Trump impeachment: Republican strategy relies on conspiracy theories — and calling the whole thing boring.

While Democrats have focused on evidence provided by the two witnesses called before the House Intelligence Committee’s first public impeachment hearing, Republicans had a much different strategy.

Instead of paying heed to observable realities, Republicans focused almost immediately on undermining the whole process, and giving national airtime to baseless conspiracy theories and distractions akin to the type of opinion coverage Americans have come to know well from conservative media personalities like Fox News’s Sean Hannity.

From the outset, the tone from Republican counsel Steve Castor and ranking member Devin Nunes was markedly different from the otherwise sober approach of congressman Adam Schiff, Democrats and their chosen counsel.

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Let’s take a look at some of the most prominent examples:

“We should forget about them reading fabrications of Trump-Russia collusion from the Steele dossier into the public record. We should also forget about them attempting to obtain nude pictures of Trump from Russian pranksters who pretended to be Ukrainian officials. We should forget about them leaking a false story to CNN while he was still testifying to our committee claiming that Donald Trump Jr was colluding with WikiLeaks. And forget about countless other deceptions large and small that make them the last people on Earth with the credibility to hurl more preposterous accusations at their political opponents.”

Trump impeachment: Who's who in the Ukraine scandal

Show all 22

Donald Trump
The Whistleblower
The Second Whistleblower
Rudy Giuliani

Trump impeachment: Who's who in the Ukraine scandal

Donald Trump

1/22 Donald Trump

Accused of abusing his office by pressing the Ukrainian president in a July phone call to help dig up dirt on Joe Biden, who may be his Democratic rival in the 2020 election. He also believes that Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails - a key factor in the 2016 election - may be in Ukraine, although it is not clear why.

Reuters

The Whistleblower

2/22 The Whistleblower

Believed to be a CIA agent who spent time at the White House, his complaint was largely based on second and third-hand accounts from worried White House staff. Although this is not unusual for such complaints, Trump and his supporters have seized on it to imply that his information is not reliable. Expected to give evidence to Congress voluntarily and in secret.

Getty

The Second Whistleblower

3/22 The Second Whistleblower

The lawyer for the first intelligence whistleblower is also representing a second whistleblower regarding the President's actions. Attorney Mark Zaid said that he and other lawyers on his team are now representing the second person, who is said to work in the intelligence community and has first-hand knowledge that supports claims made by the first whistleblower and has spoken to the intelligence community's inspector general. The second whistleblower has not yet filed their own complaint, but does not need to to be considered an official whistleblower.

Getty

Rudy Giuliani

4/22 Rudy Giuliani

Former mayor of New York, whose management of the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in 2001 won him worldwide praise. As Trump’s personal attorney he has been trying to find compromising material about the president’s enemies in Ukraine in what some have termed a “shadow” foreign policy. In a series of eccentric TV appearances he has claimed that the US state department asked him to get involved. Giuliani insists that he is fighting corruption on Trump’s behalf and has called himself a “hero”.

AP

Volodymyr Zelensky

5/22 Volodymyr Zelensky

The newly elected Ukrainian president - a former comic actor best known for playing a man who becomes president by accident - is seen frantically agreeing with Trump in the partial transcript of their July phone call released by the White House. With a Russian-backed insurgency in the east of his country, and the Crimea region seized by Vladimir Putin in 2014, Zelensky will have been eager to please his American counterpart, who had suspended vital military aid before their phone conversation. He says there was no pressure on him from Trump to do him the “favour” he was asked for. Zelensky appeared at an awkward press conference with Trump in New York during the United Nations general assembly, looking particularly uncomfortable when the American suggested he take part in talks with Putin.

AFP/Getty

Mike Pence

6/22 Mike Pence

The vice-president was not on the controversial July call to the Ukrainian president but did get a read-out later. However, Trump announced that Pence had had “one or two” phone conversations of a similar nature, dragging him into the crisis. Pence himself denies any knowledge of any wrongdoing and has insisted that there is no issue with Trump’s actions. It has been speculated that Trump involved Pence as an insurance policy - if both are removed from power the presidency would go to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, something no Republican would allow.

