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.
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.
President Donald Trump has branded a whistleblower allegation that he made a promise to a foreign leader – believed to be Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky – as a “ridiculous story”.
Donald Trump said his talks with leaders were always “totally appropriate”.
According to reports, President Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter – who was on a Ukrainian gas company board – in return for more US military support.
Joe Biden is frontrunner to be the Democrat’s 2020 presidential candidate.
He wrote in a statement: “If these reports are true, then there is truly no bottom to President Trump’s willingness to abuse his power and abase our country.”
Joe Biden called on President Trump to “immediately release” a transcript of the phone call “so that the American people can judge for themselves”.
In its report on the complaint by the whistleblower, the Washington Post said the intelligence official had found President Trump’s comment to the foreign leader “so troubling” that they went to the department’s inspector general.
The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, quoted sources as saying President Trump had urged President Zelensky about eight times to work with his lawyer Rudy Giuliani on an investigation into Joe Biden’s son, but had not offered anything in return.
On September 20, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that reports of the complaint raised “grave, urgent concerns” for US national security.
Presidents Trump and Zelensky spoke by phone on July 25. The whistleblower’s complaint is dated August 21.
Donald Trump described the complaint as “just another political hack job”.
Speaking alongside Australia’s leader Scott Morrison in the White House, the president said: “It’s a ridiculous story. It’s a partisan whistleblower. He shouldn’t even have information. I’ve had conversations with many leaders. They’re always appropriate.”
President Trump also called for Joe Biden’s finances to be scrutinized.
He told reporters: “It doesn’t matter what I discussed, someone ought to look into Joe Biden’s billions of dollars and you wouldn’t look into that because he’s a Democrat.”
On September 19, President Trump wrote on Twitter that he knew all his phone calls to foreign leaders were listened to by US agencies.
Ukraine says President Trump and President Zelensky will meet next week in New York during the UN General Assembly.
Democrats are trying to get the complaint turned over to Congress, with many details still unknown.
Earlier this month, before the whistleblower’s complaint came to light, House Democrats launched an investigation into President Trump and Rudy Giuliani’s interactions with Ukraine.
Three Democratic panel heads – Eliot Engel (foreign affairs), Adam Schiff (intelligence) and Elijah Cummings (oversight) – said Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani had attempted “to manipulate the Ukrainian justice system to benefit the president’s re-election campaign and target a possible political opponent”.
They allege that President Trump and Rudy Giuliani tried to pressure the Ukrainian government into investigating Joe and Hunter Biden.
Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky has scored a landslide victory in Ukraine’s presidential election.
With nearly all ballots counted in the run-off vote, Volodymyr Zelensky, 41, had taken more than 73% with incumbent Petro Poroshenko trailing far behind on 24%.
He told celebrating supporters: “I will never let you down.”
Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev commented in a Facebook post that Russia wants Volodymyr Zelensky to show “sound judgement”, “honesty” and “pragmatism” so that relations can improve. Russia backs separatists in eastern Ukraine.
He said he expected Volodymyr Zelensky to “repeat familiar ideological formulas” that he used in the election campaign, adding: “I have no illusions on that score.
“At the same time, there is a chance to improve relations with our country.”
Petro Poroshenko, who admitted defeat after the first exit polls were published, has said he will not be leaving politics.
He told voters that Volodymyr Zelensky was too inexperienced to stand up to Russia effectively.