Congressional Democrats on Monday named the four witnesses who will testify this week at a public hearing in the impeachment inquiry of U.S. President Donald Trump, in what is seen as a likely precursor to the announcement of formal charges within weeks.
After 12 witnesses, 30 hours of public testimony, and hundreds of pages of transcripts from closed-door interviews, the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday is expected to send a report summarizing its findings to the Judiciary Committee, moving the impeachment probe into President Donald Trump into a new, critical phase.
The report likely to lay out the evidence Democrats say shows Trump abused his office for personal political gain, and hands the baton over to the Judiciary Committee which will hold its first hearings on Wednesday.
The panel will hear public testimony from four legal scholars on what constitutional basis a U.S. president can be removed from office.
On Sunday The White House said Trump and his lawyers would not participate in Wednesday's hearing, citing a lack of "fundamental fairness." But White House counsel Pat Cipollone did not rule out taking part in future proceedings if Democrats addressed a list of procedural complaints.
En route to London for a NATO summit, Trump said he had declined to participate in the hearing because it was a hoax.
The impeachment inquiry has heard testimony from current and former officials that military aid was withheld from Ukraine and that a White House meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was conditioned on investigations being carried out.
On Monday Zelenskiy himself spoke out on the scandal, telling Time magazine, "Look, I never talked to the President from the position of a quid pro quo.
That’s not my thing.
… I don’t want us to look like beggars.
But you have to understand.
We’re at war.
If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us.
I think that’s just about fairness.
It’s not about a quid pro quo.
It just goes without saying.” Trump seized on part of that statement, claiming it cleared him.
SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) US PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, SAYING: “He just came out a little while ago and he said President Trump did absolutely nothing wrong.
And that’s gonna end everything.” Wednesday's hearing will set the stage for the Judiciary Committee to begin determining whether Trump should face formal articles of impeachment.
House Republicans issued their own rebuttal report on Monday, saying the witnesses called during the impeachment inquiry had painted a picture of "unelected bureaucrats" who "fundamentally disagreed with President Trump's style, world view and decisions," and had presented no evidence that amounted to an impeachable offense.