AP

Rick Perry

7/22 Rick Perry

Trump reportedly told a meeting of Republicans that he made the controversial call to the Ukrainian president at the urging of his own energy secretary, Rick Perry, and that he didn’t even want to. The president apparently said that Perry wanted him to talk about liquefied natural gas - although there is no mention of it in the partial transcript of the phone call released by the White House. It is thought that Perry will step down from his role at the end of the year.

Getty

Joe Biden

8/22 Joe Biden

The former vice-president is one of the frontrunners to win the Democratic nomination, which would make him Trump’s opponent in the 2020 election. Trump says that Biden pressured Ukraine to sack a prosecutor who was investigating an energy company that Biden’s son Hunter was on the board of, refusing to release US aid until this was done. However, pressure to fire the prosecutor came on a wide front from western countries. It is also believed that the investigation into the company, Burisma, had long been dormant.

Reuters

Hunter Biden

9/22 Hunter Biden

Joe Biden’s son has been accused of corruption by the president because of his business dealings in Ukraine and China. However, Trump has yet to produce any evidence of corruption and Biden’s lawyer insists he has done nothing wrong.

AP

William Barr

10/22 William Barr

The attorney-general, who proved his loyalty to Trump with his handling of the Mueller report, was mentioned in the Ukraine call as someone president Volodymyr Zelensky should talk to about following up Trump’s preoccupations with the Biden’s and the Clinton emails. Nancy Pelosi has accused Barr of being part of a “cover-up of a cover-up”.

AP

Mike Pompeo

11/22 Mike Pompeo

The secretary of state initially implied he knew little about the Ukraine phone call - but it later emerged that he was listening in at the time. He has since suggested that asking foreign leaders for favours is simply how international politics works.

AFP via Getty

Nancy Pelosi

12/22 Nancy Pelosi

The Democratic Speaker of the House had long resisted calls from within her own party to back a formal impeachment process against the president, apparently fearing a backlash from voters. On September 24, amid reports of the Ukraine call and the day before the White House released a partial transcript of it, she relented and announced an inquiry, saying: “The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law.”

Getty

Adam Schiff

13/22 Adam Schiff

Democratic chairman of the House intelligence committee, one of the three committees leading the inquiry. He was criticized by Republicans for giving what he called a “parody” of the Ukraine phone call during a hearing, with Trump and others saying he had been pretending that his damning characterisation was a verbatim reading of the phone call. He has also been criticised for claiming that his committee had had no contact with the whistleblower, only for it to emerge that the intelligence agent had contacted a staff member on the committee for guidance before filing the complaint. The Washington Post awarded Schiff a “four Pinocchios” rating, its worst rating for a dishonest statement.

Reuters

Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman

14/22 Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman

Florida-based businessmen and Republican donors Lev Parnas (pictured with Rudy Giuliani) and Igor Fruman were arrested on suspicion of campaign finance violations at Dulles International Airport near Washington DC on 9 October. Separately the Associated Press has reported that they were both involved in efforts to replace the management of Ukraine's gas company, Naftogaz, with new bosses who would steer lucrative contracts towards companies controlled by Trump allies. There is no suggestion of any criminal activity in these efforts.

Reuters

Kurt Volker

15/22 Kurt Volker

The former US ambassador to NATO was appointed special envoy to Ukraine, and is thought to have played a role in linking Giuliani with Ukraine officials. He resigned just before giving evidence to Congress, which had subpoenaed him. After his testimony it emerged that he had apparently told Giuliani that he was being fed false information about the Bidens from Ukrainian officials.

Getty Images

Marie Yovanovitch

16/22 Marie Yovanovitch

A career diplomat who was appointed US ambassador to Ukraine towards the end of Barack Obama’s presidency. She was abruptly recalled from her post in May 2019 amid claims that she was not co-operating with Rudy Giuliani’s unorthodox activities in Ukraine. In the Ukraine phone call Trump refers to her as “the woman” and “bad news” and hints darkly at some sort of retribution, saying: “Well, she’s going to go through some things.” Yovanovitch told House investigators in October that she felt as though she were targeted by a false accusations from Giuliani and his associates, who allegedly viewed her as a threat to their political and financial interests. She also said that State Department officials had told her she did nothing wrong, and that her abrupt removal was not related to her performance. Trump had simply lost faith in her abilities. Expected to testify publicly before House committee on 15 November.

