Political junkies may recall the day of the last general election as a bizarre marathon, which involved watching hours of sacked FBI chief James Comey giving testimony to Congress, before settling down to an all-nighter watching the dramatic UK results come in. In a further twist that perfectly encapsulates our time, events in the USA are about to rival our election coverage again.
It was clear back then that the TrumpRussia scandal was going to run and run – indeed I’ve been writing about in on these pages since before he was elected – but predicting how and when it would reach a crescendo anything but. Lengthy legal processes are hard for an impatient modern media, let alone furious activists, to comprehend. Suddenly, at last, it is all coming to a head.
The impeachment inquiry has been ongoing for a month, producing one remarkable, damning testimony after another. Today, the televised hearings begin. The networks have said they will cut into regular programming with coverage. Just as Americans prepare to sit down for Thanksgiving, the crimes of their President will be heard by a far greater number than ever before.
There isn’t enough space here to go through the evidence and allegations in detail – this timeline lists the main developments. In short, one witness after another has confirmed that pressure from the White House was brought to bear on the Ukraine government – which is desperately reliant on US military aid to defend themselves from Russia – to dig up dirt on Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, in order to influence the 2020 election.
In truth, nobody who follows my Twitter timeline would regard me as a neutral commentator. I’ve been adamant since watching the Russia conspiracy unfold in real-time during 2016 that Trump is an asset of the Kremlin, with deep links to transnational organised crime, and the direct beneficiary of their hacking and social media operations. Numerous events since he took office – from the details laid out by Robert Mueller, the sacking, smearing or targeting of the lead experts on Russian organised crime, to abandoning the Kurds in Syria – have reinforced my view.
First witness has already shown ‘quid pro quo’
If you’re betting on these events, do therefore bear in mind my opening perspective, then judge the evidence for yourself. The first witness is Ambassador William Taylor, a military veteran and leading US diplomat in Ukraine, who has already testified that the Trump administration indeed sought to withhold military aid and defended his ousted predecessor, Marie Yovanovitch. That testimony appears to amount to the smoking gun, the ‘quid pro quo’ that amounts to an impeachable offence.
Former Ambassador Yovanovitch is to give evidence on Friday and this, for me, is the must-see, bombshell session. Her testimony has already revealed how she was threatened, bullied and intimidated by allies of Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani in sinister fashion. Having been told to watch her back, her superiors warned her to return home immediately for her own security.
Expect to hear more from Fiona Hill, the White House’s top expert on Russia, who has also endured harrassment, intimidation and received death threats. She’s already testified that she believes Trump has been targeted by the Kremlin for decades.