Impeachment inquiry begins public hearings: How we got here

The impeachment inquiry is centered on whether President Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine, first granted in 2014, to get the country to investigate Joe Biden's son. Trump has denied this claim.
8:08 | 11/13/19

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Transcript for Impeachment inquiry begins public hearings: How we got here
I never thought I'd see or hear that word with regard to me, impeachment. Reporter: In a few short weeks, the unthinkable has become all but inevitable. The actions taken by the president have seriously violated the constitution. Reporter: The president vehemently denies he's done anything wrong and accuses the Democrats with being obsessed with removing him from office. Everybody knows it's a Democrat witch hunt. Here we go again. Reporter: The Democrats call this a textbook case of a president abusing his office. A mafia-like shakedown of a foreign leader. Reporter: The question at issue, whether in a phone call, the president pressured Ukraine's newly-elected president, using as leverage much-needed military aid and a coveted white house visit. Conversation I had with the president of Ukraine was absolutely perfect. Reporter: But after that call, a whistle blower, working inside the white house, filed a formal complaint against the president, that's what ultimately led to this inquiry. It's betrayal of his oath of office, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections. Reporter: Tomorrow, on capitol hill, a home us to momentous new phase. Public impeachment hearings. Only two presidents have been impeached. Reporter: It's shaping up to be an intensely partisan fight. This is a big week. Public impeachment hearings what are your thoughts? My thoughts are it's a hoax, it's a hoax. It's created from day one. Reporter: Jennifer and Libby. Trump, trump, trump. Reporter: Are front row joes. Nothing you're likely to hear is likely to change your mind. We love our president. We're not going to say anything about their impeachment. The DEMs are going to do what they're going to do. I think it's all a bunch of -- it's not going to a. Reporter: To understand how we got here, you got to go back to March 2014 when Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed part of the country. President Obama sanctioned Russia and made vice president Biden the point man on Ukraine. Biden's son hunter was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, creating the appearance of a conflict of interest. Did I make a mistake? Well, maybe in the grand scheme of things, yeah. But did I make a mistake based on some ethical lapse? Absolutely not. Reporter: There's no evidence the Bidens broke any loss. I did nothing wrong. I carried out the policy of the United States government in rooting out corruption in Ukraine. Reporter: But president trump doesn't buy it. Biden and his son are stone-cold crooked. Reporter: Earlier this year, after voters in Ukraine elected a new president on an anti-corruption agenda, president trump instructed his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to temporarily freeze nearly $400 million in U.S. Military aid. Mulvaney later admitted the administration intended to release the money after Ukraine started an investigation. Funding will not flow unless the investigation into the democratic server happened as well? We do that all the time with foreign policy. And I have news for everybody. Get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy. Reporter: On that July 25th phone call, president Zelinsky told trump we are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps, specifically, we're almost ready to buy more javelin missiles from the United States for defense purposes. President trump responded, I'd like to you do us a favor, the president went on to mention Joe Biden and corruption repeatedly. There was no pressure. That was not pressure. I know when I give pressure, and that was not pressure. Reporter: President Zelinsky has backed trump up on that. Nobody push it, push me, yes. In other words, no pressure. Reporter: But without U.S. Military and political support, Ukraine would be in a much weaker position, fending off further Russian aggression. Anything that hurts Ukraine helps Russia. Reporter: In August, the anonymous whistle blower accused trump of using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. Election, citing the July 25th phone call as an example. In that telephone call, the president undermined our national security. Reporter: Behind closed doors, multiple witnesses have since corroborated the whistle-blower's account. Some familiar with the July phone call, others diplomat charged with carrying out the administration's Ukraine policy. Having people I never even heard of some of these people. I don't know who they are. Reporter: That's disingenuous. The president has instructed members of his inner circle not to cooperate. So some have yet to answer any questions. The president doesn't seem to want the members of his administration to testify. But of course those would be the individuals who were in the room where it happened. Reporter: The first witness tomorrow is America's top diplomat in Ukraine, bill Taylor. He's already testified it was his clear understanding there was an explicit quid pro quo. No U.S. Military assistance unless Ukraine agreed to help with the 2020 campaign. An arrangement that Taylor called crazy. Tomorrow's hearings are still an early step in a lengthy process outlined in the constitution, one that's rarely invoked in the context of the presidency. The president is alleged to have pressured Ukraine to investigate a political rival. Does that qualify as a high crime and misdemeanor? The fact that you are alleged to have pressured a foreign government for help in a subsequent election would certainly qualify as an abuse of office and betrayal of the public trust. The senate will convene as a court of impeachment. Reporter: As with bill Clinton's impeachment, the house goes forward knowing there are enough votes to impeach president trump but likely not enough votes to remove him from office. It's the senate that decides that, with the chief justice of the supreme court presiding over the trial, removing a president requires a two-thirds majority. I don't even think the Clinton impeachment can compare with this. I think it's much more applicable to what happened 46 years ago with watergate. Reporter: In 1973, public opinion had not yet turned against president Richard Nixon. What did the president know, and when did he know it? Reporter: Tell advising the senate watergate hearings tipped the balance. House Democrats clearly hope these public hearings will make it harder for Republican senators to stand by trump. I think the Democrats are aiming at not moving public opinion but galvanizing public opinion, because right now a majority are, a plurality already favors impeaching and removing the president. Reporter: For now there's little sign of Republicans breaking rank. The front row joes hope it stays that way. We're not leavin' him. He's getting in. Reporter: The bitter divisions in Washington reflect a divided country, and impeachment is unlikely to change that. We're never going to agree. You won't convince me, and I won't convince you, and that will be the end of it. Reporter: I'm David Wright for "Nightline," in New York. You can watch the hearings live tomorrow morning at 10:00/9:00 central. Up next, dolly parton, what you

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