic impeachment hearings as witch hunt, ’fraud’

WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives will raise the curtain Wednesday on public presidential impeachment hearings that President Donald Trump denounced Monday as a “fraud” and a partisan witch hunt cooked up by Democrats.

“We haven’t even seen the documents and are restricted from (get this) having a lawyer,” Trump said on Twitter before his appearance at a Veterans Day event in New York.

The hearings are only the fourth time in U.S. history that Congress has launched a public investigation into the president’s activities with the possibility of removing America’s democratically elected leader from office.

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., will gavel in open hearings Wednesday and Friday to present evidence and testimony to the American people that outline the president’s request of a foreign government’s interference in the next election in exchange for military aid.

Trump called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and asked him to launch an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, who held a seat on the board of directors of a Ukrainian energy company.

Trump pressed the Ukrainian leader on the request as the U.S. administration held nearly $400 million in military aid approved by Congress to help Ukraine fight off Russian-backed separatists.

The phone call was first disclosed by a whistleblower who filed a complaint that was reviewed by the inspector general for intelligence services who found the claim credible and urgent.

Three to testify this week

Hearings this week will focus on U.S. diplomat to Ukraine Bill Taylor Jr., former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and George Kent, a former State Department deputy assistant secretary on Russian and Ukrainian matters.

In earlier depositions to the House, Taylor has tied Trump to a quid pro quo — seeking the political investigation by Ukraine into the Bidens in exchange for military aid.

Kent told lawmakers he raised red flags more than one-half year ago about the president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and his pressure on Ukrainian officials to investigate the Bidens.

A career diplomat, Yovanovitch testified behind closed doors that she was forced out as ambassador after she raised concerns about Giuliani and his efforts that ran counter to U.S. policy. Trump told Zelenskiy on the telephone call that she was “bad news” and was going to go through “some things.

Schiff said hearings will give the Americans the opportunity to “evaluate the witnesses for themselves.”

Republicans asked for witnesses of their own, including Hunter Biden, who received a monthly stipend for sitting on the energy company board while his father was vice president — an arrangement that Taylor said gave the appearance of a conflict of interest.

No charges are claims of wrongdoing have been leveled against the Bidens, despite claims to the contrary by Trump.

Republicans also want to hear publicly from the whistleblower, whose identity has not been released officially.

Schiff has ruled out appearances by Biden and the whistleblower, which prompted Republicans like Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, to denounce the hearings as a “sham.”

Trump defends phone call

Further, while some Republicans admit to wrongdoing on the part of the president, they claim that the act does not rise to the level of impeachment, a defense that sparked some push back from Trump.

The president said the phone call with Zelenskiy was “PERFECT.”

“Republicans, don’t be led into the fools trap of saying it was not perfect, but it is not impeachable,” Trump tweeted. “No, it is much stronger than that. NOTHING WAS DONE WRONG!”

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., a member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, sat through one month of testimony behind closed doors. From what she’s heard, she said, there is ample evidence to vote on impeachment now.

But Titus agrees with Democratic leaders that the evidence must be laid out for the Senate and the American people.

Democratic leaders are moving quickly toward a possible vote on impeachment before year’s end. If the House impeaches the president, a Senate trial would be held to determine whether the president should be removed from office, or acquitted on charges.

With Republicans holding a slim margin in the Senate, and the House cleaved along party lines over impeachment, the chances that Trump could be removed from office look less likely, unless the hearings persuade public opinion.

Presidents Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson both were impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate.

President Richard Nixon resigned after the House Judiciary Committee voted to move articles of impeachment to the full House for a vote.

Titus said last month she is aware of the gravity of the moment.

“It is historic,” she said.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7390. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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