The first public hearing in the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump starts Wednesday.
After years of investigating the president for possible involvement with Russia during the 2016 election, Democratic lawmakers now turn to Ukraine, after an intelligence community whistleblower said the president withheld defense money until that country agreed to investigate the family of political rival Joe Biden.
And Trump isn’t the only one involved in the Ukraine scandal. Two politicians from Texas are also implicated.
James Riddlesperger is a political science professor at Texas Christian University. He says outgoing energy secretary and Texas governor Rick Perry established a relationship with Ukraine’s new President Volodymyr Zelensky earlier this year. Perry was promoting American energy in Ukraine, but Riddlesperger says he was also involved in “back-door politics” with the Ukrainian government. Perry denies this.
“He, of course, denies that he had anything to do with the quid pro quo that people have been talking about. He says he was merely talking about energy policy and that he never heard Joe or Hunter Biden’s names even mentioned,” Riddlesperger says.
But so far, Perry has refused to testify in the impeachment inquiry.
Former Texas Congressman Pete Sessions is also involved. Riddlesperger says he worked with two U.S. citizens with ties to Ukraine – who are also associates of the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani – who helped oust U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovich.
“Subsequent to his conversations with them, Pete Sessions recommended the firing of Ambassador Marie Yovanovich,” Riddlesperger says. “He says that he did so because she was speaking ill of President Trump, but it’s very unusual for a member of Congress to get involved in policymaking at that level.”
The Ukraine scandal is complicated, with many threads and people involved. Riddlesperger says the central question is whether President Trump tried to bribe Ukrainian officials for his own political gains.
“That is going to be, I think, the central point of this investigation moving forward,” he says.
Written by Caroline Covington.