Rep. Elise Stefanik forcefully pushed back against the case for impeachment of President Donald Trump by citing conflict of interest concerns raised by the Obama administration.
The New York Republican on questioned witness Marie Yovanovitch, a career diplomat, during impeachment proceedings before the House on Friday.
Democrats say Yovanovitch’s removal was aimed at clearing the way for Trump allies to persuade Ukraine to launch corruption investigations into Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who was on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company.
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Stefanik cited questions posed to Yovanovitch before her Senate confirmation process.
“You testified that in this particular practice Q&A with the Obama state department, it wasn’t just generally about Burisma and corruption, it was specifically about Hunter Biden and Burisma. Is that correct?” Stefanik said.
“Yes it is,” replied Yovanovitch.
Democrats have argued Trump’s motivation for pressing Ukraine to investigate Biden was political and therefore improper.
“So for the millions of Americans watching, President Obama’s was so concerned about potential conflicts of interest from Hunter Biden’s role at Burisma that they raised it themselves while prepping this wonderful ambassador nominee before her confirmation,” Stefanik said.
“And yet our Democratic colleagues and the chairman of this committee cry foul when we dare ask that same question that the Obama state department was so concerned about,” she added.
The impeachment inquiry
The main focus of the impeachment inquiry is a July 25 phone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who was elected in May, to open investigations into the Bidens.
Democrats are looking into whether Trump abused his power by withholding $391 million in U.S. security aid to Ukraine as leverage to pressure Kiev to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, who is a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to take on Trump in the 2020 election.
The money, approved by Congress to help Ukraine combat Russia-backed separatists, was later provided to Ukraine.
The hearings could pave the way for the Democratic-led House to approve articles of impeachment – formal charges – against Trump. That would lead to a trial in the Senate on whether to convict Trump and remove him from office. Republicans control the Senate and have shown little support for Trump’s removal.
Many Republicans in Congress say Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine are not impeachable offenses, and the president denies any wrongdoing.
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(Reuters contributed to this report.)