Tag Archives: President Donald Trump

Democrats unveil Trump impeachment articles, including abuse of power, obstruction of Congress

House Democrats announced two articles of impeachment Tuesday against President Donald Trump – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – pushing toward historic votes over charges he corrupted the U.S. election process and endangered national security. 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, flanked by the chairmen of the impeachment inquiry committees, stood at the Capitol in what she called a “solemn act.” Voting is expected in a matter of days in the Judiciary Committee and by Christmas in the full House. Trump insisted he did “NOTHING” wrong.

“He endangers our democracy, he endangers our national security,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the Judiciary chairman announcing the charges before a portrait of George Washington. “Our next election is at risk… That is why we must act now.”

Trump tweeted ahead of the announcement that impeaching a president with a record like his would be “sheer Political Madness!”

The outcome, though, appears increasingly set as the House prepares for voting, as it has only three times in history against a U.S. president.

In drafting the articles of impeachment, Pelosi is facing a legal and political challenge of balancing the views of her majority while hitting the Constitution’s bar of “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Some liberal lawmakers wanted more expansive charges encompassing the findings from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Centrist Democrats preferred to keep the impeachment articles more focused on Trump’s actions toward Ukraine. House Democrats have announced two articles of impeachment charging President Donald Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The charges unveiled Tuesday stem from Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to announce investigations of his political rivals as he withheld aid to the country.


Trump speaks with Israel's Netanyahu about Iran, other issues

U.S. President Donald Trump spoke on Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about Iran and other issues, the White House said in a brief statement.

“The leaders discussed the threat from Iran, as well as other critical bilateral and regional issues,” the White House said in an email statement.

Relations between Iran and the United States have worsened since last year when Trump pulled out of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and reimposed sanctions on the country.


Taliban says ‘way too early’ to speak of resuming talks with US after Trump’s statement

The Taliban said on Friday it was “way too early” to speak of resuming direct talks with Washington. The statement came a day after US President Donald Trump said during a surprise visit to Afghanistan that the US was again meeting with the militants.

“It is way too early to talk about the resumption of talks for now. We will give our official reaction later,” the group’s official spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, told AFP in a WhatsApp message.

However, Mujahid was quoted by Reuters on Friday as saying that the insurgent group was “ready to restart the talks,” which collapsed in September after Trump called them off. “Our stance is still the same. If peace talks start, they will be resumed from the stage where they’d stopped,” Mujahid said, according to the report.

It added that Taliban leaders say the group has been holding meetings with senior US officials in Doha, Qatar, since last weekend and formal peace talks could soon be resumed.


Syrian president remains skeptical about Daesh leader’s death

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has once again cast doubt on his US counterpart Donald Trump’s claim that Daesh ringleader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in an operation by the US military last month, calling the much-publicized operation a “fantastic play” staged by the Americans.

Assad made the remarks in an interview with the French magazine Paris Match published on Wednesday.

Trump announced Baghdadi’s death in a military raid by US forces in Syria’s Idlib province late in October. During his announcement Trump, thanked the Syrian government, among others, for helping with the operation.

When asked whether Damascus really gave the US information on al-Baghdadi’s whereabouts, Assad said he “always laughs when this question is raised, because the more important question which should be asked is: was al-Baghdadi really killed or not? And did this “fantastic play” staged by the Americans take place in reality?”

Asked again why Trump thanked him, Assad said, “It’s one of Trump’s cute jokes. It’s a joke.”

The interview comes a few weeks after Assad told the Syria TV news network that the US operation to kill al-Baghdadi was little more than a trick, because US politics “is no different from Hollywood; it relies on mere imagination, not even science fiction.”

Elsewhere in the Wednesday interview, Assad lashed out at certain countries, including Turkey, the US, Britain and France for providing support to terrorists in Syria.

He said that the presence of French troops on the Syrian territory without an invitation from the Damascus government is considered an “occupation,” and a form of terrorism, calling on Paris to return to the international law and to stop everything that could increase the bloodshed and and suffering in Syria.

“France, Britain, and America are violating international law under the pretext of supporting the Kurds, who are a part of the Syrian population, not an independent group,” Assad added.

Assad also said that foreign members of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group held in jails currently run by the US-allied Kurds in northern Syria will stand trial in local courts specialized in terrorism cases.

“Every terrorist in the areas controlled by the Syrian state will be subject to Syrian law, and Syrian law is clear concerning terrorism. We have courts specialized in terrorism and they will be prosecuted,” he said.

The Syrian president further criticized Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for “trying to blackmail Europe” in the issue of extraditing terrorists to their home countries.

“Erdogan is trying to blackmail Europe.  A self-respecting man doesn’t talk like this.  There are institutions and there are laws.  Extraditing terrorists or any convicted person to another state is subject to bilateral agreements between countries; but to release people from prison knowing that they are terrorists and sending them to other countries to kill civilians – this is an immoral act,” said Assad.

Earlier this month, Erdogan warned Western nations that he would continue to release people who were thought to be members of the Daesh terrorist group and send them back to their home countries if governments continued to pressure Turkey with sanctions over its offensive in Syria.

Most European countries are refusing to take back their citizens, who joined the terror group, and a number of French Daesh prisoners received death sentences in trials in Iraq.


Trump considering testifying in House impeachment probe

U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday he is “strongly” considering testifying in the House of Representatives’ ongoing impeachment investigation.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered Trump the opportunity to testify under oath during an interview with CBS’ Face the Nation Sunday morning television program.

Trump, Pelosi said, “could come right before the committee and talk, speak all the truth that he wants if he wants.”

“If he has information that is exculpatory, that means ex, taking away, culpable, blame, then we look forward to seeing it,” Pelosi said. “He has every opportunity to present his case.”

Saying he is weighing her offer, Trump continued to lash out at the impeachment probe and Pelosi, whom he dubs “Nervous Nancy,” calling the House’s investigation a “phony Impeachment Witch Hunt.”

“Even though I did nothing wrong, and don’t like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea & will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!” Trump wrote in a pair of tweets.

The Democrat-led impeachment process is investigating whether Trump abused the power of his office in seeking to have Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky open corruption probes into Democratic challenger Joe Biden on hitherto uncorroborated claims of corruption, as well as the hold-up of some $400 million in congressionally-appropriated military aid.

Trump has denied wrongdoing as the process has gathered steam and moved into the public arena with nationally-televised hearings of senior diplomats and officials.

Three witnesses, including the U.S.’s ousted top diplomat to Ukraine — Marie Yovanovitch, testified last week.

An ABC News/Ipsos poll released Monday found some 70% of Americans think Trump’s request to a foreign leader to open the probe into Biden and his son, Hunter, was wrong.

Moreover, the poll indicated that a majority of Americans — 51% — now believe the president should be impeached and removed from office. The poll did note that just over 20% of respondents said they had been following the process closely.


Trump says he will consider testifying in impeachment inquiry

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday said he might be willing to testify in the impeachment inquiry “even though I did nothing wrong,” although House Democrats leading the investigation have not publicly called him as a witness.

“Even though I did nothing wrong, and don’t like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea & will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!” Trump tweeted.


Spotlight: Trump-Erdogan summit far from eliminating problems in ties: analysts

The recent meeting between the Turkish and U.S. presidents at the White House simply served to temporarily decrease strain in bilateral ties without settling any of the major problems between the two NATO allies, Turkish analysts said.

“I don’t think this meeting would have any significant impact, positive or negative, on bilateral ties,” said Haldun Solmazturk, who chairs the Incek debates at the Ankara-based 21st Century Turkey Institute.

“The problems remain as before,” he told Xinhua.

In a bid to sort out the growing problems in bilateral relations, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump on Wednesday.

“The encounter ended with little progress to show, yet the leaders succeeded in giving an appearance of harmony and agreement,” said Faruk Logoglu, a former senior diplomat.

Turkey-U.S. ties have soured in recent years due largely to Ankara’s purchase of Russian-made S-400 air defense system, rapprochement between Ankara and Moscow and Washington’s military support to the Kurdish militia in Syria.

A cross-border military operation Turkey launched last month against the U.S.-backed Kurdish militia in Syria, which Ankara sees as terrorists, further heightened tension in ties.

“The visit gave the two leaders a temporary respite, useful at home but it is one that simply delays the ultimate day of reckoning,” Logoglu told Xinhua, saying nothing concrete appears to have come out of the summit.

Addressing a joint press conference following the summit, Trump said Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400 “creates some very serious challenges” for Washington, while Erdogan did not touch on the issue.

The bilateral ties cannot flourish unless the S-400 issue is settled, a written White House statement said later in the day.

The only way for Turkey to avoid U.S. sanctions is to keep the S-400s inactivated, stated Solmazturk, a former general.

In his view, Erdogan may now change attitude regarding the Russian missiles.

The U.S. signaled earlier that it may be acceptable for Washington if the S-400s would remain out of service.

However, Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin indicated on Friday that Ankara’s attitude would not change.

“There is no stepping back. Turkey will activate the S-400,” he told the state-run TRT Haber news channel, underlining that the missiles would not be integrated into the NATO system.

“The possibility of a modus vivendi reached on the S-400 issue in a one-on-one meeting between the two leaders is not to be ruled out,” remarked Logoglu.

Jim Risch, chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Thursday that it would be best for the Senate not to pass a sanctions bill on Ankara for the moment amid talks on the Russian missiles between the two sides.

“We think that there’s going to be movement relatively soon on the S-400s,” he said.

In response to the arrival of the S-400 system on Turkish territory in July, Washington kicked Ankara out of the stealth F-35 fighter jet project in which Turkey was a production partner.

It also put on hold the scheduled delivery of four F-35 jets to Ankara, while the U.S. Congress has passed sanctions bills against Ankara since July.

Ankara announced in early November that the delivery of a second batch of the S-400 system may be delayed amid talks on joint production and technology sharing.

It looks as if Turkey may give up on buying the second batch by stating its expectations as regards technology sharing are not being met by Moscow, said Solmazturk.

During the press conference, Erdogan once again tried to convince his U.S. counterpart to give up militarily supporting the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Trump said, however, the U.S. has great ties with the Kurds in Syria and he talked as if Ankara’s military operation targeted the Kurds as a whole rather than the YPG, a distinction to which Turkey is very much sensitive.

Washington continues to see the YPG as an ally and a legitimate actor in Syria rather than a terror group, said Solmazturk.

“The U.S. got what it wanted,” he said, arguing Washington’s main objective was to dissuade Ankara from continuing with the military operation so that the YPG could emerge as a Kurdish political entity in Syria.

Just days before leaving for Washington D.C., Erdogan implied that Ankara could go ahead with the military operation as the YPG failed to honor a cease-fire deal concluded by Turkey and the United States on Oct. 17.

While at the press conference, the Turkish leader said Ankara would continue to respect the deal with Washington.

Still, Ankara may relaunch the military offensive if Erdogan thinks it would politically strengthen his hand at home, maintained Logoglu.

To punish Ankara for the cross-border operation, the U.S. House of Representatives passed highly offending resolutions against Ankara at the end of last month.

One is the recognition of the mass killings of Ottoman Armenians during the First World War as genocide, which, though legally non-binding, is the first in the history of the U.S. Congress.

A bill passed by the House calls for financial sanctions against Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank and instructs the U.S. State Department to prepare a report on the personal finances and dealings of Erdogan and his family around the world.

“Coming at a critical time in the wake of two different House of Representatives resolutions targeting Turkey, it was in a sense a make-or-break summit for the two sides,” stated Logoglu.

Erdogan’s visit had more to do with fending off the sanctions targeting himself and the Halkbank, maintained Solmazturk. “With the visit, Erdogan appears to have eliminated the threat of an investigation into his and his family’s financial assets,” he said.

