Trump faces two major impeachment deadlines as Ukraine scandal enters new phase

Trump has until Sunday evening to decide if he or his legal counsel will be involved in an impeachment hearing

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published December 1, 2019 12:00PM (EST)

U.S. President Donald Trump (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump has until Sunday evening to decide whether he or his legal counsel will participate in an impeachment hearing on Wednesday. Similarly, they have until Friday to decide if he wants to defend himself at further impeachment-related proceedings that are expected next week.

The deadlines have been imposed as the impeachment inquiry into Trump enters a phase that could result in charges against the president, according to Reuters. The House Judiciary Committee, led by Democratic Chair Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., has given Trump until 6 PM ET on Sunday to decide whether or not he or a legal representative will get involved in a major impeachment hearing on Wednesday. During that hearing, legal experts will provide testimony about how the impeachment process works under the U.S. Constitution.

Nadler established a second deadline for Friday, this one expiring at 5 PM ET. This deadline involves Trump's decision as to whether he will defend himself at hearings next week that will look at the evidence against him in the ongoing impeachment inquiry. The House Intelligence Committee, House Foreign Affairs Committee and House Oversight Committee will release their formal evidence report this week, after Congress returns from Thanksgiving recess on Tuesday. That effort is being led by the House Intelligence Committee whose chair is Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.

The impeachment inquiry into Trump began after it was revealed that he called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25 to request that the Ukrainian government open a criminal investigation into Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden (one of Trump's potential Democratic rivals in the 2020 election). At the same time that Trump made these requests, the American government had decided to withhold $391 million in military aid to Ukraine, a country that was invaded by Russia in 2014 so the superpower could annex Crimea. Trump also asked Zelensky to obtain evidence that a Democratic National Committee campaign server containing Clinton’s missing emails was in that country. Last month, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney acknowledged that Trump has shaped foreign policy based on political considerations, said that this happens all the time and argued that people should "get over it" because "there’s going to be political influence in foreign policy." Mulvaney later walked back those statements, even though the Trump campaign had started selling T-shirts with the slogan "Get over it."

The desire to investigate Hunter Biden stems from a debunked conspiracy theory. The theory holds that Biden pressured Ukraine into firing chief prosecutor Viktor Shokin to protect his son from a criminal investigation. While Hunter Biden did work for a Ukrainian natural gas company, Burisma, he was never under criminal investigation. The pressure to fire Shokin stemmed from the fact that the Obama administration, America’s allies and Ukrainian anti-corruption activists felt that he had not done enough to fight corruption in that country.

Hunter Biden has also been accused of abusing his father's connections to do business in China, with the president saying during a press conference in October that "China should start an investigation into the Bidens, because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine. ... If they don’t do what we want, we have tremendous power."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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