Democrats Have Wrapped Their Public Case On Impeachment. What Comes Next? thumbnail

Democrats Have Wrapped Their Public Case On Impeachment. What Comes Next?

Fiona Hill, the National Security Council’s former senior director for Europe and Russia, and David Holmes, an official from the American embassy in Ukraine, testified in the House impeachment inquiry Thursday.

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Fiona Hill, the National Security Council’s former senior director for Europe and Russia, and David Holmes, an official from the American embassy in Ukraine, testified in the House impeachment inquiry Thursday.

Pool/Getty Images

The marathon of testimony in Democrats’ impeachment inquiry this week confirmed that the Ukraine affair, like so many earlier subplots in the era of President Trump, boils down to two big questions: What do the president’s words mean? Can the president do what he did? The answers to those questions have been a partisan inkblot test since Trump exploded onto the political scene and now they are burning again as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats decide how they’ll move ahead in a showdown over impeachment. The overall facts of the case now are well established: Trump sought concessions this year from Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. In exchange for engagement and about $391 million in military assistance, Zelenskiy — and not an aide such as his prosecutor-general — had to announce investigations that Trump thought might help him in the 2020 election, witnesses said. The White House froze aid for a period of weeks this year and ultimately released it. Zelenskiy never made a public statement about investigations. Findings of the inquiry Members of Congress and the witnesses did not agree about whether they heard Trump make a request of Zelenskiy politely — or whether Trump twisted the arm of a weaker counterpart with the expectation that his words would be taken as a demand. Witnesses and investigators also did not agree whether Trump had explicitly directed the aides since dubbed “the three amigos” for Ukraine that they were required to submit to the tasking of his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Or whether what Trump did was, in so many words, shrug and say — Ukraine? If you guys wanna do some stuff, you can talk to Rudy.

Likewise, neither lawmakers nor the witnesses agreed whether Trump should have pursued this policy in the first place. The United States has paused or stopped assistance for foreign countries before in order to exact concessions, as witnesses detailed on Wednesday evening. Interpretations Even so, Democrats led by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., say the story amounts to “bribery,” because he said Trump conditioned official acts on reciprocal actions that would benefit him politically. “My colleagues seem to think unless the president says the magic words, ‘I hereby bribed the Ukrainians,’ that there’s no evidence of bribery or other high crimes or misdemeanors,” Schiff said. “But let’s look to the best evidence of what is in the president’s head. What is his intent? What is the reason behind the hold on the meeting and on the aid?” Republicans said the case was hearsay, argued Democrats have no credibility after the Russia invest
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