On Wednesday, December 18, President Trump became just the third U.S. president to ever be impeached. Though, mercifully, the scandal that led us here — Trump pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rival Joe Biden — is far less confusing than Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, it can be hard to keep track of the constant drip of information. Thus, Intelligencer has compiled a guide to everything you need to know to keep up with the story. We’ll continue updating this piece as the action moves to the Senate, with the trial commencing next week and almost certainly ending with Trump’s acquittal by the GOP majority.
Trump Impeachment Schedule
House impeachment investigators conducted closed-door depositions with multiple figures involved in the Ukraine scandal this fall. On November 13, the House Intelligence Committee began conducting public hearings with key witnesses. Hearings moved to the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, December 4, with four constitutional scholars offering testimony on what constitutes “high crimes and misdemeanors.” White House lawyers declined to participate.
On December 18, the House voted along party lines to impeach President Trump on one count of abuse of power and one count of obstruction of Congress.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi held on to the articles for several weeks. Then on Wednesday, January 15, Pelosi named seven impeachment managers to prosecute the case against Trump. The House voted to formally appoint the managers a short time later.
House managers are expected to physically walk the articles to the Senate and read them aloud on Thursday, January 16, triggering the start of the impeachment trial under the Senate’s standing rules. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he expects to take some “preliminary steps” this week, which would lay the groundwork to begin the actual trial on Tuesday, January 21.
What You Need to Know About Trump’s Impeachment
The (Full) Case for Impeaching President Trump
Jonathan Chait on the full menu of Trump’s potentially impeachable misconduct.
The Impeachment Process Explained: What Happens to Trump Now
Ed Kilgore answers all your questions on what’s likely to happen in the next few months, from what constitutes an impeachable offense to how long impeachment hearings typically last.
How the Senate Impeachment Trial Will Work
Everything we know on what a McConnell-helmed trial may look like.
The Clinton-Trial Rules That Will Shape Trump’s Trial
The precedents set in 1999 are brief and businesslike and provide for later votes on hearing witnesses.
What Republican Insiders Really Think About Impeachment
Olivia Nuzzi reports that many Republicans are as tired of Trump’s antics as anyone.
What Will Republicans Do If Trump Goes Down?
Ed Kilgore on whom the GOP might turn to in the event that Trump (and maybe even Pence) is removed from office.
Lessons From Nixon and Clinton on How Americans View Impeachment
Looking at the president’s job-approval rating, not at support for his impeachment, may be the best indicator of electoral consequences.
Democrats Should Stop Making ‘Ukrainegate’ About Ukraine
The problem with Trump’s actions isn’t that they threatened Ukrainian self-determination, but that they threaten our own.
People Involved in the Trump Impeachment
These are the figures who testified before Congress:
George Kent: The deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs, Kent is a career State Department official who oversees U.S. policy on Ukraine. In October, he testified that the White House plan to pressure Ukraine to investigate “corruption” in the country was code for its president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to look for compromising information on Trump’s political opponents. Kent testified publicly on Wednesday, November 13.
Bill Taylor: A career diplomat and the acting ambassador to Ukraine, Taylor expressed his concerns over the president’s quid pro quo in September, writing, “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign” in text messages to U.S. ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland. Taylor testified publicly on Wednesday, November 13.
Marie Yovanovitch: A diplomat who served under the Bush and Obama administrations, Yovanovitch was recalled from her position as ambassador to Ukraine in May. Prior to her removal, she was a major force supporting anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine, which helps explain why Trump got rid of her in order to push the quid pro quo, an entry-level move of corrupt politicians. Yovanovitch testified publicly on Friday, November 15.
Alexander Vindman: The top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, Vindman told the impeachment inquiry last month that “outside influencers [promoted] a false narrative of Ukraine,” referring to the team of Rudy Giuliani. Vindman was on the July 25 call in which Trump pressed Ukrainian President Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden. Vindman testified publicly on Tuesday, November 19.
