At the heart of the impeachment process against President Trump lies the question of whether or not the President misused the power of his office to coerce a foreign power to initiate an investigation against his political rival. The specific question at issue is whether Trump used the promise of US military aid to Ukraine as leverage to get his opposite number to investigate alleged corruption or misuse of influence by former US Vice President Joe Biden to benefit his own son, Hunter.
There has been no evidence presented to suggest (let alone prove) that either Biden has acted illegally, but the issue is not their actions, but those of the President in using his influence to get a foreign power to start an investigation into American citizens – this would be an impeachable “high crime or misdemeanour” which could lead to impeachment.
Trump seems to be unaware that what may pass in American corporate life as acceptable use of financial muscle, part of “the art of the deal” is beyond the pale when you are a head of state.
In the most recent set of developments, the US ambassador to the EU (a Trump appointee from the world of business) Gordon Sondland, has asked for his original testimony to the impeachment enquiry to be revised from a blanket denial that there was a quid pro quo linking US military aid to the prospects of a Biden investigation to a statement that there was:
“By the beginning of September 2019, and in the absence of any credible explanation for the suspension of aid, I presumed that the aid suspension had become linked to the proposed anti-corruption statement”.
Similarly, just yesterday Adam Schiff, the Democrat leading the impeachment enquiry, said that career diplomat, Bill Taylor, would appear in a televised, open session next week to expand on his written submission to the inquiry. That testimony has been corroborated from other sources and refers to two state department officials stating that President Trump would not “sign a check” for the $400 million military aid package until Ukraine delivered on its side of the deal.
It remains unlikely that a full vote of the Senate would provide enough votes to have Trump removed from office, but it is a near certainty that formal charges will be brought against him. The hearings are likely to rumble on for months, probably taking the affair into the New Year when Mr Trump is expected to stand for re-election.