WASHINGTON (AP) — A “solemn day” or a “show trial”?
Americans and the world can decide for themselves as House Democrats let the public in to the impeachment hearing against President Donald Trump.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff opened the first hearings Wednesday into Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden’s family.
“Must we simply ‘get over it?’” Schiff asked in the hearing’s first moments.
Other big questions loom, including how strongly officials connected what Trump called that “favor” to U.S. military aid for Ukraine. Impeachable offenses? Worthy of Trump’s removal? And, critically, will a parade of diplomats and their accounts nudge more Americans behind formally charging Trump in the shadow of the 2020 elections?
Here’s what to know about the first hearing, with the charge d’affaires in Ukraine, William Taylor, and a career diplomat, George Kent, at the witness table:
FIRST, KNOW THIS
“The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Expect numerous mentions of Article 2, Section 4 of the Constitution, especially on whether Trump’s own words and actions meet the vague threshold of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Some Democrats and diplomats say conditioning U.S. aid on whether Ukraine goes after Biden’s son Hunter sounds like “bribery.” Republicans deny that, saying Trump did not explicitly offer aid for the Biden probe.
What it’s not: a trial, which would be conducted by the Senate if the House approves articles of impeachment. So no matter what the president tweets, he is not entitled to a defense attorney. The proceedings are the due process he says he’s being denied, though they are controlled by Democrats in ways Republicans will say is unfair.
… AND THIS
It’s only the fourth time in American history that Congress has launched impeachment proceedings against a sitting president. Two of those — against Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton 130 years later — resulted in their impeachments, or formal charges approved by the House. Both were acquitted by the Senate.
President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before the House could vote to impeach him.