AP

Gordon Sondland

17/22 Gordon Sondland

A Seattle hotelier who became US ambassador to the European Union after donating $1 million to Trump’s inauguration committee, despite having no diplomatic experience. According to the whistleblower, Sondland met Ukrainian politicians to help them “understand and respond to the differing messages they were receiving from official US channels on one hand and from Mr GIuliani on the other”. Sondland told House investigators during October 2019 testimony that he had been disappointed with Trump's decision to involve his personal lawyer in dealings with Kiev — and stated that the president refused counsel from his top diplomats, and demanded Volodymyr Zelensky satisfy his concerns about corruption. Those diplomats had told Trump to meet with Zelensky without preconditions, according to Sondland. His testimony is at odds with the testimony of some other foreign policy officials, however, who indicated that Sondland was a willing participant.

Reuters

George Kent

18/22 George Kent

A career diplomat, he was number two at the Ukraine embassy under Marie Yovanovitch. Kent testified before House investigators in October 2019 that he was cut out of Ukraine policymaking after a May meeting orchestrated by acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and was told to "lay low". The deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs said that he though it was "wrong" that he was sidelines by Trump's inner circle. Following the May meeting, Kent said he was edged out by Gordon Sondland, Kurt Volker, and Rick Perry, who "declared themselves the three people now responsible for Ukraine policy", according to a politician who attended the closed door testimony. Expected to testify publicly to House committee on 12 November.

AFP via Getty Images

Ulrich Brechbuhl

19/22 Ulrich Brechbuhl

An adviser to secretary of state Mike Pompeo, with whom he has run businesses. The two were also at West Point military academy together. Swiss-born Brechbuhl is said to handle “special diplomatic assignments”. Subpoenaed to give evidence to Congress in November.

US State Department

Philip Reeker

20/22 Philip Reeker

Philip Reeker, the acting assistant secretary of State, testified that he did not find out about a push by the Trump administration to force Ukraine to publicly announce an investigation into former vice president Joe Biden until the whistleblower complaint was made public. While he was asked about any quid pro quo in that regard, Reeker indicated he was in the dark and so could not provide further details. But, he did fill in details during his October 2019 testimony on the circumstances surrounding the firing of Marie Yovanovitch. Democrats described his testimony has providing further backup to other testimony they had heard.

AP

William Taylor

21/22 William Taylor

William Taylor, the top US diplomat to Ukraine, testified during an October 2019 hearing in the house that American aid to Ukraine was explicitly tied to the country's willingness to investigate Donald Trump's political rival. Taylor's testimony was explosive, and made him a key witness to the Trump administration's efforts to use the force of the American government to push a politically motivated investigation against Joe Biden. He said the efforts came through an "irregular, informal channel of US policy-making" led by Rudy Giuliani, Kurt Volker, Rick Perry, and Gordon Sondland. Expected to publicly testify before House committee on 13 November.

AP

Alexander Vindman

22/22 Alexander Vindman

Lietenant colonel Alexander Vindman is a top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, and a decorated Iraq war veteran. He planned to tell the House impeachment inquiry that he heard Donald Trump appeal to Ukraine's president to investigate his leading political rivals. Mr Vindman said he considered the request so damaging to American interests that he reported it to a superior — twice. He is the first person to testify before the House impeachment inquiry who actually listened in on the 25 July phone call, in which Trump urged Volodymyr Zelensky to start an investigation into Joe Biden.

Getty Images

Donald Trump

1/22 Donald Trump

Accused of abusing his office by pressing the Ukrainian president in a July phone call to help dig up dirt on Joe Biden, who may be his Democratic rival in the 2020 election. He also believes that Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails - a key factor in the 2016 election - may be in Ukraine, although it is not clear why.

Reuters

The Whistleblower

2/22 The Whistleblower

Believed to be a CIA agent who spent time at the White House, his complaint was largely based on second and third-hand accounts from worried White House staff. Although this is not unusual for such complaints, Trump and his supporters have seized on it to imply that his information is not reliable. Expected to give evidence to Congress voluntarily and in secret.

Getty

The Second Whistleblower

3/22 The Second Whistleblower

The lawyer for the first intelligence whistleblower is also representing a second whistleblower regarding the President's actions. Attorney Mark Zaid said that he and other lawyers on his team are now representing the second person, who is said to work in the intelligence community and has first-hand knowledge that supports claims made by the first whistleblower and has spoken to the intelligence community's inspector general. The second whistleblower has not yet filed their own complaint, but does not need to to be considered an official whistleblower.

Getty

Rudy Giuliani

4/22 Rudy Giuliani

Former mayor of New York, whose management of the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in 2001 won him worldwide praise. As Trump’s personal attorney he has been trying to find compromising material about the president’s enemies in Ukraine in what some have termed a “shadow” foreign policy. In a series of eccentric TV appearances he has claimed that the US state department asked him to get involved. Giuliani insists that he is fighting corruption on Trump’s behalf and has called himself a “hero”.

AP

Volodymyr Zelensky

5/22 Volodymyr Zelensky

The newly elected Ukrainian president - a former comic actor best known for playing a man who becomes president by accident - is seen frantically agreeing with Trump in the partial transcript of their July phone call released by the White House. With a Russian-backed insurgency in the east of his country, and the Crimea region seized by Vladimir Putin in 2014, Zelensky will have been eager to please his American counterpart, who had suspended vital military aid before their phone conversation. He says there was no pressure on him from Trump to do him the “favour” he was asked for. Zelensky appeared at an awkward press conference with Trump in New York during the United Nations general assembly, looking particularly uncomfortable when the American suggested he take part in talks with Putin.

AFP/Getty

Mike Pence

6/22 Mike Pence

The vice-president was not on the controversial July call to the Ukrainian president but did get a read-out later. However, Trump announced that Pence had had “one or two” phone conversations of a similar nature, dragging him into the crisis. Pence himself denies any knowledge of any wrongdoing and has insisted that there is no issue with Trump’s actions. It has been speculated that Trump involved Pence as an insurance policy - if both are removed from power the presidency would go to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, something no Republican would allow.

AP

Rick Perry

7/22 Rick Perry

Trump reportedly told a meeting of Republicans that he made the controversial call to the Ukrainian president at the urging of his own energy secretary, Rick Perry, and that he didn’t even want to. The president apparently said that Perry wanted him to talk about liquefied natural gas - although there is no mention of it in the partial transcript of the phone call released by the White House. It is thought that Perry will step down from his role at the end of the year.

Getty

Joe Biden

8/22 Joe Biden

The former vice-president is one of the frontrunners to win the Democratic nomination, which would make him Trump’s opponent in the 2020 election. Trump says that Biden pressured Ukraine to sack a prosecutor who was investigating an energy company that Biden’s son Hunter was on the board of, refusing to release US aid until this was done. However, pressure to fire the prosecutor came on a wide front from western countries. It is also believed that the investigation into the company, Burisma, had long been dormant.

Reuters

Hunter Biden

9/22 Hunter Biden

Joe Biden’s son has been accused of corruption by the president because of his business dealings in Ukraine and China. However, Trump has yet to produce any evidence of corruption and Biden’s lawyer insists he has done nothing wrong.

AP

William Barr

10/22 William Barr

The attorney-general, who proved his loyalty to Trump with his handling of the Mueller report, was mentioned in the Ukraine call as someone president Volodymyr Zelensky should talk to about following up Trump’s preoccupations with the Biden’s and the Clinton emails. Nancy Pelosi has accused Barr of being part of a “cover-up of a cover-up”.

AP

Mike Pompeo

11/22 Mike Pompeo

The secretary of state initially implied he knew little about the Ukraine phone call - but it later emerged that he was listening in at the time. He has since suggested that asking foreign leaders for favours is simply how international politics works.

