Trump takes multiple hits with House inquiry, Stone conviction

Steven T. Dennis, Bloomberg News on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- Donald Trump's presidency was dealt multiple blows this week as impeachment testimony portrayed him as fixated on squeezing a political favor from Ukraine, a one-time confidant was convicted of lying to Congress and new details emerged about a federal investigation of his personal lawyer.

Over two days of public hearings, a trio of career diplomats outlined what they saw as a back-channel pressure campaign on Ukraine led at Trump's direction by Rudy Giuliani. It was an effort that sometimes relied on corrupt elements in Ukraine, they said, and was aimed at securing investigations that would damage one of Trump's political rivals.

Their testimony was bolstered by the deposition that David Holmes, a current official at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv, delivered behind closed doors on Friday. Holmes detailed a phone call between Trump and a top diplomat, which directly implicates the president in that pressure campaign.

Eight more current and former administration officials are scheduled to testify next week, including two with direct involvement in parts of the Ukraine saga at the center of the impeachment inquiry being conducted by House Democrats.

Despite the onslaught of bad news, there is no sign yet of a break in Trump's wall of GOP support in Congress. While the Democratic majority in the House appears headed toward impeaching the president, it's unlikely at this point that 20 GOP senators are ready to abandon Trump and provide the two-thirds majority needed to remove him from office.

The bigger risk for the president may be that the wall-to-wall coverage of the proceedings prove politically damaging for him ahead of his 2020 reelection campaign.


With the White House blocking Trump's closest aides from cooperating, Democrats have been building a narrative through the mostly secondhand accounts of experienced diplomats, who are accustomed to taking careful notes and tying together threads of evidence.

On Wednesday, William Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador in Ukraine, and State Department official George Kent described coming to the realization that Trump's allies were leading a "highly irregular" channel of parallel diplomacy that diverged from established U.S. policy approved by Congress.

That was reinforced Friday by Marie Yovanovitch, who was recalled as the ambassador to Ukraine in May following what she said was a "smear campaign" led by Giuliani and his associates. She said being ousted in that manner damaged U.S. policy and gave "shady interests the world over" a lesson in how to get rid of an American envoy who doesn't give them what they want.

"Our leadership depends on the power of our example and the consistency of our purpose. Both have now been opened to question," Yovanovitch told the House Intelligence Committee on Friday.


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