The preliminary investigations into an impeachment of President Trump have entered a new phase. Yesterday, members of the House voted in favour of formalising their inquiry against President Trump while also establishing rules for the upcoming proceedings.

At the centre of the pre-determinations of impeachment remains the Ukraine affair and Trump’s controversial telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Selenskyj. Democrats in the House of Representatives are investigating whether Trump engaged in a quid pro quo, pressuring Selenskyj into investigating Joe Biden and his son Hunter through the withdrawal of military aid to Ukraine.

While the Democrats have conducted several witness testimonies already, their latest plan could add a new dynamic into a potential impeachment procedure. According to the Washington Post and the New York Times, Trump’s former National Security Advisor John Bolton has been summoned to appear on the Hill for testimony behind closed doors and thereby – so Democrats hope – provide new facts, detrimental to Trump.

Bolton’s testimony is seen as promising in some circles, as he – according to other testimonies – was highly concerned during his time as National Security Advisor about Trump’s attempts to pressure Ukraine. Members of the House now seek to question Bolton himself in order to clarify the questions one witness’ statement had raised regarding Bolton’s concern over Trump’s dealings with Ukraine and the influence of Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

That witness is Fiona Hill, who gave testimony two weeks ago. According to her statement, Bolton called the Ukraine affair a “drug deal”, which Giuliani, whom Bolton called a “hand grenade” was conducting. Trump subsequently fired Bolton in September after different views on a range of international and security issues, such as dealing with North Korea and Iran.

After the reports of Bolton’s potential testimony surfaced, however, his Attorney Charles Cooper stated on Wednesday night that his client would not agree to voluntary questioning on the Hill. Democrats will now likely issue a subpoena to ensure Bolton’s appearance.

Meanwhile, another development has sparked the controversy and fuelled Democrats’ desire to act. One day prior to his testimony in the matter, the top White House official for Russia’s affairs announced his resignation.

Tim Morrison, a high-ranking director for Europe and Russia, was seen as an essential witness in the impeachment investigation. He became a focus of the attention when the acting ambassador to Ukraine cited Morrison as the source for allegations that Trump had urged him to investigate the Bidens. According to witnesses, Morrison is said to have had a bad feeling during the US President’s phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart.

With Morrison out of the picture, for now, the focus will shift to Bolton, and it will be interesting to see the degree of his participation.

While an official impeachment procedure has not been initiated yet, recent developments indicate how intense the probe could get. It remains a risky move for the Democrats even at this stage, and it is telling if John Bolton, who has been persona non grata in liberal circles for ages, is now being discussed as a potential smoking gun.

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