Trump impeachment: How Ukraine story unfolded
This week, millions of Americans have for the first time seen and heard evidence from the impeachment inquiry when the first public hearings were beamed into living rooms. How did we get to this point?
It’s only the fourth time in US history that an American president has faced the peril of being forced from the White House.
Mr Trump is accused of withholding nearly $400m (GBP327m) in military aid in order to pressurise Ukraine’s new president into launching an inquiry into his 2020 Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son. But the US president denies doing anything wrong.
This is a complicated story. Here’s a simple guide to the sequence of events – in three parts.
- April 2019: A comedian with no political experience, Volodymyr Zelensky, is elected president of Ukraine
- Ukraine has been in a conflict with Russia since the annexation of its southern peninsula Crimea in 2014
- 23 May: White House meeting between Trump and the self-titled Three Amigos – EU ambassador Gordon Sondland, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Ukraine special envoy Kurt Volker. The three had just returned from Zelensky’s inauguration and they want Trump to call him to offer support and arrange a meeting. But the president, according to testimony, said he was sceptical that Ukraine was serious about tackling corruption and he directed them to talk to his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani
- 10 July: Two advisers to Zelensky are told by Sondland in a White House meeting that “investigations” must go forward. US Ambassador to Ukraine, Fiona Hill, later testified that when she recounted that conversation to National Security Adviser John Bolton, he told her he wanted no part of this “drug deal” and she should report it to White House lawyers
- 18 July: Military aid approved by US Congress is halted – the reasons for this later become hotly contested
- 25 July: Trump and Zelensky speak by phone in a call that becomes central to the inquiry. In a rough transcript released by the White House, the US president asks his counterpart to “look into” Biden and his son Hunter, who was a board member of a Ukrainian gas company.
- 26 July: President Trump asks about “investigations” into the Bidens, in a phone call overheard by a member of staff of Bill Taylor, the acting US ambassador to Ukraine. Mr Sondland, who took the call, told this member of staff the president was more interested in the Bidens than Ukraine
A whistleblower comes forward
- 12 Aug: A CIA officer who learns of the call files a whistleblower complaint (pictured above) with the intelligence community watchdog, the inspector general.
- 5 Sept: Washington Post reports the story
- 10 Sept: House asks for info on the whistleblower complaint
- 11 Sept: Military aid is restarted
- 24 Sept: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opens impeachment inquiry
- 25 Sept: White House releases a transcript of the July phone call
- 26 Sept: Whistleblower complaint released – it alleges Mr Trump used “the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country” in next year’s presidential election
- 17 Oct: White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney admits military aid to Ukraine was withheld partly to pressure Kyiv to investigate allegations involving the Democrats and the 2016 election. He later backtracks
- 22 Oct: Bill Taylor, former ambassador to Ukraine, tells congressional investigators there was a link between military aid and investigation of Bidens
- 23 Oct: Republicans storm impeachment testimony to protest about closed door hearings
- 31 Oct: Democratic-controlled House approves a resolution making impeachment process formal and promises public hearings
- 4 Nov: Former US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, tells inquiry she felt threatened by Mr Trump
- 5 Nov: US ambassador to EU, Gordon Sondland, revises his initial testimony to declare he now remembers saying US aid did depend on an investigation sought by Mr Trump
- 13 Nov: Public hearings begin, with Bill Taylor, the acting US ambassador to Ukraine, testifying about the overheard phone call and the president’s alleged preoccupation with the Bidens
Learn more about Trump and impeachment inquiry
- SIMPLE GUIDE: A basic take on what’s going on
- GO DEEPER: Here’s a 100, 300 and 800-word summary of the story
- WHAT’S IMPEACHMENT? A political process to remove a president
- VIEW FROM TRUMP COUNTRY: Hear from residents of a West Virginia town
- ON THE DOORSTEP: A Democrat sells impeachment to voters