The U.S. House impeachment inquiry into accusations that President Donald Trump used diplomatic channels to gather information on political rivals ramped up this week as subpoenas were issued for his personal attorney and the secretary of state.
The inquiry, which was announced a week ago, was launched after a whistleblower contacted members of Congress with concerns about a phone call Trump made in July to the president of Ukraine.
The phone call, according to Trump critics, had the president using his power to leverage close to $400 million in aid to Ukraine in exchange for information on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Trump says the call congratulating Volodymyr Zelensky on becoming president of Ukraine was “perfect” and has been misinterpreted.
Trump claims that Hunter Biden profited from an affiliation with a Ukrainian gas company and that Joe Biden had a prosecutor who was looking into the operations of the gas company fired to protect his son.
Neither Biden has been charged with any offense connected to the Ukrainian gas company Burisma.
Below is a list of key players and their roles in the impeachment inquiry.
1. Donald Trump, president of the United StatesHis role: Trump made a phone call on July 25 to the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky. In that call, he pushes him to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Trump admitted to discussing Biden with Zelensky but said the phone call was “perfect” with nothing illegal taking place. Trump authorized the release of a transcript of the call. He also ordered $400 million in military aid to Ukraine to be held up for a period of time in the summer.
2. Volodymyr Zelensky, president of Ukraine
His role: Zelensky, a former comedian, was elected president in April. He was on the other end of the July call. In the call, he compliments Trump and says he is like him. As for Joe Biden, Zelensky says that the next prosecutor will be of his appointing and he or she will “look into the situation.”
3. Joe Biden, former vice president of the U.S. and current Democratic candidate for president
His role: Trump alleged that Biden, while vice president of the U.S., pressured Ukraine to fire a prosecutor who was investigating the company for which his son was a member of the board of directors. Biden is a potential opponent of Trump's in the 2020 presidential election.
4. Hunter Biden, son of Joe Biden
His role: Hunter Biden is the 49-year-old son of Joe Biden. He has worked as an attorney and as a lobbyist. He was on the board of directors of Burisma, which is a Ukrainian gas company, from 2014 to 2019. Trump alleges that Hunter Biden peddled his influence to authorities in Ukraine and in China. Biden was paid up to $50,000 a month to sit on the board.
5. Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer and the former mayor of New York City
His role: Giuliani has been subpoenaed for documents related to his work to persuade authorities in Ukraine to open an investigation into what Trump believes was the Bidens’ activities there. Materials are also being subpoenaed related to Giuliani’s efforts to get Ukrainian authorities’ cooperation into a review by the Justice Department of the origins of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe.
6. Viktor Shokin, the prosecutor who was fired by the former Ukrainian president
His role: He is the prosecutor Joe Biden said did not do enough to fight corruption in Ukraine. Others called for Shokin’s firing, but Joe Biden went a step further. He threatened to withhold $1 billion in aid to Ukraine if Shokin wasn’t fired. Shokin had been investigating Burisma, the company for which Hunter Biden served on the board of directors.
"I said, you're not getting the billion," Biden told a gathering at the Council of Foreign Relations in 2018. "I'm going to be leaving here, in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: 'I'm leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you're not getting the money.'... He got fired."
7. Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine
Her role: Yovanovitch was the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 2016 to 2019. She was removed from her post in May. She was referred to as “bad news” by Trump in the July phone call.
8. T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, counselor of the State Department
His role: Brechbuhl offers strategic guidance on foreign policy to the secretary of state. According to the whistleblower’s complaint, Brechbuhl was on the July 25 phone call.
9. George Kent, deputy assistant secretary in the European and Eurasian Bureau at the State Department
His role: Kent oversees policy toward Ukraine in his State Department job. From 2015 to 2018, Kent was deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. Part of his job was to form anti-corruption policy in the region before 2015.
10. Kurt Volker, former special representative for UkraineHis role: Volker, who resigned Friday, helped to arrange meetings between Giuliani and Zelensky’s representatives. His name was mentioned in the whistleblower complaint. Volker introduced Giuliani to a top adviser to Zelensky.
11. Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union
His role: According to the whistleblower’s complaint, Sondland, along with Volker, offered advice to the “Ukrainian leadership about how to "navigate” the demands that the President had made of Mr. Zelensky.” Sondland and Volker also met with Giuliani to “attempt to contain the damage to U.S. national security” that Giuliani’s efforts to find information on Biden was having.
12. Michael Atkinson, inspector general for the intelligence community
His role: Atkinson received the whistleblower complaint and found it to be credible and of “urgent concern.” He recommended it be turned over to congressional Intelligence committees, but his boss, Joseph Maguire, acting director of national Intelligence, disagreed on turning it over immediately. Maguire, according to his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, said he wanted to make sure there was not executive privilege attached to the complaint before sending it to Congress. The complaint was turned over last week.
13. Mike Pompeo, U.S. secretary of State
His role: According to a senior State Department official, Pompeo was among the administration officials who listened in on the July 25 phone call. Three House committees have subpoenaed Pompeo for documents related to the inquiry. The committees have set a deadline of Oct. 4 to produce those documents.
14. William Barr, U.S. attorney general
His role: Barr was mentioned in the whistleblower complaint. According to a New York Times story, Trump asked Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to help Barr investigate the origins of Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
15. The whistleblower
His role: We do not know if the whistleblower is a man or woman. What we do know is that on Aug. 12, he or she let committee leaders in Congress know about the July 25 phone call. The person, who is not an employee of the White House, the complaint said, wrote, “In the course of my official duties, I have received information from multiple U.S. Government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election. This interference includes, among other things, pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the President’s main domestic political rivals. The President’s personal lawyer, Mr. Rudolph Giuliani, is a central figure in this effort. Attorney General Barr appears to be involved as well.” The whistleblower also said that a copy of the contents of the phone call was not stored in the place such material is generally stored.
16. Nancy Pelosi, D-California, speaker of the House
Her role: It is up to Pelosi to determine how the impeachment inquiry will go forward. Instead of having a “select” committee conduct the investigation, Pelosi has tapped six committees to be part of the inquiry. Pelosi decided not to have an official resolution for an impeachment inquiry – which would have required a vote of the House. Instead, the process moved ahead without a vote. A vote is not necessary to move forward with an investigation.
17. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee
His role: Nadler is leading the investigation in the House, corralling the information from the other committees involved in the inquiry. The Judiciary Committee is the committee that drafts articles of impeachment, or charges against a public official.
Nadler has said his committee is investigation Trump on charges of federal election violations, abuse of power, potential obstruction of justice and violations of the emoluments clause. The emoluments clause in the U.S. Constitution bans public officials from benefiting financially or in other ways from any foreign states.
18. Adam Schiff, D-California, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee
His role: As Intelligence Committee chair, Schiff will conduct hearings and gather evidence for possible articles of impeachment. Last week, he chaired the hearing with Joseph Maguire, acting director of national intelligence, and was criticized for dramatizing in his opening statement what he said Trump meant on the phone call to Zelensky. Trump also questioned the opening statement then called for Schiff to be arrested for treason.
19. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader
His role: McConnell will oversee any possible trial in the Senate as a result of articles of impeachment being passed in the House. McConnell has said that if the president is impeached in the House, the Senate will deal with the next step – a Senate trial. According to the Constitution, the Senate has the “sole power to try all impeachments.”
20. John Roberts, chief justice, U.S. Supreme Court
His role: While the Senate has the sole power to try all impeachments, the person who oversees the trial is the chief justice of the Supreme Court. Roberts will enforce the rules agreed upon to conduct the trial. Roberts has been chief justice since 2005. He was appointed by President George W. Bush.
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