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White House rocked by war veteran's Ukraine testimony

(China Daily) Updated: 2019-10-31 07:07

WASHINGTON - A decorated Iraq War veteran rocked the White House on Tuesday with devastating testimony on US President Donald Trump's alleged demand for political favors from Ukraine as Democrats laid out plans for the public phase of the impeachment inquiry threatening his presidency.

The Democrat-led House of Representatives is investigating Trump over his bid to pressure Ukraine into digging up dirt on potential election rival Joe Biden - and accusations he made nearly $400 million in military aid conditional on the political favors.

A US National Security Council Ukraine expert, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman said in written testimony for his closed-door deposition before three House committees that he witnessed Trump and a senior diplomat pressuring Ukraine for that help.

Vindman recounted listening to Trump pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on the now infamous July 25 phone call that sparked the impeachment probe.

His statement on Monday offers some of the strongest evidence yet for accusations that Trump abused his office and broke election law to gain Kiev's support for his reelection.

Vindman arrived on Capitol Hill on Tuesday as Trump blasted him on Twitter as a "Never Trumper" - his label for Republicans who fundamentally oppose the president.

"How many more Never Trumpers will be allowed to testify about a perfectly appropriate phone call," he asked. "Was he on the same call that I was? Can't be possible!"

Some Republicans mobilized to undercut Vindman's credibility, questioning his loyalty by noting he moved to the United States from the then Soviet Union at the age of three and suggesting he is part of an effort by the US national security bureaucracy to undermine Trump.

"Trump is innocent. The deep state is guilty," said Republican lawmaker Matt Gaetz.

Following interviews of 10 witnesses by House panels behind closed doors over the past five weeks, Democrats have now drawn up rules for the next stage of the impeachment inquiry that will include public hearings.

"The evidence we have already collected paints the picture of a president who abused his power by using multiple levers of government to press a foreign country to interfere in the 2020 election," senior House Democrats said in a statement.

For the second stage, the House Intelligence Committee will take testimony in open session, with Republicans having a chance to counter with their own witnesses.

In the third stage, the compiled evidence will be sent for review to the House Judiciary Committee, where the White House will have the opportunity to challenge it and present its own evidence.

Then, if the evidence is strong enough, the committee will draw up articles of impeachment to be voted on by the whole House, where Democrats have a strong majority.

If the House approves the articles, Trump would go on trial in the Senate for removal from office. The House is expected to vote on the rules on Thursday.

The White House dismissed the process on Tuesday as a "sham", claiming that the Democrats were refusing its basic due process rights. The House vote could take place before or shortly after the New Year

White House rocked by war veteran's Ukraine testimony

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