The explosive testimony of a senior American diplomat, William Taylor, gave the Democrats a key to unlocking his case of political trial against US President Donald Trump, which will soon be presented to the public.
Although the Trump administration tries to block witnesses and retain documents, the investigation has managed to capture testimonies that outline an unofficial communication channel with Ukraine by the president and his closest advisors, which seems to have focused on taking advantage of foreign policy United States to dig up dirt from a political rival.RELATED
Taylor's testimony was a crucial piece of a puzzle that had already been assembled in part through other testimonies, including that of the former US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovich, and Fiona Hill, who had been Trump's main advisor for Russia and Europe.
Taylor's chronology, based on first-hand conversations and contemporary notes, helps complete an image of the president using foreign aid assigned by Congress and a visit to the Oval Office to pressure Ukraine for a political favor.
The defense organized by the president and his Republican allies has so far focused mainly on criticizing Democrats for maintaining private testimony and selectively filtering the most damaging aspects, in addition to denying that there has been a quid pro quo in a conversation between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in July.
To expose his point of view, about two dozen members of the House of Republican Representatives broke into the safe courtroom on Wednesday, stopping the interrogation of a Pentagon official for more than five hours.
"We have the right, as members of Congress, to know what is happening there," said Representative David Rouzer, a Republican from North Carolina. "None of this is classified information."
Several Democrats participating in the political trial investigation led by three House committees, which include Republican lawmakers, said they expect the witnesses' closed-door interviews to conclude in about two weeks. Then the public hearings would follow.
Such hearings would mitigate Republican criticism of the closed-door proceedings so far and under that time frame, the vote on the articles of political judgment would be in December. There is concern of some Democrats that extending the investigation too far until December, or beyond the 2020 election year, would expose them to Republican claims that the effort has more to do with the election than with the Constitution.
Public hearings would likely include some of the same witnesses who have spoken in the last two weeks about their concern for a parallel diplomacy with Ukraine, led by Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. That could include Taylor, whose testimony has even paused some Republicans.
"The image based on the reports we have seen is, I would say, not very good," South Dakota Republican Senator John Thune told reporters. "But I would also say that, once again, until we have a process that allows everyone to see this with complete transparency, it is quite difficult to draw fast conclusions." Even so, there has not been a significant break in Trump support among Republicans in Congress.
A witness who may not testify is the anonymous informant from the intelligence community that led Democrats to focus on Ukraine. The three main Republicans in the intelligence, supervision and reform and foreign affairs committees: Devin Nuñes, of California; Jim Jordan of Ohio; and Michael McCaul, of Texas, published a letter Wednesday night expressing surprise that the informant will not be called.
Trump was encouraging Republicans to be more aggressive in countering Democrats by political trial and has questioned the credibility of witnesses and, especially, the informant. The president met with a group of Republican lawmakers in the White House on Tuesday and gave his support to Wednesday's protest, according to people familiar with the matter.
Once public hearings begin, Democrats will make a decision on whether more research work is needed before drafting articles of political judgment, a step that many lawmakers in both parties consider inevitable.
The chairman of the House Rules Committee, Jim McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said House President Nancy Pelosi has made it clear that the body will move carefully. "We are going to build a case," he said, "and if there is a case, we will move forward."