US & Canada

Trump impeachment: How Ukraine story unfolded

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Millions of Americans have now seen and heard evidence presented in the televised impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump. How did we get to this point?

It's only the fourth time in US history that an American president has faced the possibility of being forced from the White House.

Mr Trump is accused of withholding nearly $400m (£327m) in congressionally approved military aid to pressure 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.

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The diplomacy

  • 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 and fighting between government forces and Russian-backed separatists in the east
  • 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 had directed the Ukrainians 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 National Security Council expert 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: 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

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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
  • Late Aug: Trump was notified about the complaint, according to the New York Times
  • 5 Sept: Washington Post reports the story about the whistleblower
  • 10 Sept: House of Representatives asks for information on the whistleblower complaint
  • 11 Sept: US military aid to Ukraine is restarted
  • 24 Sept: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opens impeachment inquiry
  • 25 Sept: White House releases a rough transcript of the July phone call
  • 26 Sept: Whistleblower complaint released - it alleges Trump used "the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country" in next year's presidential election

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The inquiry

  • 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, acting 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 of Representatives approves a resolution making impeachment process formal and promises public hearings
  • 4 Nov: The former US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, tells the inquiry she felt threatened by Trump
  • 5 Nov: The US ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, revises his initial testimony to declare he now remembers saying US aid did depend on an investigation sought by Trump
  • 13 Nov: Public hearings begin, with Bill Taylor testifying about the overheard phone call and the president's alleged preoccupation with the Bidens
  • 14 Nov: Yovanovitch says she is "intimidated" by a Trump attack on Twitter in the middle of her testimony
  • 18 Nov: Trump says he will "strongly consider" testifying to the inquiry "in order to get Congress focused again"
  • 19 Nov: Lt Col Alexander Vindman, a US security official, comes under attack from the White House after testifying that Trump made "inappropriate" political demands to Ukraine
  • 20 Nov: US ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland testifies. In his opening statement, he says there was a quid pro quo - or exchange of favours - in the phone call between Trump and Zelensky
  • 21 Nov: Former White House Russia expert Fiona Hill testifies that Sondland was working for Trump on a "domestic political errand" that diverged from official US foreign policy. She warns lawmakers not to believe the "fictional narrative" pushed by Republicans that Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the 2016 election

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