AFP via Getty

Nancy Pelosi

12/22 Nancy Pelosi

The Democratic Speaker of the House had long resisted calls from within her own party to back a formal impeachment process against the president, apparently fearing a backlash from voters. On September 24, amid reports of the Ukraine call and the day before the White House released a partial transcript of it, she relented and announced an inquiry, saying: “The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law.”

Getty

Adam Schiff

13/22 Adam Schiff

Democratic chairman of the House intelligence committee, one of the three committees leading the inquiry. He was criticized by Republicans for giving what he called a “parody” of the Ukraine phone call during a hearing, with Trump and others saying he had been pretending that his damning characterisation was a verbatim reading of the phone call. He has also been criticised for claiming that his committee had had no contact with the whistleblower, only for it to emerge that the intelligence agent had contacted a staff member on the committee for guidance before filing the complaint. The Washington Post awarded Schiff a “four Pinocchios” rating, its worst rating for a dishonest statement.

Reuters

Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman

14/22 Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman

Florida-based businessmen and Republican donors Lev Parnas (pictured with Rudy Giuliani) and Igor Fruman were arrested on suspicion of campaign finance violations at Dulles International Airport near Washington DC on 9 October. Separately the Associated Press has reported that they were both involved in efforts to replace the management of Ukraine's gas company, Naftogaz, with new bosses who would steer lucrative contracts towards companies controlled by Trump allies. There is no suggestion of any criminal activity in these efforts.

Reuters

Kurt Volker

15/22 Kurt Volker

The former US ambassador to NATO was appointed special envoy to Ukraine, and is thought to have played a role in linking Giuliani with Ukraine officials. He resigned just before giving evidence to Congress, which had subpoenaed him. After his testimony it emerged that he had apparently told Giuliani that he was being fed false information about the Bidens from Ukrainian officials.

Getty Images

Marie Yovanovitch

16/22 Marie Yovanovitch

A career diplomat who was appointed US ambassador to Ukraine towards the end of Barack Obama’s presidency. She was abruptly recalled from her post in May 2019 amid claims that she was not co-operating with Rudy Giuliani’s unorthodox activities in Ukraine. In the Ukraine phone call Trump refers to her as “the woman” and “bad news” and hints darkly at some sort of retribution, saying: “Well, she’s going to go through some things.” Yovanovitch told House investigators in October that she felt as though she were targeted by a false accusations from Giuliani and his associates, who allegedly viewed her as a threat to their political and financial interests. She also said that State Department officials had told her she did nothing wrong, and that her abrupt removal was not related to her performance. Trump had simply lost faith in her abilities. Expected to testify publicly before House committee on 15 November.

AP

Gordon Sondland

17/22 Gordon Sondland

A Seattle hotelier who became US ambassador to the European Union after donating $1 million to Trump’s inauguration committee, despite having no diplomatic experience. According to the whistleblower, Sondland met Ukrainian politicians to help them “understand and respond to the differing messages they were receiving from official US channels on one hand and from Mr GIuliani on the other”. Sondland told House investigators during October 2019 testimony that he had been disappointed with Trump's decision to involve his personal lawyer in dealings with Kiev — and stated that the president refused counsel from his top diplomats, and demanded Volodymyr Zelensky satisfy his concerns about corruption. Those diplomats had told Trump to meet with Zelensky without preconditions, according to Sondland. His testimony is at odds with the testimony of some other foreign policy officials, however, who indicated that Sondland was a willing participant.

Reuters

George Kent

18/22 George Kent

A career diplomat, he was number two at the Ukraine embassy under Marie Yovanovitch. Kent testified before House investigators in October 2019 that he was cut out of Ukraine policymaking after a May meeting orchestrated by acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and was told to "lay low". The deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs said that he though it was "wrong" that he was sidelines by Trump's inner circle. Following the May meeting, Kent said he was edged out by Gordon Sondland, Kurt Volker, and Rick Perry, who "declared themselves the three people now responsible for Ukraine policy", according to a politician who attended the closed door testimony. Expected to testify publicly to House committee on 12 November.

