Donald Trump vents fury at impeachment probe with key witness due to testify 1

Donald Trump vents fury at impeachment probe with key witness due to testify

US President Donald Trump has called the congressional impeachment investigation that may seek to remove him from office “a lynching”.

An agitated President Donald Trump on Tuesday branded the Democratic impeachment process a “lynching” shortly before a crucial new witness is scheduled to give a deposition that could potentially unpeel new layers of the Ukraine scandal that is threatening his presidency.

Bill Taylor, the top US diplomat currently in Ukraine, is due at a closed-door session of three House committees and plans to fill in the gaps of his text messages with US diplomats about Ukraine, a source familiar with his testimony told CNN’s Jeremy Herb and Kylie Atwood. That’ll offer new material for an ever-broadening investigation now threatening to dash Democratic hopes of swiftly wrapping up the entire impeachment process.

Taylor will be asked about increasingly firm evidence that Trump was running an off-the-books foreign policy operation in Ukraine for personal political gain in a possible abuse of power.

He arrived in Washington amid an evolving political environment. Half of all Americans now say Trump should be impeached and removed from office, according to a new CNN/SSRS poll. That’s a new high in CNN polling on the topic and the first time that support for impeachment and removal has significantly outpaced opposition.

Trump, who on Monday called on Republicans to be tougher in his defense, warned in a tweet that Democrats were setting a precedent that a president of their own party could be impeached in future without due process.

“All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here — a lynching. But we will WIN!” Trump wrote.

Trump’s use of sharp racial language got a swift reaction from his opponents on Capitol Hill.
Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Karen Bass told CNN that Trump’s lynching tweet is consistent with his pattern of throwing out “racial bombs” to throw “red meat” to his base when his back his against the wall. Rep. Harley Rouda, a California Democrat, called Trump’s tweet “offensive.”
It was impossible to judge the President’s motivations for sure. But it would not be the first time that the President has stoked a fierce controversy to take attention away from an event — in this case Taylor’s appearance — that could be politically damaging for him.

Political pitfalls for Democrats, too

Paradoxically, the mountains of new evidence collected in recent days — mostly from depositions by career State Department officials — also threaten to make impeachment a more perilous political exercise for Democrats.
A torrent of disclosures could dash hopes for a swift House vote on articles of impeachment before the Thanksgiving break as members follow fresh paths of inquiry beyond the original scope of questioning. That could in turn also hinder their effort to offer the public a crisp, easily understandable case against a President who habitually defies limits on his power.
Donald Trump vents fury at impeachment probe with key witness due to testify 1
Donald Trump vents fury at impeachment probe with key witness due to testify
CNN reported Monday on growing expectations that historic votes on impeachment may now slip towards the end of the year — even as Democrats also move to begin doing weekend work with a scheduled Saturday deposition for another State Department official.
Such a scenario would make it more likely that a subsequent Senate trial of the President could overshadow and infect the Democratic Party’s presidential primary votes early next year, a time when party leaders hope voters will focus instead on considering their own candidates for President.
During Bill Clinton’s impeachment process, for instance, it took two months between the House Judiciary Committee voting on Articles of Impeachment for him to be acquitted in the Senate.
One option would be for Democrats to give up on building a broad case against Trump and rely mainly on recent testimony and a whistleblower report on Donald Trump’s behavior and a rough transcript of his July 25 call with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Many Democrats believe that there is sufficient evidence in those documents alone to prove that Trump abused his power and committed high crimes and misdemeanors by trying to coerce Kiev into providing dirt on possible Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
But such an approach risks depriving the public of the full scope of the President’s alleged wrongdoing, weakening the case and easing pressure on Republican senators defending him.
“There is a debate now — should we have a narrow inquiry or a broad one?” said Corey Brettschneider, author of “The Oath and the Office: A Guide to the Constitution for Future Presidents.”
“The choice I do think they shouldn’t make — is a narrow inquiry. They don’t want to miss the many abuses of power that are going on here.”

Votes could slip until the end of the year

Given that Democrats appear far from wrapping up private depositions, may want to call new witnesses from multiple agencies, hope to publish transcripts of hours-long depositions and also want to hold public hearings, it is tough to see them advancing Articles of Impeachment in the committee next month.
As a case in point, the top US diplomat currently in Ukraine Bill Taylor is scheduled to deliver a deposition to three House committees on Tuesday. The US charge d’affaires in Kiev was depicted in text message exchanges with the President’s men as saying it would be “crazy” to withhold military aid to the former Soviet state to coerce it into offer political favors. So he’s potentially a critical witness for impeachment managers.
Other officials are also on the deposition list in the coming days. And testimony last week by Donald Trump’s former top Russia hand Fiona Hill — that for the first time exposed the depth of Trump’s Ukraine operation — raised the possibility that former national security adviser John Bolton could be called for blockbuster testimony.
Even a delay of weeks on the tight self-imposed impeachment timetable could have significant knock on effects.
It now seems all but inevitable that at the time when Democrats hoped to focus voters on plans for health care reform, lowering student debt and a fairer economy in the run up to the Iowa caucuses in February, the nation’s attention will still be fixated on Washington.

What’s the latest with the impeachment inquiry?

The inquiry is examining whether the Republican president abused his office by improperly pressuring Ukraine to launch an investigation into former US Vice-President Joe Biden, a leading candidate for the Democratic 2020 presidential nomination.

Donald Trump denies holding up US military aid to Ukraine so they would investigate Mr Biden’s son, who worked for a Ukrainian gas company.

On Tuesday, veteran US diplomat William Taylor – the acting US ambassador to Ukraine – is scheduled to be interviewed by the impeachment committees at Congress.

Texts show Mr Taylor raised the alarm to other Trump officials about withholding US aid to Ukraine.

“I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” Mr Taylor wrote in one message.

During a cabinet meeting at the White House on Monday, Mr Trump called for his party “to get tougher and fight” the impeachment inquiry.

“We have some that are great fighters, but they have to get tougher and fight, because the Democrats are trying to hurt the Republican party before the election,” he said.

Initially hopeful the impeachment inquiry would be finished by November’s Thanksgiving holiday, Democrats are now signalling it may drag on towards Christmas.

Quick facts on impeachment

Impeachment is the first part – the charges – of a two-stage political process by which Congress can remove a president from office

If the House of Representatives votes to pass articles of impeachment, the Senate is forced to hold a trial

A Senate vote requires a two-thirds majority to convict – unlikely in this case, given that Mr Trump’s party controls the chamber

Only two US presidents in history – Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson – have been impeached but neither was convicted and removed

President Nixon resigned before he could have been impeached.

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