Jennifer Williams: A State Department official and special advisor to Mike Pence on European and Russian affairs, Williams was in the White House Situation Room listening to the July 25 call in which Trump pressured President Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden. Williams testified publicly on Tuesday, November 19.
Kurt Volker: The former U.S. special envoy for Ukraine, Volker resigned following the whistle-blower’s report which mentioned that he served as a conduit for Ukrainian officials to communicate with Rudy Giuliani. Texts that Volker provided to Congress also establish that President Zelensky understood that a potential visit to the White House depended upon an investigation into the conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, not Russia. Volker testified publicly on Tuesday, November 19.
Tim Morrison: The top National Security Council expert on Russia until he resigned before his closed-door testimony last month, Morrison confirmed the account of acting ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor, who testified that Trump wanted the Ukrainian government to publicly announce an investigation into Hunter Biden’s business dealings before aid would be released. Morrison testified publicly on Tuesday, November 19.
Gordon Sondland: The U.N. ambassador’s testimony was the most dramatic of the House impeachment hearings so far. Sondland threw the president and multiple top Trump administration officials under the bus, saying there was a “clear quid pro quo” in their efforts to make President Volodymyr Zelensky’s meeting with Trump contingent on announcing investigations into his political rivals.
Fiona Hill: The National Security Council’s former top adviser on Russia, who resigned in August, Hill is expected to rebut the “fictional narrative” pushed by Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and other Republicans about Ukraine’s involvement in 2016 election meddling.
David Holmes: A high-ranking staffer at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, Holmes overheard a July 26 call from U.N. Ambassador Gordon Sondland to President Trump the day after Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy to investigate the Bidens.
Wednesday, November 13: What You Missed
The Big Takeaway: George Kent and Bill Taylor largely reiterated what they’ve told House investigators in private, describing how President Trump had made Ukraine’s launching an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden a condition for “everything” about the U.S. relationship with the country — including withholding both important military aide and a meeting between Trump and Zelensky.
“It’s one thing to try to leverage a meeting in the White House. It’s another thing, I thought, to leverage security assistance,” Taylor said, adding that he has never seen foreign aid held up over the “personal or political interests of the president of the United States” in his decades of government service.
Taylor also revealed one new detail: On the day after Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky, a member of his staff overheard a call between the president and Sondland. Trump purportedly asked the U.S. ambassador about “the investigations,” and Sondland said the Ukrainians were ready to move forward. After the call, the aide asked what Trump thought of Ukraine, and the ambassador “responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for.”
Friday, November 15: What You Missed
The Big Takeaway: Yovanovitch testified about the orchestrated effort to have her removed from her post in Ukraine, highlighting Rudy Giuliani’s central role. “I do not understand Mr. Giuliani’s motives for attacking me, nor can I offer an opinion on whether he believed the allegations he spread about me,” she said.
In the most dramatic moment of the impeachment hearings thus far, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff read two tweets Trump sent on Friday morning attacking Yovanovitch, and invited her to respond. “What effect do you think that has on other witnesses willingness to come forward and expose wrongdoing?” Schiff asked. “It’s very intimidating,” Yovanovitch replied.
There’s speculation that Trump’s tweets could show up in additional articles of impeachment against him, for obstruction or witness intimidation.
Tuesday, November 19: What You Missed
The Big Takeaway: In the first session of the roughly 9.5 hour hearings, Mike Pence’s advisor Jennifer Williams said that the July 25 call was “unusual,” while she and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testified that they never saw any evidence suggesting that Joe Biden behaved improperly in Ukraine. Vindman also declined to answer questions from Devin Nunes which would have exposed the identity of the intelligence officer who blew the whistle on Trump’s July 25 call.
Republicans called the second round of witnesses — the former U.S. special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker and the top NSC expert on Russia Tim Morrison — though the pair may not have aided their argument. Volker claimed that “the accusation that Vice-President Biden acted inappropriately” toward Ukraine “did not seem at all credible to me.” Volker had previously testified that he was not aware of a connection between withheld aid and politically motivated investigations, a claim that he rescinded: “I have learned many things that I did not know at the time of the events in question.”