AFP via Getty Images

Ulrich Brechbuhl

19/22 Ulrich Brechbuhl

An adviser to secretary of state Mike Pompeo, with whom he has run businesses. The two were also at West Point military academy together. Swiss-born Brechbuhl is said to handle “special diplomatic assignments”. Subpoenaed to give evidence to Congress in November.

US State Department

Philip Reeker

20/22 Philip Reeker

Philip Reeker, the acting assistant secretary of State, testified that he did not find out about a push by the Trump administration to force Ukraine to publicly announce an investigation into former vice president Joe Biden until the whistleblower complaint was made public. While he was asked about any quid pro quo in that regard, Reeker indicated he was in the dark and so could not provide further details. But, he did fill in details during his October 2019 testimony on the circumstances surrounding the firing of Marie Yovanovitch. Democrats described his testimony has providing further backup to other testimony they had heard.

AP

William Taylor

21/22 William Taylor

William Taylor, the top US diplomat to Ukraine, testified during an October 2019 hearing in the house that American aid to Ukraine was explicitly tied to the country's willingness to investigate Donald Trump's political rival. Taylor's testimony was explosive, and made him a key witness to the Trump administration's efforts to use the force of the American government to push a politically motivated investigation against Joe Biden. He said the efforts came through an "irregular, informal channel of US policy-making" led by Rudy Giuliani, Kurt Volker, Rick Perry, and Gordon Sondland. Expected to publicly testify before House committee on 13 November.

AP

Alexander Vindman

22/22 Alexander Vindman

Lietenant colonel Alexander Vindman is a top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, and a decorated Iraq war veteran. He planned to tell the House impeachment inquiry that he heard Donald Trump appeal to Ukraine's president to investigate his leading political rivals. Mr Vindman said he considered the request so damaging to American interests that he reported it to a superior — twice. He is the first person to testify before the House impeachment inquiry who actually listened in on the 25 July phone call, in which Trump urged Volodymyr Zelensky to start an investigation into Joe Biden.

Getty Images

There are quite a few accusations here, and none of them are directly related to whether the president sought to coerce the Ukrainian government to investigate his rivals for him:

Among the accusations is an apparent attack on the Trump-Russia statements from Democrats, many of which were supported by a lengthy investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. The second one is a reference to an attempt by comedians who obtained Mr Schiff’s personal phone number and offered him nudes — only to be told by the Democrat to speak to the FBI. And, that final accusation is that the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr, colluded with the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks (a group Mr Trump Jr himself has admitted having had correspondence with).

Later in his opening statement, Mr Nunes accused Democrats of fostering a “cult-like atmosphere” as he continued his effort to undermine the hearing to protect Mr Trump.

“What about the additional six witnesses?” … “Mr Chairman will you be prohibiting witnesses from answering members’ questions as you have in the closed door depositions?"

Early on, Republicans sought to derail the proceedings with interjections and procedural points of order. These questions came from congresswoman Elise Stefanik, who suggested with them that Democrats are not allowing Republicans on the committee to freely ask their own questions and bring forward their own witnesses that may help Mr Trump.

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Mr Schiff responded to Ms Stefanik saying that Republicans are allowed to call on their own witnesses, and that he only stopped questioning during the closed door testimony when Republicans were riding dangerously close to publicly identifying the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the investigation.

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The whistleblower’s identity is protected by federal law.

Speaking of the whistleblower: Republicans Mike Conaway and Jim Jordan also attempted to focus the hearings on the anonymous official, with Mr Conway asking that they subpoena them for private hearings, and Mr Jordan asking when they might vote on that measure.

“... about the Manafort black ledgers in August of 2016. The very day that was published Mr Manafort resigned from the campaign, correct?” … “Certainly that gives rise to some concern that there were elements of the Ukrainian establishment that were out to get the president, that’s a very reasonable belief of his, correct?” … “In the run up to the 2016 election, there is many facts that remain unresolved, agreed?”

