The whistle-blower, impeachment and Trump phone call: What we know

 

 

Growing numbers of Democrats are calling for the impeachment of US President Donald Trump over allegations that he sought political dirt on his potential 2020 presidential rival, Joe Biden.

This is what we know about the affair launched by a complaint from a mysterious whistle-blower in the US intelligence community.

The phone call 

The political scandal stems from a July 25 telephone call between Trump and Ukraine’s newly elected President Volodymyr Zelensky, a former comedian who ran for office as an anti-corruption crusader and reformer.

Trump has acknowledged urging Zelensky during the call to investigate the business dealings in Ukraine of Hunter Biden, the son of Joe Biden, who is leading Trump in 2020 election polls.

The Wall Street Journal said Trump urged Zelensky “about eight times” during the call to work with Rudy Giuliani, his personal attorney, on a probe into Hunter Biden.


Democrats in the House of Representatives accused Trump and Giuliani of trying to coerce Ukraine, in exchange for military assistance, into conducting a “politically motivated” investigation into Hunter Biden, a move they said would represent a “staggering abuse of power.”

Three Democratic-controlled House committees demanded that the White House turn over a transcript of the call and Trump has indicated that he would be happy if it were made public.

US military aid for Ukraine

According to The Washington Post, about a week before the phone call with Zelensky, Trump told his acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to hold up a package of nearly $400-million in military aid for Ukraine, which is battling pro-Russian separatists.

Trump has denied dangling the military aid in exchange for a probe into the son of his main political rival and the Journal said he did not specifically mention the assistance during the conversation.

“I didn’t do that at all,” Trump told reporters. “I did not make a statement that you have to do this or I’m not going to give you ‘A.'”

“With that being said,” the president continued, “you want to see a country that’s going to be not corrupt.”

Hunter Biden

Hunter Biden served from April 2014 to April 2019 on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian gas firm accused of corrupt practices, but he has not been personally accused of any wrongdoing.

As Barack Obama’s vice president, Joe Biden and other Western leaders pressured Ukraine to get rid of the country’s top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, because he was seen as not tough enough on corruption.

Trump has claimed that Biden, in seeking the removal of Shokin, was seeking to protect his son but that allegation has largely been debunked and there has been no evidence of illegal conduct in Ukraine by the Bidens.

Whistle-blower

On August 12, an unknown whistle-blower in the US intelligence community filed a complaint with Michael Atkinson, the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community (ICIG), regarding a matter of “urgent concern.”

After reviewing the complaint, Atkinson determined it was “credible” and forwarded it on August 26 to the acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire, a Trump appointee.

The Democratic-led House Intelligence Committee is demanding that the whistle-blower’s complaint be turned over but Maguire has declined to share it.

According to The Washington Post, the complaint concerned a “promise” Trump made in a phone call with a foreign leader, widely reported to be the July 25 conversation with Zelensky.

Impeachment

More than 150 of the 235 Democratic members of the 435-seat US House of Representatives have come out in favour of impeachment or the opening of an impeachment inquiry against Trump for abuse of power.

A president can be impeached by a simple majority of the House.

The case would then be sent to the Republican-controlled Senate, where a two-thirds majority is necessary to remove a president from office.

No Republicans have come out in favour of impeachment.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House, has been reluctant to embrace impeachment so far but pressure has been building on the lawmaker from California to go down that road.

Trump on Tuesday said calls for his impeachment were “ridiculous.”

“It’s a witch hunt,” he said.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Chris Lefkow
Chris Lefkow is an AFP correspondent based in Washington.

Related stories

Review: Cohen’s fire lacks fuel in ‘Borat’ sequel

The film interrogates patriarchy, but the baseness of the US means there’s nothing left to send up

Joe Biden’s debate guests run the only Zimbabwean restaurant in America

A Zimbabwean restaurant feeding people in need formed an unlikely addition to Joe Biden’s election campaign

No mention of Africa when it comes to US foreign policy

During pre-election debates in the United States, very little has been said on how they view one of the world’s largest markets — which, in turn, is determined to come into its own

How US foreign policy under Donald Trump has affected Africa

Lesotho has been used as a microcosm in this article to reflect how the foreign policy has affected Africa

Why would anyone vote for Trump?

COMMENT: For this gay, white soldier there simply isn’t a good enough challenger to knock him off his perch

Richard Calland: South Africa needs a Roosevelt style of leadership

President Cyril Ramaphosa needs to hold ‘fireside chats’ and have more power and institutional muscle around him, writes Richard Calland
Advertising

Subscribers only

The shame of 40 000 missing education certificates

Graduates are being left in the lurch by a higher education department that is simply unable to deliver the crucial certificates proving their qualifications - in some cases dating back to 1992

The living nightmare of environmental activists who protest mine expansion

Last week Fikile Ntshangase was gunned down as activists fight mining company Tendele’s expansions. Community members tell the M&G about the ‘kill lists’ and the dread they live with every day

More top stories

Fifteen witnesses for vice-chancellor probe

Sefako Makgatho University vice-chancellor Professor Peter Mbati had interdicted parliament last month from continuing with the inquiry

Constitutional Court ruling on restructuring dispute is good for employers

A judgment from the apex court empowers employers to change their workers’ contracts — without consultation

Audi Q8: Perfectly cool

The Audi Q8 is designed to be the king in the elite SUV class. But is it a victim of its own success?

KZN officials cash in on ‘danger pay for Covid-19’

Leadership failures at Umdoni local municipality in KwaZulu-Natal have caused a ‘very unhappy’ ANC PEC to fire the mayor and chief whip
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday