Donald Trump impeachment: what comes next?
FT's Peter Spiegel examines the next steps in the impeachment inquiry and how the Republican party is questioning the process behind the probe
Produced by Ben Marino
You can enable subtitles (captions) in the video player
No president, no official can demand that an ally of the United States do anything in particular to help his or her political ambitions as a condition of receiving help from our country.
So obviously we've been through several weeks, almost a month of private hearings in the SCIF, the secure room of the Capitol, where the Intelligence Committee has been asking for hours and hours. And some of these daylong hearings have been 10, 12 hours behind closed doors.
Those have almost run their course. We are starting to get people who are appearing, testifying to the same thing over and over again. So we have a pretty good sense of what happened in two incidents.
One is the famous call between Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, and Donald Trump, and whether there was a quid pro quo there in terms of money, military aid for assistance to dig up dirt on Democrats inside Ukraine, but also, the broader scheme that has been going on run largely by Rudy Giuliani, the president's private attorney, and what that looked like.
So we basically have had testimony in private. People begin to repeat the narrative so that the Democrats have felt we've gone this far. We have the vote on the Hill in the House this week where they have now formally set the rules for public hearings. So I think we're actually going to get to a point where we actually might have fireworks.
It has been all these hearings in the past. When we talk about impeachment, and we talk about big scandals, the big drama the big theatre happens in these big public hearings. And I think that's going to the next thing we're going to watch for and to what extent the Democrats can make hay of this one and start winning over more of the public.
But also, more importantly, are there Republicans, particularly in the Senate, which would have to judge any impeachment hearing? Are there Republicans in the Senate that will be peeled off by some of these revelations?
Do you think it's ever appropriate for the president to use his office to solicit investigations into a domestic political opponent?
Soliciting investigations into a domestic political opponent. I don't think that would be in accord with our values.
What we've learned from the hearings, not only in the last week, but in the last two weeks, really, is incidents that focus around that call again, that famous call that Trump made to the new president in Ukraine, demanding - for lack of a better word - that they dig up some dirt both on the Bidens but also this strange conspiracy theory where a lot of Trump allies think that the Ukrainians were somehow involved in hacking the Democratic party.
That phone call, we've had people testifying who were on that call, including Alexander Vindman, who was a lieutenant-colonel in US army, who basically has testified and said that there was...he was disturbed by it enough to go to the lawyers at the NSC. We've also heard testimony from the acting ambassador to the Ukraine, William Taylor, who has said there was indeed a quid pro quo that in his eyes, the president was withholding military aid.
And remember, the Ukrainians are in a shooting war with the Russians right now and Russian-backed separatists, withheld that military aid in exchange for that digging up of dirt on the Democrats. So we have a lot of meat put on the bones of what we're initially just a whistleblower complaint, which include a lot of supposition, a lot of second-hand accounts. We now have primary accounts of what the president and his men did to basically push the Ukrainians to do his own political dirty work inside Ukraine.
Today, the country just witnessed the only bipartisan vote on that floor was against. The question to the speaker are the same questions I provided in a letter about the unfair process that we had. What has changed since March? In all the hearings, there's nothing compelling, nothing overwhelming. So the speaker should follow her own words on what bipartisan vote on that floor and in the sham that has been putting this country through this nightmare.
There has been White House talking points on the president's call being of no issue and of being not particularly controversial. You haven't heard the Republicans on the Hill eat that line that much when you've heard them saying is that they're attacking the process.
The other interesting thing on this is to watch the Senate Republicans. Again, when you talk about White House talking points, what you've heard from a lot of Senate Republicans now is I don't want to comment because I could be a juror, right? If the House impeaches, it is the Senate that will hear the evidence and decide whether to eject the president from office.
And the fact that Republicans in the Senate, many of them now are saying, I'm not going to comment because I want to be a juror means they're keeping their powder dry. They're not instinctively falling into line. Now, the vote in the House this week was a strict party-line vote.
We had the Democrats almost unanimously voting to set up the procedure to have a public hearing on impeachment - yet almost every Republican on the other side - but it's been interesting to watch the Senate Republicans. Mitt Romney has been the most prominent one to break from the president on this.
But even ones who we suspect to be more loyal and more partisan are keeping their powder dry. They're not commenting. They're not coming out in favour of the president. And they're using this phrase - I am a juror. I don't want to comment - which I think is very telling.