Wednesday, November 20: What You Missed
The Big Takeaway: In the most explosive impeachment testimony thus far, Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, said there was a “clear quid pro quo” linking a White House meeting for President Volodymyr Zelensky to Ukraine’s willingness to open an investigation into President Trump’s political rivals.
Sondland testified that he and other officials reluctantly worked with Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, to pressure Ukraine into announcing investigations, “at the express direction of the president of the United States.”
Sondland said the pressure campaign “was no secret” within the Trump administration. He specifically identified Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney as officials who were aware of their efforts, saying “everyone was in the loop.”
The ambassador was not privy to conversations about why $400 million in congressionally approved security assistance to Ukraine was held up, but he eventually came to the conclusion that “if Ukraine did something to demonstrate a serious intention” to launch the investigations into Trump’s rivals, “then the hold on military aid would be lifted.”
Thursday, November 21: What You Missed
The Big Takeaway: The former top NSC expert on Russia, Fiona Hill testified that Trump’s pressure in Ukraine amounted to a ‘domestic political errand.’ She also deflated Trump’s “fictional narrative” that it was Ukraine that interfered in the 2016 election, not Russia. Ukraine embassy staffer David Holmes testified that he overheard a July 26 call between President Trump and E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland in which Trump wanted Ukraine to publicly announce investigations that would benefit him politically. Holmes testified that Sondland told Trump that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “loves your ass” and would do “anything you ask him to.”
Wednesday, December 4: What You Missed
The Big Takeaway: Four constitutional scholars called by the House Judiciary Committee explained how Trump’s action in Ukraine did or did not live up to the impeachable offense of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The three witnesses called by the Democratic majority — Noah Feldman, Pamela Karlan, and Michael Gerhardt — were in consensus that Trump’s pressure in Ukraine should be considered an impeachable act. “If what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable,” Gerhardt said. “If Congress concludes they’re going to give a pass to the President here, then every other president will say, ‘OK, then I can do the same thing.’”
Tuesday, December 10: What You Missed
The Big Takeaway: House Democrats announced two articles of impeachment against President Trump, focusing on abuse of power and obstructing Congress.
Tuesday, December 17: What You Missed
Wednesday, December 18: What You Missed
The Big Takeaway: After a full day of debate on the House floor, which mainly consisted of Democrats and Republicans taking turns attacking each other, President Trump was officially impeached. The first article on abuse of power passed 230 to 197, with two Democratic defections. The second, obstruction of Congress, passed by a vote of 229 to 198, with three Democratic “no”s. Tulsi Gabbard voted “present” on both articles. Trump was on stage at a rally in Battle Creek, Michigan when the vote took place.
Wednesday, January 15: What You Missed
The Big Takeaway: Speaker Nancy Pelosi finally named the impeachment managers, designating House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff of California as “lead manager.” The other six managers are Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York; Zoe Lofgren of California, a Judiciary Committee member who was on that committee during the Clinton impeachment and was a House staffer during the Nixon impeachment inquiry; Hakeem Jeffries of New York, representing the House leadership as chair of the Democratic Caucus; Val Demings of Florida, a member of both the Intelligence and Judiciary Committee and a former police chief; Sylvia Garcia of Texas, a Judiciary Committee member and a former judge; and Jason Crow of Colorado.
A few hours later the House voted to formally appoint the managers. The resolution passed by a vote of 228-193, mostly along party lines.
House managers are expected to present the articles to the Senate on Thursday. As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell explained, if all goes according to schedule the trial will begin in earnest on Tuesday, January 21.
“We’ll be able to … in all likelihood go through some preliminary steps here this week, which could well include the chief justice coming over and swearing in members of the Senate and some other kind of housekeeping measures,” McConnell said, adding that this “would set us up to begin the actual trial next Tuesday.”