President Donald Trump has been invited to the Congress’ first impeachment hearing on December 4.
Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerrold Nadler said President Trump could either attend or “stop complaining about the process”.
If the president does attend, he would be able to question witnesses.
The hearing would mark the next stage in the impeachment inquiry, which centers on a July phone call between PresidentTrump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
In that call, President Trump asked Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden, currently the front-runner to be the Democratic candidate in next year’s presidential election, and his son Hunter Biden, who had previously worked for Ukrainian energy company Burisma.
The probe is looking into whether President Trump used the threat of withholding US military aid to pressure Ukraine into investigating the Bidens. Donald Trump has denied any wrongdoing and has called the inquiry a “witch hunt”.
Last week, the House Intelligence Committee wrapped up two weeks of public hearings, which followed several weeks of closed-door witness interviews.
Democratic chairman of the Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff said the committees leading the probe – Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs – are now working on their report, which will be issued on December 3.
On November 26, the latest transcript of inquiry evidence was released, detailing testimony by senior budget official Mark Sandy.
Mark Sandy told the House investigators that two White House budget officials had resigned following the withholding of military aid to Ukraine. He said that one, a lawyer, had expressed concern that the action could be a violation of a 1974 budget law.
Jerrold Nadler said in a statement that he had written to President Trump inviting him to the hearing next month.
He said: “At base, the president has a choice to make.
“He can take this opportunity to be represented in the impeachment hearings, or he can stop complaining about the process.
“I hope that he chooses to participate in the inquiry, directly or through counsel, as other presidents have done before him.”
In his letter to the president, Jerrold Nadler said the hearing would be an opportunity to discuss the historical and constitutional basis for impeachment.
He has given President Trump until 18:00 EST on December 1 to confirm whether or not he will be at the hearing, and if so, to let the committee know who his counsel will be.
The Judiciary Committee is expected to begin drafting articles of impeachment – which are the charges of wrongdoing against the president – in early December.
After a vote in the Democratic-controlled House, a trial would be held in the Republican-run Senate.
If Donald Trump was convicted by a two-thirds majority – an outcome deemed highly unlikely – he would become the first US president to be removed from office through impeachment.
Former White House aide Fiona Hill has told the impeachment inquiry that President Donald Trump disregarded the advice of senior advisers to push a false theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election.
She said the president had instead listened to the views of his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
Fiona Hill called the claims about Ukraine a “fictional narrative”.
The inquiry is assessing if President Trump withheld aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival.
President Trump denies any wrongdoing.
According to a discredited theory, it was Ukrainians or individuals with Ukrainian connections who interfered in the 2016 vote, rather than Russia.
In a phone call with the Ukrainian president, President Trump urged him to look into the claims as well as open an investigation into Joe Biden, one of the main Democratic presidential candidates.
November 21 is fifth and last scheduled day of public hearings by the House Intelligence Committee.
In her opening statement, Fiona Hill – the former top Russia experts to the White House – accused other Republicans of sowing doubt about Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
She said: “Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country – and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did.”
Fiona Hill urged lawmakers not to promote “politically driven falsehoods” that cast doubt on Russia’s interference in US elections.
“This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves,” she said.
During Fiona Hill’s testimony, Democratic lawyer Daniel Goldman asked her: “So is it your understanding then that President Trump disregarded the advice of his senior officials about this theory and instead listened to Rudy Giuliani’s views?”
“That appears to be the case, yes,” she replied.
In her later testimony, Fiona Hill warned that Rudy Giuliani had been making “explosive” and “incendiary” claims about Ukraine.
She said: “He was clearly pushing forward issues and ideas that would, you know, probably come back to haunt us.
“I think that’s where we are today.”
Fiona Hill testified that she had a couple of “testy encounters” with Gordon Sondland – the US ambassador to the EU who testified on November 20 – over Ukraine, because the ambassador did not keep her informed of “all the meetings he was having”.
US ambassador to Ukraine David Holmes also testified at November 21 hearing.
In his opening statement, David Holmes said that his work at the embassy in Kiev became overshadowed in 2019 by the actions of Rudy Giuliani.
He said: “I became aware that Mr. Giuliani, a private lawyer, was taking a direct role in Ukrainian diplomacy.”
David Holmes added that he was “shocked” on July 18 when an official from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced that military aid to Ukraine was being withheld.
State department official David Holmes has said at the impeachment inquiry that a US diplomat told Donald Trump Ukraine would carry out investigations the president had asked for.
David Holmes said he had overheard this during a call in July between President Trump and the US envoy to the EU, Gordon Sondland.
He said the call came a day after President Trump asked Ukraine to probe ex-VP Joe Biden.
President Trump has dismissed the impeachment inquiry as “presidential harassment”.
The inquiry is investigating whether Donald Trump withheld US military aid to Ukraine in order to pressure the country’s new President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce a corruption inquiry into Joe Biden, now his rival for the presidency.
On November 15, President Trump launched a Twitter attack on another witness – former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
He tweeted in the middle of her testimony: “Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad.
“She started off in Somalia, how did that go?”
Asked for her response, Marie Yovanovitch called it “very intimidating”.
President Trump later hit back, arguing his tweets were not intimidating “at all”. He told reporters he had watched part of the impeachment hearing and considered it “a disgrace”.
David Holmes testified behind closed doors before us lawmakers in Washington DC.
The diplomatic aid said he had overheard the phone call between President Trump and Ambassador Sondland in which “investigations” are said to have been discussed.
He said Gordon Sondland called President Trump from a restaurant in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv on July 26, 2019.
According to a copy of his opening statement obtained by CBS News, David Holmes said: “Sondland told Trump that [Ukrainian President] Zelensky ‘loves your ass.'”
“I then heard President Trump ask, ‘So, he’s gonna do the investigation?’
“Ambassador Sondland replied that ‘he’s gonna do it’, adding that President Zelensky will do ‘anything you ask him to’.”
Observers have drawn attention to the security implications of making the call from a restaurant, potentially exposing the conversation to eavesdropping by Russian intelligence.
David Holmes’ deposition appears to corroborate the testimony given to the impeachment inquiry by US ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor on November 13.
Bill Taylor said one of his aides heard the same chat.
The aide said President Trump had asked about “investigations” and Gordon Sondland had replied that Ukraine was ready to move forward.
According to Bill Taylor, Gordon Sondland then told the aide that the president cared more about the investigation of the Bidens than anything else involving Ukraine.
The call – which Donald Trump has denied any knowledge of – allegedly happened the day after the now-famous Trump-Zelensky phone call.
While giving her evidence, Marie Yovanovitch was alerted to the president’s criticism by the hearing’s chairman Adam Schiff.
Responding directly to Donald Trump’s tweet, in which he appeared to blame her for upheaval in Somalia, Marie Yovanovitch replied: “I don’t think I have such powers, not in Mogadishu and Somalia and not in other places.
“I actually think that where I’ve served over the years I and others have demonstrably made things better, you know, for the US as well as for the countries that I’ve served in.”
Marie Yovanovitch’s response was broadcast live during the televised hearing.
Adam Schiff, the Democratic Chairman of the Intelligence Committee overseeing the impeachment inquiry, suggested the president’s tweets could be classed as witness intimidation.
Marie Yovanovitch was removed as ambassador to Kyiv in May, two months before a controversial phone call between President Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, which is now key to the inquiry.
Bill Taylor, the acting US ambassador to Ukraine, told impeachment hearings that President Trump directly asked about a Ukrainian investigation into his Democratic rival Joe Biden.
In previously unheard testimony, Bill Taylor said a member of his staff was told President Trump was preoccupied with pushing for a probe into Joe Biden.
The top diplomat was speaking at the first public hearings in the impeachment inquiry.
President Trump told reporters he did not recall making such comments.
The president is accused of withholding US military aid to Ukraine in order to pressure the country’s new president to publicly announce a corruption inquiry into Joe Biden, among the favorites to take him on in the 2020 presidential race.
President Trump denies any wrongdoing and has called the inquiry a “witch-hunt”.
During a detailed opening statement, Bill Taylor said a member of his staff had overheard a telephone call in which the president inquired about “the investigations” into Joe Biden.
The call was with US ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland, who reportedly told the president over the phone that “the Ukrainians were ready to move forward”.
After the call, the staff member “asked ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine”, Bill Taylor said.
Bill Taylor said: “Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden.”
When asked about Gordon Sondland earlier this month, the president had said: “I hardly know the gentleman.”
Responding to queries from reporters after the hearing, President Trump said: “I know nothing about that, first time I’ve heard it.”
He said he recalled Gordon Sondland’s testimony, in which the diplomat said he spoke to the president “for a brief moment” and President Trump had “said no quid pro quo under any circumstances”.