The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday launched its first public hearing in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
At the center of the investigation is a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which Trump repeatedly pressured Zelensky to investigate his political rival and a bogus conspiracy theory alleging Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.
A cascade of witness testimony revealed that the phone call was just one data point in a months-long effort to force Ukraine to accede to Trump's political demands while withholding vital security assistance and a White House meeting that Zelensky desperately sought. On Tuesday, the House Intelligence Committee released a report concluding that the president engaged in "conditioned a White House meeting and military aid to Ukraine on a public announcement of investigations beneficial to his reelection campaign."
The pressure campaign was spearheaded by Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who acted at Trump's direction. But Gordon Sondland, the US's ambassador to the EU, testified last month that "everyone" was in the loop, including top brass at the State Department and within the White House.
Until Wednesday, the House Intelligence Committee conducted impeachment hearings that featured fact witnesses and were geared toward getting the evidence together before handing the investigation off to the judiciary committee. By contrast, the judiciary's hearing was focused on laying out the case for and against impeachment by Democrats and Republicans, respectively. But the event quickly deteriorated into a partisan political affair.