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Public hearings in Trump impeachment probe start next week: US lawmaker

Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent, who heads the European and Eurasian bureau at the State Department, also testifies on 13 November.

US President Donald Trump. Picture: AFP

WASHINGTON, United States - The first open hearings in the impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump are set for next week, the congressman overseeing the process said Wednesday, as the investigation heads into a much-anticipated public phase.

Two US officials including William Taylor, the top US diplomat to Ukraine who has bolstered the accusation that Trump pressured Kiev to launch investigations that could help the president politically, will testify next Wednesday, House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff said.

People will be able to see "the degree to which the president enlisted whole departments of government in the illicit aim of trying to get Ukraine to dig up dirt on a political opponent," Schiff said.

Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent, who heads the European and Eurasian bureau at the State Department, also testifies on 13 November.

The former US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, who told investigators she was ousted from her post over "false claims" spread by Trump allies, is scheduled to testify on 15 November.

The Capitol Hill hearings will be broadcast live as Democratic and Republican lawmakers question witnesses, many of whom the White House has sought to discredit.

Republican lawmakers have spent weeks accusing Democrats of holding "sham" secret hearings in the US Capitol basement and demanding a more open process.

Schiff said that such a phase has now arrived, and that Americans will be able to hear the accounts of potential abuse of power directly from witnesses who were caught up in the scandal.

The hearings "will be an opportunity for the American people to evaluate the witnesses for themselves, to make their own determinations about the credibility of the witnesses, but also learn first-hand about the facts of the president's misconduct," Schiff added.

An anonymous whistleblower filed a complaint in September highlighting potential abuse of power by the president when he telephoned Ukraine's leader and asked him to investigate Trump's potential 2020 election rival Joe Biden.

The complaint led Democrats to formally launch their impeachment inquiry, which has led to an avalanche of testimony from several witnesses, including current and former diplomats or administration officials who have largely corroborated the whistleblower's account.

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