However, both analysts feel the larger sanctions threat against Turkey is always there, waiting to be reactivated in case of fresh disagreements with Washington.

Erdogan expressed resolve to open a new page in bilateral ties with Washington, but the analysts are skeptical about it.

Trump’s vision of increasing bilateral trade volume to 100 billion U.S. dollars, up from around 20 billion dollars, is not realistic either, according to the analysts.

“The 100-billion-dollar trade volume target or Trump’s call on Europe to help Turkey with the Syrian refugees are niceties with no real chance of realization,” said Logoglu.


Zero evidence of any wrongdoing by President Donald Trump in impeachment hearing: White House

he White House on Friday said that “zero evidence” of any wrongdoing by President Donald Trump was presented at the impeachment hearing by a Congressional panel, asserting that the former US envoy to Ukraine deposed that she was unaware of any criminal activity involving the president.

“The second public hearing of Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Schiff’s impeachment charade was as useless and inconsequential as the first. Zero evidence of any wrongdoing by the president was presented,” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said after the conclusion of the second public hearing on impeachment against Donald Trump.

Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testified before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence as part of the House-initiated impeachment hearing against Donald Trump.

Referring to her testimony, Grisham said that Yovanovitch deposed under oath that she was unaware of any criminal activity involving President Donald Trump.

“She was not on the July 25 phone call and had no knowledge about the pause on aid to Ukraine. It is difficult to imagine a greater waste of time than today’s hearing, and yet unfortunately, we expect more of the same partisan political theater next week from House Democrats,” Grisham said.

On Friday, Yovanovitch was the third witness to appear before the House Committee headed by Congressman Adam Schiff in the Democrat’s impeachment against Trump.

The public hearing of the probe kicked off on Wednesday as William Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine and George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs, testified for more than five hours before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Yovanovitch told lawmakers that she advocated the US position that the rule of law should prevail, and Ukrainian law enforcement prosecutors and judges should stop wielding their power selectively as a political weapon against their adversaries and start dealing with all consistently and according to law.

“Untrue are unsourced allegations that I told unidentified embassy employees or Ukrainian officials that President Trump’s orders should be ignored because he was going to be impeached or for any other reason. I did not and I would not say such a thing. Such statements would be inconsistent with my training as a foreign service officer and my role as an ambassador,” she said.

The previous Obama administration, she said, did not ask her to help the Clinton campaign or harm the Trump campaign, she said.

“Nor had I taken any such steps if they had. The partisanship of this type is not compatible with the role of a career foreign service officer,” she said.

The former diplomat said that she never met Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice-President Joe Biden, nor she had any direct or indirect conversations with him.

“And although I have met former Vice-President Biden several times over the course of our many years in government service, neither he nor the previous administration ever raised the issue of either Burisma or Hunter Biden with me,” she said.

Responding to questions, Yovanovitch said that fighting corruption in Ukraine was a key element of US policy.

“It was important, and it was actually stated in our policy and in our strategy. It was important because corruption was undermining the integrity of the governance system in Ukraine. And as I noted in my statement, countries that have leaders that are honest and trustworthy make better partners for us,” she said.

“Countries, where there is a level playing field for our US business, makes it easier for our companies to do business there, to trade and to profit in those countries. And what had been happening since the Soviet Union — and this is very much a Soviet legacy — is that corrupt interests were undermining not only the governance, but also the economy of Ukraine. We see enormous potential in Ukraine and would like to have a more capable, more trustworthy partner there,” the former US diplomat said, during her testimony that lasted for more than five and half hours.

Following the testimony, Congressman Schiff said that this is a story about “an effort to coerce, condition, or bribe a foreign country into doing the dirty work of the president, investigations of his political rival, by conditioning US taxpayer money, by conditioning a meeting that President Zelensky desperately wanted and needed to establish that relationship with the most powerful patron of Ukraine, the United States of America.

“The fact that they failed in this solicitation of bribery doesn’t make it any less bribery. It doesn’t make it any less immoral or corrupt. It just means it was unsuccessful,” he said.


