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17 Dec 2019 2:41
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  •   Home > News > International

    Donald Trump unloads in on-air Fox News call after a bad week of impeachment hearings

    For 53 minutes, the US President repeats conspiracy theories, tees off on Democrats and complains that an ambassador didn't want to hang his portrait in an embassy.

    US President Donald Trump has unloaded to one of his favourite media outlets, Fox News, after nearly two weeks of nationally televised impeachment hearings that have increased the threat to his presidency.

    The commander-in-chief phoned in to the right-leaning breakfast show Fox & Friends for a rambling, wide-ranging, 53-minute conversation, which was later described as "stress release" by one of the program's hosts.

    Pressure has built on the White House in recent days, as the impeachment inquiry heard damaging testimony detailing a broad Trump administration plot to convince Ukraine to carry out politically motivated investigations.

    But during his phone call with the most-watched news channel, the President didn't just reject key allegations, he also pushed a conspiracy theory, called Speaker Nancy Pelosi "crazy as a bedbug" and even declared he wants an impeachment trial.

    Here are the highlights of Mr Trump's remarks:

    1. The sacked ambassador didn't want to hang his portrait

    Mr Trump spent much of the conversation trying to discredit impeachment witnesses, who have spoken publicly, claiming he "doesn't know" the majority of them.

    In particular, he singled out former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch as "the woman" and declared she was "not an angel."

    "She wouldn't hang my picture in the embassy," he said.

    "She's in charge of the embassy. It took, like, a year and a half, two years."

    The impeachment inquiry heard Ms Yovanovitch, who was recalled as US ambassador in May, was fired amid a smear campaign carried out by the President's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

    For what it's worth, her lawyers insist the President's official headshot was hung in the Kiev Embassy as soon as it arrived.

    2. Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election

    The impeachment inquiry centres around an allegation that Mr Trump abused his oath of office by using military aid as leverage to pressure Ukraine to open two politically motivated investigations.

    The first would have involved one of Mr Trump's top rivals, Joe Biden, and the second would have examined a conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 US election.

    Yesterday, former White House Russia expert Fiona Hill branded the debunked theory "fictional" and testified that it came from "politically driven falsehoods" promoted by the Kremlin.

    But during his chat, the commander-in-chief pushed the idea again, claiming that a hacked email server belonging to the Democratic party is somewhere in Ukraine.

    "The FBI's never gotten that server," he exclaimed.

    "That's a big part of this whole thing. Why did they give it to a Ukrainian company?"

    Even the Fox & Friends anchors were unprepared to swallow that. One host pushed back gently:

    "Are you sure they did that?"

    3. Hunter Biden and democratic politicians should testify in an impeachment trial

    It now looks highly likely that the Lower House of Congress, which is controlled by the Democrats, will impeach the President.

    During the call, he took out his frustration out on Ms Pelosi, describing her as "totally incompetent", "nuts", "absolutely lost" and "highly overrated".

    But if he is impeached, Mr Trump said:

    "Frankly, I want a trial."

    He claimed a Senate trial would be a chance to call witnesses, like Joe Biden's son Hunter, leading Democrat Adam Schiff, who is currently running the impeachment investigation, and the anonymous CIA official who lodged a formal complaint about Mr Trump's dealings with Ukraine.

    "The one I want to testify most is 'Shifty Schiff'," he said.

    "He's a corrupt politician."

    4. No one will beat him in 2020

    A trial before the Senate, which is controlled by his Republican party, would most likely see the President cleared of all charges and remain in office.

    It means that the success or failure of this impeachment push will probably be judged on what impact it has on the 2020 election campaign.

    The two parties have to sell their positions on impeachment to the public.

    Mr Trump took time during the interview to take shots at top Democratic candidates, including:

    • Joe Biden: "I don't know if Joe can make it mentally. He's off."
    • Elizabeth Warren: "I think Pocahontas has come up from the embers."
    • Pete Buttigieg: "I don't see him dealing with President Xi. I don't see him dealing with Kim Jong-un. But maybe he is."

    More than anything, this 53-minute call clearly outlined how vastly Mr Trump's views differ to much of the evidence presented so far.

    But one consistent theme of his term is that when the commander-in-chief speaks, his supporters back him up, particularly some members of the Fox network.

    "So, it's good I get the word out on your show," Mr Trump said as the chat finished.

    "I love your show."

    © 2019 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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