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What’s coming in impeachment: The inquiry goes public

House committees will determine whether President Donald Trump violated his oath of office by asking Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden’s family and the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Demonstrators march on Pennsylvania Avenue protesting President Donald Trump, in Washington, Friday, Nov. 8, 2019. [JOSE LUIS MAGANA                         |  AP]
Demonstrators march on Pennsylvania Avenue protesting President Donald Trump, in Washington, Friday, Nov. 8, 2019. [JOSE LUIS MAGANA | AP]
Published Nov. 11
Updated Nov. 11

WASHINGTON (AP) — For only the fourth time in U.S. history, the House of Representatives has started a presidential impeachment inquiry. House committees are trying to determine whether President Donald Trump violated his oath of office by asking Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden’s family and the 2016 U.S. presidential election all while the White House was withholding military aid to the East European ally that borders Russia.

A quick forecast of what's coming this week:

LIGHTS, CAMERAS, HEARINGS

Americans will have their first public view of the impeachment inquiry, as the proceedings emerge from the secure closed-door facility in the Capitol basement to live hearings.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., will gavel in the sessions Wednesday and Friday.

What’s unclear, though, is what people will see in two days of hearings. Will the proceedings serve as a clarifying moment for the country, when a common narrative emerges over the president’s actions and whether or not they are, in fact, impeachable? Or in this era of peak partisanship, will the days devolve into a reality-TV episode showcasing the divide?

Unlike Watergate in the 1970s or even Bill Clinton's impeachment in the 1990s, Americans consume their news at different times and in different ways, making it hard to know if this week will produce a where-were-you-when moment.

SPOTLIGHT ON WITNESSES

Bill Taylor. George Kent. Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch.

Once little-known State Department officials are about to become household names as they testify publicly in the impeachment inquiry.

Taylor, a Vietnam War veteran who has spent 50 years in public service, will set the tone as the first witness. All three have testified in the closed setting, defying the White House's instructions not to comply. But they are providing a remarkably consistent account of the Trump administration's actions.

Republicans want to hear from others, including Biden’s son Hunter, as well as the anonymous government whistleblower who sparked the impeachment inquiry, but Democrats who have majority control are not likely to agree to those requests.

PERSUADING VOTERS

Republicans have struggled to articulate a unified defense of Trump. Democrats have had difficulty synthesizing their arguments into a simple narrative for the public.

Both will be sharpening efforts to persuade American voters.

Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" what the public will hear is "immensely patriotic, beautiful articulated — articulate people telling the story of a president who — let's forget quid pro quo; quid pro quo is one of these things to muddy the works — who extorted a vulnerable country by holding up military aid."

But Republicans have focused their attacks with a resolution criticizing the House process. Some in the party want to reveal the name of the government whistleblower.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on Fox News Channel's "Sunday Morning Futures," ''I consider any impeachment in the House that doesn't allow us to know who the whistleblower is to be invalid, because without the whistleblower complaint, we wouldn't be talking about any of this."

Graham added that there's a "need for Hunter Biden to be called to adequately defend the president. And if you don't do those two things, it's a complete joke."

WHAT WILL TRUMP DO?

For those watching television Wednesday afternoon, the president is offering some counterprogramming to the impeachment inquiry's public hearing: a joint news conference with Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, amid strains in relations between the two nations.

On impeachment, the president tried to give his allies on Capitol Hill some talking points Sunday, tweeting out his advice for how they should defend him — namely by insisting, as he did, that his call with the Ukrainian president was "PERFECT."

"Read the Transcript!" Trump intoned on Twitter. "There was NOTHING said that was in any way wrong. Republicans, don't be led into the fools trap of saying it was not perfect, but is not impeachable. No, it is much stronger than that. NOTHING WAS DONE WRONG!"

The White House released a rough transcript of his July call and Trump also says he will release, probably on Tuesday, an account of an April phone call he had with Ukraine’s leader, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, soon after Zelenskiy won election.

Testimony in the closed proceedings shows that the April congratulatory call did not raise concerns, but the tone shifted on the July call that caused alarms among U.S. officials.

MORE TRANSCRIPTS, MORE HEARINGS COMING

House investigators have been steadily releasing transcripts from hundreds of pages of testimony they received behind closed doors.

More transcripts are expected. Nearly a dozen people have testified in the inquiry and investigators are building the public record of their findings. But this week's hearings will probably not be the last.

House investigators may still call others to testify, most likely Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an Army officer assigned to the National Security Council, and Fiona Hill, a former White House adviser on Russia. Both testified behind closed doors of their concerns about the Trump administration's effort to push Ukraine to investigate Democrats.

Eventually the Intelligence Committee will send a report of its findings to the Judiciary Committee, which would decide whether to pursue articles of impeachment against the president. A House vote on impeachment could come by Christmas.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, center top, speaking during a House Judiciary Committee markup of the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, in Washington. (Matt McClain/Pool via AP) [MATT MCCLAIN  |  AP]
    Speaker Nancy Pelosi is confident Democrats will have the votes to impeach the president next week but said it is up to individual lawmakers to weigh the evidence and decide for themselves.
  2. This Sept. 12, 2019 file photo shows a University of Tennessee shirt in Knoxville, Tenn., using the design of a Florida fourth-grader who was bullied.  Sales of the T-shirt have raised over $950,000 for an anti-bullying organization. Tennessee officials said Wednesday that 112,715 shirts have been sold in the three months since it was created. (AP Photo/Steve Megargee, File) [STEVE MEGARGEE  |  AP]
    Tennessee officials said Wednesday that 112,715 shirts have been sold in the past three months.
  3. Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg addresses plenary of U.N. climate conference during with a meeting with leading climate scientists at the COP25 summit in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday. Thunberg is in Madrid where a global U.N.-sponsored climate change conference is taking place. (AP Photo/Paul White) [PAUL WHITE  |  AP]
    It’s not the first time the President has lashed out after not being recognized for his influence.
  4. Harvey Weinstein leaves court following a hearing, Wednesday in New York. Weinstein’s bail was increased from $1 million to $5 million on Wednesday over allegations he violated bail conditions by mishandling his electronic ankle monitor. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan) [MARK LENNIHAN  |  AP]
    The settlement ends nearly every sexual misconduct lawsuit brought against Weinstein and his former film studio’s board.
  5. Orthodox Jewish men gather outside a Brooklyn synagogue prior to a funeral for Mosche Deutsch, Wednesday in New York. Deutsch, a rabbinical student from Brooklyn, was killed Tuesday in the shooting inside a Jersey City, N.J. market. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan) [MARK LENNIHAN  |  AP]
    Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop called the bloodshed a hate crime against Jews, as did New York’s mayor and governor.
  6. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, rubs his face during a House Judiciary Committee markup of the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, Wednesday, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) [JACQUELYN MARTIN  |  AP]
    Democrats and Republicans delivered sharp, poignant and, at times, personal arguments for and against impeachment.
  7. This photo provided by Time magazine shows Greta Thunberg, who has been named Time’s youngest “person of the year” on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019.   The media franchise said Wednesday on its website that Thunberg is being honored for work that transcends backgrounds and borders.  (Time via AP) [AP]
    She rose to fame after cutting class in August 2018 to protest climate change.
  8. Police officers arrive at the scene following reports of gunfire, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019, in Jersey City, N.J.  AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez) [EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ  |  AP]
    It ended four hours and hundreds of spent bullets later, with the two suspects killed by police.
  9. Police officers arrive at the scene following reports of gunfire, Tuesday, in Jersey City, N.J.  AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez) [EDUARDO MUNOZ  |  AP]
    Sporadic, heavy gunfire rang out over the course of at least an hour along a major thoroughfare.
  10. In this Sept. 24, 2018 file photo Bill Cosby arrives for his sentencing hearing at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa. A Pennsylvania appeals court has rejected Cosby’s bid to overturn his sexual assault conviction. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File) [MATT SLOCUM  |  AP]
    Cosby, 82, can now ask the state Supreme Court to consider his appeal.
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