Impeachment Inquiry Cheat Sheet: Marie Yovanovitch’s Past Testimony

The House Intelligence Committee will call former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch to testify on Friday in the second public hearing as part of the “impeachment inquiry” against President Donald Trump.

President Trump removed Yovanovitch from her post in May, after what critics called a “political hit job” against her.

No one has ever suggested it was illegal for Trump to do so: ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the president. There is nothing remotely impeachable in her firing. Curiously, newly-elected President Volodymyr Zelensky also told Trump that he had lost confidence in Yovanovitch.

However, Democrats will allege that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was acting at the time as the president’s personal attorney, fed Trump bad information about her that came from the media, relying on Ukrainian sources pursuing their own personal and political agendas.

Yovanovitch also enjoys a great deal of sympathy and respect, especially from senior members of the State Department. Her testimony is going to be used to paint Giuliani in the worst possible light — and thereby tarnish the president’s request, partly encouraged by Giuliani, to have Ukraine to commit to particular investigations.

Key Democratic Talking Points

1. Yovanovitch was fired after Giuliani met former Prosecutor General Yuriy Letsenko, who told John Solomon, writing in The Hill in March, that she gave him a list of people not to prosecute and urged him not to prosecute the George Soros-backed Anti-Corruption Action Centre (AntAC). She recalled a conversation with Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan: “I said, ‘What have I done wrong?’ And he said, ‘You’ve done nothing wrong.’”

  • What Democrats aren’t telling you: Zelensky told Trump: “It was great that you were the first one who told me that she was a bad ambassador because I agree with you 100%. Her attitude towards me was far from the best as she admired the previous President and she was on his side. She would not accept me as a new President well enough.” Asked if she urged Letsenko “not to prosecute” individuals or entities, she responded, “Conversations about, ‘You need to be sure that, you know, there is a real case that is not politically motivated, that this isn’t just harassment and pressure — so those conversations, you know, certainty took place.”

2. Yovanovitch is a non-partisan foreign service veteran who was shocked when U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland allegedly suggested she tweet support for President Trump as a way of dispelling rumors. “It was advice that I did not see how I could implement in my role as an Ambassador, and as a Foreign Service Officer.”

  • What Democrats aren’t telling you: Fox News reported last week that Yovanovitch may have given the House Intelligence Committee false information when she testified that she did not respond to a request from a Democratic staffer on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “However, emails obtained by Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” showed that in fact, Yovanovitch had responded to Carey’s initial Aug. 14 email, writing that she “would love to reconnect and look forward to chatting with you,” Fox News reported. Republicans have been concerned about potential coordination between Democratic committee staff in Congress and potential “whistleblowers” or witnesses as they attempt to impeach President Trump.

3. Yovanovitch was concerned that “Giuliani was involved in activities that may be at odds with U.S. policy.” Like other career diplomats, she was uncomfortable with an informal channel outside the normal bureaucratic structure.

  • What Democrats aren’t telling you: Yovanovitch testified in her closed-door deposition that because of “President Trump’s decision to provide lethal weapons” to Ukraine, “our policy actually got stronger over the three last three years.” She also confirmed that the foreign aid that had been held up over the summer did not include the Javelin anti-tank missiles that had made the biggest difference and in which Ukraine was most interested. And she testified that Trump and the diplomats “shared” deep concern about corruption in Ukraine.


Pressure builds as Trump impeachment probe hears new claims

Two top US diplomats delivered gripping testimony on Wednesday about Donald Trump’s efforts to get Ukraine to investigate his potential 2020 rival Joe Biden, as the impeachment inquiry into the president shifted into a new phase of high-stakes televised hearings.

No more debate impeachment inquiry is underway

Republicans call for Trumps impeachment

Trump dismissed the probe in the Democratic-led House of Representatives as a “witch hunt” and said he was “too busy” to watch the first public hearings, during which he received staunch backing from Republican lawmakers.

William Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, began his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee with a new revelation about Trump’s efforts to pressure Kiev — the main issue of just the fourth impeachment process in US history.

Democrats accuse Trump of abusing his power by using US military assistance and a possible White House meeting to pressure President Volodymyr Zelensky into opening a probe into the Democrat Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma.

The key evidence is the official White House transcript of a July 25 telephone call between Trump and Zelensky in which the US president asked his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate the Bidens.

Taylor testified that he was told Trump cared more about the probe than he did about Ukraine.

The grey-haired former Army officer and veteran diplomat, who testified in a closed hearing last month, said he had since become aware of a telephone call between Trump and the US’s EU ambassador Gordon Sondland, which a member of Taylor’s staff overheard.

The staffer asked Sondland after the call what Trump thought about Ukraine and was told that “President Trump cared more about the investigations of Biden,” Taylor said.

Freshman House Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an outspoken Trump critic, said the new Taylor comment added “a layer of proximity” for the president.

“(Trump) himself was making and partaking in some of these phone calls… And that really adds a much more disturbing degree of the involvement that he had in using the powers of government to create politically motivated investigations,” the New York representative told CNN.

Asked about the new allegations, while hosting his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House, Trump replied: “First time I’ve heard it.”

Sondland “did speak to me for a brief moment, and I said no quid pro quo under any circumstances.”

‘He didn’t open investigations’

Republicans sought to undercut the witnesses’ testimony by focusing on Hunter Biden’s role on the Burisma board, pointing out that he was paid $50,000 a month and questioning his qualifications.

They also stressed that the Ukrainians were not aware for months that the White House had put a hold on the nearly $400 million in military assistance and that it was eventually released in September.

“What did President Zelensky actually do to get the aid?” asked John Ratcliffe, a Texas Republican congressman. “The answer is nothing. He didn’t open investigations.

“He didn’t do any of the things that House Democrats say that he was being forced and coerced and threatened to do.”

In his opening statement, Taylor recalled opposing making US military aid to Ukraine or a White House visit by Zelensky contingent on Kiev investigating the Bidens.

“Withholding security assistance in exchange for help with a domestic political campaign in the United States would be crazy,” he said. “I believed that then and I believe it now.”

Taylor said an “irregular policy channel” involving former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, was pushing for the Ukrainian probe into the Bidens.

Fellow witness George Kent, a career diplomat, was asked what interests Giuliani was promoting.

“I believe he was looking to dig up political dirt against a potential rival in the next election cycle,” said the deputy assistant secretary of state.

“I do not believe the United States should ask other countries to engage in selective politically associated investigations or prosecutions against opponents of those in power because such selective actions undermine the rule of law.”

‘Scorched-earth war’

If the House impeaches Trump, it would then go to trial in the Senate, where Republicans enjoy a 53-47 majority.

The next hearing is scheduled for Friday, featuring the US ambassador to Ukraine who Kent said was recalled by Trump after being subjected to a “smear campaign” by Giuliani.

Eight more witnesses, including Sondland, are to appear next week, the second of several planned weeks of hearings.

The investigation threatens to make Trump the third US president to be impeached, after Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998, although the Senate would need to convict him to remove him from office.

Neither Johnson nor Clinton was convicted. But in 1974, Richard Nixon resigned in the face of certain impeachment and removal from office for the Watergate scandal.

In his opening statement, committee chairman Adam Schiff, the California congressman overseeing the probe, said the proceedings will examine “whether President Trump sought to exploit (Ukraine’s) vulnerability and invite Ukraine’s interference in our elections.”

“If this is not impeachable conduct, what is?”

Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the panel, hit back by accusing Democrats of a “carefully orchestrated media smear campaign.”

“It’s nothing more than an impeachment process in search of a crime.”

Coming just one year before elections, the hearings carry great risks for both parties and no certain reward, with a divided US electorate weary of Washington infighting.

Polls show a slim majority of Americans favor impeachment, but Trump’s sizable voter base — which delivered his shock victory in 2016 — rejects the allegations.