The impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump stepped up a gear this afternoon as politicians opened the first public hearing.
The House Intelligence Committee is holding the first hearing as part of a probe into whether Trump improperly pressured Ukraine to help his bid for reelection.
Democrats leading the probe have summoned three US diplomats to outline their concerns during televised hearings scheduled for today and Friday.
Committee chairman Adam Schiff gavelled open the historic session, accusing Trump of trying to exploit the “vulnerability” of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for this own political gain.
The accusations are centred on a phone call made on 25 July, in which Trump asked Zelensky to open a corruption investigation into rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Democrats are investigating whether Trump deliberately withheld $391m (£305m) in security aid to Ukraine in a bid to pressurise Kiev into cooperation. The aid, which was approved to help the country fight Russia-backed separatists, was later handed over.
Trump has denied the allegations, while Republican Devin Nunes branded the procedure a “televised theatrical performance”.
William Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, will be the first witnesses to appear in front of the hearing.
The hearings, which are due to continue into next week, could open the door to a formal impeachment, where the House would file charges against Trump.
This would in turn lead to a trial in the Senate where politicians would decide whether to convict the President of the charges and remove him from office.
Main image credit: Getty