Democratic momentum to impeach President Donald Trump was supercharged by revelations that he may have abused the power of the presidency by demanding Ukraine’s newly elected president investigate a top 2020 Democratic presidential rival, and held up military aid as part of the effort.
Many Democrats decided that Trump had crossed a line when he tried to force a probe of former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s son Hunter.
House Leader Nancy Pelosi, who had been resisting efforts to oust the president since the release of the Mueller report in April, announced on Sept. 24 that the House had begun a formal impeachment inquiry.
Trump maintains that he did nothing wrong and has angrily accused Democrats of trying to stymie his presidency.
A day after Pelosi's announcement, a whistleblower's complaint that the White House had resisted releasing was transmitted to Congress. It centered on a phone call that Trump had on July 25 with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
In the midst of the fast-moving events, Trump released an unredacted transcript of his conversation with Zelenskiy. House Intelligence Committee Chaiman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., later made public an declassified, redacted version of the whistleblower's complaint.
Democrats have since raised questions about the roles of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General Bill Barr in the president's interactions with Ukraine, even as Trump has called for China to investigate the Bidens, too. (Click here to read about who's who in the Trump-Ukraine affair.)
Here’s a timeline of developments related to Trump and Ukraine.
April 21: Zelenskiy is elected president of Ukraine and according to The New York Times, within hours Trump calls him to congratulate him but also to begin urging him to coordinate with his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to pursue "investigations."
April 25: Trump says on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program that Barr is looking at accusations that Ukrainians leaked damaging information about Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort to help Hillary Clinton's campaign. Trump offered no evidence. Manafort is now in prison after he was convicted of financial fraud and other charges.
May 1: Presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California asks Barr during a hearing whether Trump or anyone at the White House asked or suggested that he open an investigation of anyone. Barr deflected the question.
May 6: The U.S. State Department announces that the ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, would leave her post as planned, but others say she was recalled early after right-wing attacks accused her, without proof, of hampering probes in Ukraine. Democrats charge a political smear.
May 9: Giuliani says he will travel to Ukraine to encourage an investigation into the Bidens, including Hunter Biden’s paid role on the board of the country’s largest gas company. “And I’m going to give them reasons why they shouldn’t stop it because that information will be very, very helpful to my client, and may turn out to be helpful to my government,” he said. (There has been no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens. Read more on the claims here.)
May 10: Giuliani cancels his widely criticized trip. Giuliani blames Democrats: “They say I was meddling in the election — ridiculous — but that’s their spin.” Giuliani insists he was trying to make sure an investigation continued.
June 12: Trump tells ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos that he might accept damaging information against 2020 rivals from a foreign government, if offered. The next day, Federal Election Commission Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat, warns "it is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election."
July 18: The Trump administration orders almost $400 million in military aid to Ukraine be put on hold before he calls the new president, The Washington Post first reported.
July 24: Special counsel Robert Mueller testifies to the House about his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election; says his team did not clear Trump of obstructing justice but also did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime.
July 25: Trump speaks with Zelenskiy on the phone. Various reports say Trump raises the issue of Ukraine investigating the Bidens.
August: Giuliani encourages a representative of the Zelensky government to investigate Hunter Biden, on the phone and during a meeting in Spain, according to The New York Times.
Aug. 12: An unidentified whistleblower files a complaint — later determined to be credible and a matter of “urgent concern” — with the intelligence community inspector general, Michael Atkinson.
Sept. 1: Zelenskiy and Pence meet in Poland, after Trump stays in the United States to monitor Hurricane Dorian. The next day, Pence says he did not discuss Biden but he did raise aid to Ukraine and fighting corruption.
Sept. 9: The inspector general notifies the House and Senate of the whistleblower complaint but does not reveal what it is about.
Sept. 10: The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, the Democrat from California, demands the complaint from Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence. Maguire has prevented the inspector general from sharing it with Congress as the law generally requires.
Sept. 11: The Trump administration releases military aid for Ukraine after lawmakers questioned why it was being held.
Sept. 13: Schiff subpoenas the acting director of national intelligence.
Sept. 18: The Washington Post reports that the complaint concerns some kind of “promise” Trump made to a foreign leader.
Sept. 19: The inspector general tells Congress in a closed session that the complaint involves more than one event.
Sept. 23: Trump says he did tie funding for Ukraine to its investigation of corruption — which he has accused Biden and his son of — before later denying that he had exerted any pressure.
Sept. 24: Trump confirms he withheld military aid from Ukraine and this time says it was because the United States was contributing more than European countries. House Speaker Pelosi announces formal impeachment inquiry, saying, "No one is above the law."
Sept. 25: The White House releases a summary of Trump’s call with Zelenskiy, the Ukrainian president, in which Trump raises an investigation into Hunter Biden and asks Zelenskiy to talk to Barr. Barr says he learned about the call several weeks after it was made. In the afternoon, Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, releases the whistleblower complaint to the House and Senate intelligence committees.
Sept. 26: The whistleblower's complaint, a version of which was released to the public, accuses the president of "using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election." The reports says senior White House officials intervened to "lock down" the transcript of the call by moving it to an electronic system used to store the most sensitive national security information. It describes Trump's call with Zelenskiy and alleges Attorney General Barr "appears to be involved" in the interference scheme. Maguire, testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, defended the whistleblower, called the matter "unprecedented" and did not deny he had talked to Trump about the complaint. Trump blasts the whistleblower and the whistleblower's sources and compares them to spies. "This is a cover-up," Pelosi says.
Sept. 30: Trump says the White House is "trying to find out" the whistleblower's identify, despite protections provided by law, and asks whether Schiff should be arrested for treason. "Rep. Adam Schiff illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement, pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian President, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people," Trump tweets. "It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call.
The House Intelligence Committee subpoenas Giuliani, saying it is investigating credible allegations that he acted as an agent of Trump "to advance his personal political interests" by abusing presidential power.
Oct. 1: Pompeo accuses Democrats investigating the Ukraine scandal of trying to "intimidate, bully, and treat improperly" the officials they wanted deposed. He writes that the dates Democrats requested for the depositions are "not feasible."
Oct. 2: Pompeo acknowledges that he listened in on Trump's phone call with Zelenskiy, after dissembling for several days when asked about the conversation.
Trump rages against Democrats and reporters. He calls on Pelosi, New York Rep. Jerry Nadler, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and "shifty Schiff" to "resign in disgrace," tweets that impeachment efforts are BS, spelling out the profanity, and engages in a series of angry exchanges during a press conference with the president of Finland. He calls the Bidens "stone-cold crooked" and refers to the "fake-news media" and the "corrupt media."
Oct. 3: Trump acknowledges he asked Ukraine's president to investigate the Bidens and also publicly urges the Chinese government to investigate them over Hunter Biden's involvement with an investment fund that raised money in the country. Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield calls the new comments “a grotesque choice of lies over truth and self over the country.” Meanwhile Trump's former special envoy for Ukraine, Kurt D. Volker, is interviewed privately by three House committees. Volker was mentioned in the whistleblower’s complaint and resigned after it was released.
Late in the day, the House releases text exchanges among Volker, Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and William Taylor, the U.S. charge d'affaires in the Ukraine, showing the diplomats working to convince Zelenskiy to open investigations that Trump wanted. The Ukrainians, who wanted a meeting with Trump in the White House, sought help from Volker in dealing with Giuliani. Taylor, a career diplomat, pushes back, asking at one point if U.S. military assistance that had been delayed was dependent on investigations, and writing, "As I said on the phone, I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign."
Oct. 4: Trump says the White House is challenging the House's authority to hold an impeachment inquiry without first voting, an argument Pelosi dismisses. Republican U.S. Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska criticize Trump's open appeal to China for a Biden investigation and Romney says it "strains credulity" to suggest that reaching out to China and Ukraine is anything but politically motivated. The House requests materials from Pence, and subpoenas the White House after it fails to respond to a separate request for material. Atkinson testifies in a closed session before the House Intelligence Committee.
Trump tells House Republicans on Friday that it was Energy Secretary Rick Perry who urged him to call the Ukrainian president, NBC News reports. The New York Times reports that Rick Perry will step down by December, a report Perry later denies.
Oct. 6: A second whistleblower with first-hand knowledge of Trump's phone call with the Ukrainian president comes forward, according to Mark Zaid, the lawyer who has been representing the first whistleblower, NBC News reports.
Oct. 8: Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, who was scheduled to testify before House committees investigating Trump, is ordered by the State Department not to appear. Sondland had planned to testify voluntarily but his lawyer said that as a State Department employee, he was required to follow the directive. The chairmen of House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight committees subpoena Sondland's testimony and documents they say Pompeo is withholding.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina invites Giuliani to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chairs. Giuliani tweets that he welcomes the opportunity. Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California, who is a member of the commitee, also tweets: “Good. I have questions,” she said.
The White House refuses to turn over internal documents regarding Ukraine being sought by House Democrats and says the Democrats are conducting an invalid investigation. Its defiant letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi echoes the president's recent stances — accusing Democrats of violating the Constitution and civil liberties and attempting to overturn the results of the 2016 election.
Oct. 9: Two Soviet-born associates of Giuliani, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, are arrested on charges of violating campaign finance laws. The men had worked with the president's personal lawyer to encourage Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Parnas and Fruman, donors to a pro-Trump political action committee, are accused of funneling foreign money to state and federal political candidates to try to buy influence.
Oct. 10: House Democrats subpoena documents from Parnas and Fruman and from Perry, the energy secretary, as part of the Trump impeachment inquiry. Trump says he does not know Parnas and Fruman. "I don't know those gentlemen. Now, it's possible I have a picture with them, because I have a picture with everybody," Trump tells reporters.
Oct. 11: The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, told House impeachment investigators that a top State Department official informed her that Trump had pushed for her removal for months, according to her opening statement. The official told her she had done nothing wrong. In the closed session, she denied that she ever asked the Ukrainian government to refrain from prosecuting corruption or that the Obama administration had sought help for Hillary Clinton's campaign, and said that Giuliani's contacts might have believed their financial ambitions were being stymied by the U.S. anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.
The State Department on orders from the White House directed her not to appear for a voluntary interview, so the House Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena for her appearance.
Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the E.U., announced that he would defy the State Department and testify in the House impeachment inquiry.
Oct. 14: Trump's former Russia aide Fiona Hill testifies to the House in a closed session, according to NBC News. Then-National Security Advisor John Bolton objected to attempts to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and referred to Giuliani as a hand grenade who would blow everyone up, Hill tells Congress. Bolton told Hill to notify the top lawyer for the National Security Security about the effort, she says.
Oct. 15: Giuliani will defy a congressional subpoena and will not produce documents related to his work in Ukraine, his lawyer tells House investigators in a letter. The lawyer, Jon Sale writes: "this appears to be an unconstitutional, baseless, and illegitimate 'impeachment inquiry.'" Pence's lawyer similarly says the vice president will refuse to turn over documents related to Trump's July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president.
George Kent, a State Department expert on Ukraine, testifies under subpoena. Kent thought the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Yovanovitch, was the victim of a disinformation campaign and raised concerns about the "fake news smear," according to emails obtained by The Associated Press.
Oct.16: Michael McKinley, a former senior advisor to Pompeo, told the House he had resigned over the State Department's failure support to employees caught up in the impeachment inquiry and what appeared to be the use of ambassadors to advance domestic political objectives, NPR reported.