Mr Castor is here referring to a ledger that listed $12.7 million in secret payments made to Paul Manafort — Mr Trump’s former campaign chairman — from his client Viktor Yanukovych, the Russian-aligned oligarch who ruled Ukraine until 2014. Mr Manafort is now in jail in part because he failed to disclose or pay taxes on that income out of Ukraine. Russians, now, have begun to portray Mr Manafort as a victim of plotting on behalf of Serhiy Leschenko, who played a key role in bringing that ledger forward.

What’s important in this context is that the witness being questioned, Mr Taylor, appears to have little idea how to respond to these questions, which go much beyond the allegations (which have largely been corroborated by witnesses and evidence) against Mr Trump.

That may be in part because it falls far beyond the bounds of the impeachment inquiry. Also because Mr Taylor, who became the chief US diplomat to Ukraine earlier this year, had previously left his office as US ambassador to Ukraine in 2009 (well before these black ledger concerns were disclosed).

Noting that Mr Zelensky has claimed publicly that he did not feel pressure to investigate Mr Biden, fearing the withholding of US aid: “That’s not second hand information, it’s not hearsay, that’s not something that someone overheard ambassador [Gordon] Sondland say that was his direct testimony Mr Taylor did you have any evidence to assert that president Zelensky was lying when he said those things.” … “So, in this impeachment hearing today where we impeach presidents for treason or bribery or other high crimes, where is the impeachable offence in that call, are either of you here to day to assert there was an impeachable offense in that call? Shout it out. Anyone?”

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This line of questioning came from Republican congressman John Ratcliffe, who is known for his fierce defence of Mr Trump.

There are a couple things worth noting here. First: It’s not hard to imagine a foreign leader putting a smiling face on while addressing the world press, and that Mr Zelensky may not have seen the moment as the best to accuse Mr Trump of the exact scandal that is currently rocking his presidency.

Beyond that, it’s hardly the acting US ambassador to Ukraine’s role to determine what is and is not an impeachable offence. That power lands on the shoulders, actually, of folks like Mr Ratcliffe — meaning, that’s up to Congress.

Mr Ratcliffe also made the whole thing personal to Mr Zelensky in referencing those statements, saying that impeaching Mr Trump amounts to calling Mr Zelensky a liar.

“Now we understand what president [Barack] Obama meant when he told Russian president [Dmitri] Medvedev that he would have more flexibility after his election. Maybe that flexibility was to deny lethal aid to the Ukraine allowing Russia to march right in and kill Ukrainians. Again in your deposition you urged the Obama administration to provide lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine in order to deter further Russian aggression. And now they have that under this administration, don’t they, mr ambassador?”

This question, from Republican congressman Brad Wenstrup, is referencing a 2012 conversation between Mr Obama and Mr Medvedev that was captured on a hot mic, in which the American suggested he would have “more flexibility” to negotiate nuclear missile defence agreements between the two countries. It had nothing to do with allowing Russia to annexe Crimea, which it did in 2014 — resulting in a swift response from the Obama administration, including sanctions.

Five of the biggest congressional hearings in US history

Mr Taylor, who was being asked the question, did note that Javelin anti-tank missiles have been provided to Ukraine under the Trump administration. Mr Obama’s administration placed limits on what it considered “offensive lethal weaponry” like the Javelins — though it did provide radar and communications equipment.

But, beyond these pesky facts — this hearing is about Mr Trump allegedly pressuring Ukraine to investigate his rival. Mr Trump, it is worth noting, has been much warmer with Russia than Mr Obama.

“This sham hearing is not only boring, it is a colossal waste of taxpayer time & money.”

This was White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham’s take on the hearings, though she was not in attendance.

Mr Trump himself suggested in the Oval Office that wasn’t even watching the hearings: “I’m too busy to watch it. It’s a witch hunt, it’s a hoax, I’m too busy to watch it. So, I’m sure I’ll get a report. There’s nothing — I have not been briefed. There’s nothing there. I see they’re using lawyers that are television lawyers, they took some guys off television. You know. I’m not surprised to see it, because Schiff can’t do his own questions.”

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