American public loses enthusiasm for impeachment despite blockbuster hearings

Democrats hoped it would be the week that Donald Trump was hoist with his own petard.

A parade of witnesses, including former aides to the president, strode into Congress to deliver seemingly damning testimony to the impeachment inquiry.

But the blockbuster hearings, which reached a huge television audience, appeared instead to have swung public support back towards Mr Trump.

A national poll by Emerson College, taken during the hearings, between Nov 17 and Nov 20, found 45 per cent now oppose impeaching the president, with 43 per cent in favour.

In October the same poll had a majority, 48 per cent, in favour of impeachment, with 44 per cent opposed.

Over the last week the hearings dominated the political discourse in the United States as a series of witnesses suggested Mr Trump had offered a "quid pro quo" to the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

The central plank of the allegations is that the US president withheld $392 million in military assistance to Ukraine unless Mr Zelenskiy publicly announced a corruption investigation into the business dealings of the Biden family in that country.

The new poll revealed a particularly large swing of six points against impeachment among independent voters. The polls showed 49 per cent of independents were now against impeachment, with 34 per cent in favour.

Despite the blanket television coverage of the hearings only seven per cent of voters thought impeachment was the most important issue.

The top issue for Republicans and independent voters was the economy, and for Democrats it was healthcare.

A separate poll taken in the election battleground state of Wisconsin found 40 per cent thought Mr Trump should be impeached and removed, and 53 per cent said he should not.

The Wisconsin poll found "consistent, if sometimes modest, shifts in public opinion away from support of impeachment."

Mr Trump seized on the results, writing on Twitter: "Polls have now turned very strongly against Impeachment!"

The president’s approval rating has remained steady through the impeachment crisis so far.

A vote in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives on whether to impeach him is expected before Christmas, which would set up a trial in the Senate.

Ahead of the vote Republican groups are spending millions of dollars on anti-impeachment TV adverts in districts represented by vulnerable Democrats.

Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House, said he: "I don’t know if it’s even going to get to the Senate."

Mr Trump has said he welcomes a trial. His defence is being coordinated by Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel.

The White House wants to limit the length of the trial, perhaps to as little as two weeks.

A spokesman indicated they would be willing to call Joe Biden, and his son Hunter, as witnesses.

Hunter Biden sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father was handling Ukraine policy as vice-president during the Obama administration.

Meanwhile, Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, faced being dragged into the impeachment affair.

An ethics group published nearly 100 pages of documents obtained from the State Department that it says clearly detail contacts between Mr Pompeo and Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer.

Mr Giuliani has been at the centre of accusations that Ukraine was being pressured to investigate the Bidens.

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