Washington, Dec 19 (IANS) In a historic move, the Democrat-controlled US House of Representatives has voted to impeach President Donald Trump, the third time it has done so in the nation’s history.
Trump has been accused of withholding nearly $400 million in congressionally approved military aid to pressure Ukraine’s new President Volodymyr Zelensky into launching an inquiry into his 2020 Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. But Trump has denied all the allegations against him.
The House on Wednesday night voted on two articles of impeachment – first, accusing the President of abuse of power, second, obstruction of Congress.
The first article was approved by a vote of 230-197, while the second received 229 to 198 votes.
Besides Trump, the other important people involved in the impeachment process.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky:
A former TV star, Zelensky was elected President in a landslide win this April. On July 25, Trump spoke to Zelensky in a call that became the crux of the impeachment inquiry. In the call, Trump asked his counterpart to “look into” the Bidens and also investigate them.
Joe and Hunter Biden:
Former Vice President Joe Biden is one of the leading contenders in the Democrat Party’s 2020 presidential race. If chosen, he will be the man facing Trump for the presidency next November.
Trump has alleged that Joe Biden abused his power while in office and put pressure on Ukraine to back away from a criminal investigation that could implicate his son, Hunter.
Hunter Biden’s involvement relates to his position on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company, which he held for almost five years from 2014. While his father was Vice President, Ukraine’s most senior prosecutor was investigating the company but was then dismissed.
But the Ukrainian prosecutor told the BBC in an interview that there was no reason for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and that any corruption within Burisma happened before Hunter Biden joined the board.
The whistleblower first wrote to the Chairmen of Senate committees on August 12 expressing concern over the July 25 Trump-Zelensky phone call. It also alleged that the White House had acted to “lock down” all details of the call, and that the call transcript was not stored in the usual computer system.
It was first revealed that the whistleblower was a US intelligence officer. But lawyers said later that a second whistleblower from the intelligence community had come forward.
Lawyers then said that “multiple” whistleblowers had emerged, though little has been heard about them since then.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched the formal impeachment inquiry against Trump on September 24, saying the President “must be held accountable”. After the Wednesday night vote, Pelosi said that it was “a great day for the Constitution” but “a sad day for America”.
Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer and one of his most vocal cheerleaders, has been central in pushing the suggestion that the Bidens were involved in wrongdoing in Ukraine. He has been speaking to Ukraine’s former and incumbent prosecutors about the case since late last year.
Kurt Volker, the US government’s former special envoy to Ukraine, was the middleman between the White House and Zelensky’s government, and appears to have helped urge the Ukrainians to investigate the Bidens, the BBC said.
Gordon Sondland, the US Ambassador to the European Union, first came under scrutiny after text messages surfaced that showed him discussing an effort to put pressure on Ukraine.
Last month, he gave closed-door testimony to Congress in which he denied that military aid was withheld from Ukraine for political reasons. But, in a major reversal, he later revised his testimony and said he had told a Ukrainian official that the aid “likely” hinged on the country opening a political inquiry.
Bill Taylor, the Acting Ambassador to Ukraine, was the first official to testify in public televised hearings in Congress. He told a private hearing that it was his “clear understanding” that the President had withheld military aid because he wanted Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
He also said that Giuliani was behind the drive to get Ukraine to announce an investigation.