An impeachment inquiry against US President Donald Trump intensified after a top US diplomat testified before Congress about the president's alleged pressuring of Ukraine. Democrats described it as a "damning" statement.
A top US diplomat told lawmakers on Tuesday that President Donald Trump made military aid to Ukraine contingent on the government publicly announcing it would carry out investigations into Trump's political rival.
William Taylor, who serves as the charge d'affaires at the US embassy in Ukraine, testified before three Democrat-led committees in the House of Representatives which are leading an impeachment inquiry against Trump.
In his opening statement, which was published by US media, Taylor described what appeared to be a quid-pro-quo pressure campaign that was orchestrated by Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
Taylor said that Trump sought to withhold aid unless Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy publicly announced that he would investigate a natural gas company that is linked to the family of Trump's potential presidential rival, Democrat Joe Biden.
He also urged for a probe into alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.
"It was the most damning testimony," Democratic Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz told Reuters.
The White House rejected the testimony, dismissing it as part of a "smear campaign."
"There was no quid pro quo," White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said.
The impeachment inquiry into Trump's alleged illegal actions with Ukraine emerged after an intelligence community official filed an anonymous whistleblower complaint which detailed the campaign to pressure Kyiv.
rs/se (AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP)