Mark your calendars - the first impeachment hearing out of the The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled for Dec.
4, and on Tuesday the committee invited President Donald Trump to take part.
This begins a new phase of the probe that could lead to formal charges against the president within weeks.
Trump is not required to attend the hearing, which will have legal experts as witnesses.
But the move allows the president and his legal team access to congressional impeachment procedures like cross-examining witnesses.
At a rally in Florida Tuesday night Trump railed against the inquiry.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) US PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, SAYING: “It’s a scam!
It’s a hoax!… I have never had a direct link between investigations and security assistance… Everybody said… ’that’s really bullshit.’” His comments came the same day the House Intelligence Committee released transcripts of closed-door testimony from Mark Sandy, a career official with the White House Office of Management and Budget.
In his testimony, Sandy said two staffers in the Office of Management and Budget resigned partly because of concerns over the hold on U.S. military aid to Ukraine.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) INTEL CHAIRMAN ADAM SCHIFF, SAYING: “This president believes he is above the law.
Beyond accountability.” Democrats say Trump withheld that aid to pressure Ukraine into opening investigations into Trump’s rival, Joe Biden, and a discredited conspiracy theory promoted by Trump that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Many diplomats and foreign policy experts testified before the intelligence committee that they were uneasy with Trump's efforts in Ukraine, and many came to understand that the White House did place conditions at a minimum on a White House meeting and possibly over military aid.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) LT.
ALEXANDER VINDMAN, SAYING: "My impression was that in order to get the White House meeting, Zelenskiy would have to deliver these investigations." (SOUNDBITE) (English) DEMOCRATIC COUNSEL DAN GOLDBERG AND FIONA HILL, FORMER RUSSIA ADVISER TO U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: GOLDBERG: “What do you understand him to mean by the ‘drug deal’ that Mulvaney and Sondland were cooking up?” HILL: “I took it to mean investigations for a meeting.” (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE EU GORDON SONDLAND, SAYING: "I later came to believe that the resumption of security aid would not occur until there was a public statement from Ukraine committing to the investigations of the 2016 election and Burisma, as Mr. Giuliani had demanded." The Democratic-led House is aiming to resolve the question of Trump's impeachment before the end of the year, possibly by approving articles of impeachment and forwarding them to the Republican-controlled Senate for a trial that could begin in January.
So far Senate Republicans have shown little inclination to remove their party’s leader ahead of an election.