The president was preparing to watch the Capitol Hill proceedings on his TV in the White House. “The circus is coming to town,” Mr Trump wrote in a series of tweets quoting one of his supporters, Fox News personality Sean Hannity, who called the inquiry “another fraudulent hoax conspiracy theory”.
The new phase of the impeachment bid was beginning with the testimony of William Taylor, acting US ambassador to Ukraine, and George Kent, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. They were expected to draw a direct link between the freeze of a Congress-backed US military aid package to Ukraine and Mr Trump’s demand for the country’s president to launch a public probe into the business dealings of Democrat presidential frontrunner Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
The inquiry was triggered by a 30-minute phone call between Mr Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25.
In the call, Mr Zelensky said Ukraine was ready to buy more Javelin anti-tank missiles from the US. “I would like you to do us a favour, though,” Mr Trump said. He asked Mr Zelensky to work with his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and attorney general William Barr to look into Mr Biden and his son, who was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.
The case against the US president is that he sought to leverage his position to achieve personal political ends. Mr Trump says no pressure was applied.
Transcripts from the previous behind-closed-doors evidence given by both envoys have already been released.
White House officials say they will be “aggressively pushing back” against what they see as an “incredibly unfair process” orchestrated by Democrats.
If, as expected, the Democrat-led House of Representatives votes in favour of impeachment, the process could end in a Senate “trial” and a vote on Mr Trump’s removal from office.
In 1998, President Bill Clinton faced an impeachment hearing over his Oval Office fling with intern Monica Lewinsky. He was acquitted by the Senate.