Washington: US President Donald Trump has claimed victory as the Democratic Party-controlled House of Representatives concluded its third public hearing on the impeachment proceedings against him for allegedly abusing his office for political gain in the run up to the 2020 presidential election.
The impeachment hearings are an effort by Democrats to establish whether Trump withheld US military aid to Ukraine to pressure the country’s President Volodymyr Zelensky into announcing a corruption inquiry into Joe Biden, Trump’s leading Democratic rival in the poll.
The Democrats are alleging that Trump’s call with his Ukrainian counterpart was irregular and inappropriate and abuse of his office for political gain.
“A great day for Republicans, a great day for our Country! In the end we will win and save our Country from certain destruction,” Trump tweeted soon after the House Select Committee on Intelligence concluded its third public impeachment hearings on Tuesday.
In the morning, Democratic lawmakers grilled Lt Col Alexander Vindman, a Ukraine specialist on the National Security Council (NSC), and Jennifer Williams, a top national security aide to Vice President Pence on Trump’s 25 July phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky.
Later in the day, Kurt Volker, former special envoy to Kyiv, and Tim Morrison, another top NSC aide, testified before the powerful House Committee.
The White House called the impeachment process a sham.
“Today’s second hearing is over, and the Democrats’ central allegation in this impeachment sham has again been completely debunked,” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said at the conclusion of the testimonies.
”Specifically, Ambassador Volker confirmed under oath that he had no indication whatsoever of anything that resembled a quid-pro-quo, corroborating his previous deposition testimony that ‘there was no linkage like that,” she said.
Grisham urged the American public not to tolerate the pretence of the Democrats.
”With the Democrats’ poll-tested ‘quid-pro-quo’ and ‘bribery’ narratives in shambles, the American public should not be forced to endure this charade for one more second,” Grisham said.
”We have learned nothing new in today’s illegitimate ‘impeachment’ proceedings. However, buried among the witnesses’ personal opinions and conjecture about a call the White House long ago released to the public, both witnesses testified the July 25 transcript was ‘accurate’ and nothing President Trump has done or said amounts to ‘bribery’ or any other crime,”she added.
Grisham also accused the Democrats of being blinded by their hatred for President Trump.
”Today’s hearing only further exposes that Chairman Schiff and the Democrats are simply blinded by their hatred for Donald Trump and rabid desire to overturn the outcome of a free and fair election,” Grisham said.
However, both Vindman and Williams told lawmakers that Trump’s request to Ukrainian president to investigate Democratic rivals was inappropriate.
Volker and Morrison said that the call with Zelensky were not in line with American national security goals.
”Frankly I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It was probably an element of shock that may be in certain regards my worst fear of how our Ukraine policy could play out was playing out and how this was likely to have significant implications for US national security,” Vindman said.
Williams said the phone call was unusual and inappropriate. ”I believe what I found unusual or different about this call was the president’s reference to specific investigations. That struck me as different than other calls I had listened to,” she said.
”I thought that the references to specific individuals and investigations such as former Vice President Biden and his son struck me as political in nature given that former Vice President is a political opponent of the president,” Williams said.
”I can’t speak to what the president’s motivation was in referencing it, but I just noted that the reference to Biden sounded political to me,” she said in response to a question.
During the later hearing, Volker said that he does not think that raising 2016 elections or Vice President Biden or these things that he considers to be conspiracy theories that have been circulated by the Ukrainians, particularly the former prosecutor general, are they’re not things that one should be pursuing as part of the national security strategy with Ukraine.
”We should be supporting Ukraine’s democracy, reforms, and its own fight against corruption domestically, its struggle against Russia, its defense capabilities. These are the heart of what we should be doing, and I don’t think pursuing these things serves a national interest,” Volker said.