Washington (dpa) - Witnesses are publicly questioned in the US Congress today (4:00 pm CET) for the first time since Democrats began impeachment investigations into US President Donald Trump.

The House Intelligence Committee invited, along with a US State Department diplomat, William Taylor, Executive US Ambassador to the Ukraine. The top diplomat is considered the most important witness of the Democrats.

The Democrats are seeking impeachment against Trump and have questioned numerous behind-the-scenes witnesses over the past few weeks, including diplomats such as Taylor, a lieutenant colonel and Ukraine experts on the US National Security Council, and foreign and defense ministers. Numerous non-public statements made the Democrats public since last week written versions.

The public hearings "are designed to bring to light the facts for the American people," said Monday Adam Schiff, who directs the Democrats' investigation. The Democrats accuse Trump of having urged the Ukrainian government to interfere in its favor in the US election campaign. They suspect him of having used military aid worth some $ 400 million as leverage.

At the center of the Ukraine affair is a telephone conversation with Trump and his Ukrainian colleague Volodymyr Selensky in late July. In it, Trump encouraged Selenskyj to investigate that could potentially harm his political rival Joe Biden of the Democrats. Of the conversation that Trump defends as flawless, a protocol has already been published.

Taylor stated in his nonpublic statement in October that Trump had deliberately restrained military aid already decided by Congress to harm Biden. According to him, the funds should only flow if Selenskyj publicly announced investigations.

These investigations were to apply, inter alia, Biden's son Hunter. This was sitting until April in the Board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma, which has since been determined. Trump accuses Joe Biden of having made efforts in his former role as US Vice President to protect his son from the Ukrainian judiciary. There is no evidence for that. Biden is one of the most promising candidates for the presidential candidacy of the Democrats at the next election in November 2020. Trump wants to compete for the Republicans for re-election.

According to Taylor's accounts, Ukraine's US policy is said to have expired on two parallel channels: a regular and a "highly irregular" one. Part of the latter were, inter alia, Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and the US ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland.

Never has a US President been removed from office. The Democrats have the necessary majority in the House of Representatives to open such a procedure. However, the Senate would decide on the outcome - and the Republicans, whose support Trump has so far been able to build on, are dominating there.

Announcement of public hearings

Resolution of the US House of Representatives on the impeachment investigation against Donald Trump

Information from the US Senate on the impeachment procedure

General Information about the Impeachment Procedure in the US House of Representatives

Statement by the Executive US Ambassador in Kiev, William Taylor (excerpts)

Statement by former US Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch (excerpts)

Statement by the US Ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland (excerpts)

Statement by the former Special Representative for Ukraine, Kurt Volker (excerpts)

"New York Times" on the impeachment process - with graphics on the procedure

Minutes of Trump and Selenskyj's Call on July 25 (published by the White House)

Written complaint of the whistleblower in the Ukraine affair