The die is cast; Impeaching the president.

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Date: Dec. 14, 2019
From: The Economist(Vol. 433, Issue 9173)
Publisher: Economist Intelligence Unit N.A. Incorporated
Document Type: Article
Length: 2,774 words
Lexile Measure: 1350L

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It can be tricky

It can be tricky

It can be tricky

The politics and history behind the third ever impeachment of anAmerican president

ON JULY 26TH, the day after President Donald Trump called the president of Ukraine to ask him for a favour, America's ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, went out to lunch in Kyiv. The ambassador, who secured his position after donating $1m to the Trump Presidential Inaugural Committee, placed a call to the White House while on the terrace outside a restaurant. He held the phone far enough away from his ear that David Holmes, a counsellor for political affairs at the embassy in Kyiv lunching with him, could overhear what was said.

"I heard Ambassador Sondland greet the president and explain he was calling from Kyiv," Mr Holmes testified to the House intelligence committee on November 15th. "I heard President Trump then clarify that Ambassador Sondland was in Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland replied yes, he was in Ukraine and went on to state that President [Volodymyr] Zelensky, quote, unquote, loves your ass. I then heard President Trump ask, quote, so he's going to do the investigation? Ambassador Sondland replied that he's going to do it, adding that President Zelensky will, quote, do anything you ask him to."

What Mr Trump had asked Mr Zelensky to do is not in dispute. On September 25th the White House released a memorandum of the conversation between the two presidents that had taken place the day before that lunchtime call. Mr Trump wanted Mr Zelensky to investigate the far-fetched idea that some faction in Ukraine might have worked to implicate Russia in meddling with America's 2016 presidential election. He also wanted him to announce an investigation into corruption at Burisma, an act which might be expected to harm the reputation of Hunter Biden, an American lawyer who sat on the gas company's board, and his father, Joe Biden, who is quite likely to be Mr Trump's opponent in the 2020 presidential election. There is no evidence that Mr Trump had any interest in other investigations into corruption in Ukraine, of which there are plenty.

The first of the two draft articles of impeachment against Mr Trump which Jerry Nadler (pictured above), the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, published on December 10th treats the request the president made of Mr Zelensky as an abuse of power made "for corrupt purposes in pursuit of personal political benefit."

Mr Zelensky, the House says, did not simply feel the level of pressure to be expected when a recently invaded supplicant is asked for a favour by the president of the largest military power in the world. The article charges Mr Trump with using both government channels and other means to tell Mr Zelensky's team that two things which they wanted--a meeting at the White House and the release of military aid--were conditional on their granting Mr Trump the favour he had asked for.

Mr Sondland testified that the announcement of investigations was indeed...

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