US impeachment hearings grab media spotlight

After US Energy Secretary Rick Perry, center — seen here with former ambassador to the Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch — proposed political backer Michael Bleyzer, left, as an adviser to the Ukraine’s president, Bleyzer secured a potentially lucrative energy deal from the Ukrainian government, according to press reports. (AP)
Updated 12 November 2019

US impeachment hearings grab media spotlight

  • Televised hearings into allegations about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine will begin in the US this week

WASHINGTON: This week will mark a new and unparalleled chapter in Donald Trump’s tumultuous presidency, as the Democratic-led impeachment probe goes public with televised hearings into allegations about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

Beginning on Wednesday, three witnesses will publicly detail their concerns, previously expressed behind closed doors, that the Trump administration sought to tie military aid to Ukraine to an investigation of the Republican president’s potential Democratic rival for the presidency, Joe Biden.

The testimony will be carried by major broadcast and cable networks and is expected to be viewed by millions, who will watch current and former officials from Trump’s own administration begin to outline a case for his potential removal from office.

It has been 20 years since Americans last witnessed impeachment proceedings, when Republicans brought charges against then-Democratic President Bill Clinton.

Democrats in the US House of Representatives argue Trump abused his authority in pressing the Ukrainian government to investigate Biden and his son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma.

Representative Eric Swalwell, a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which will hold the hearings on Wednesday and Friday this week, accused Trump on Sunday of “extortion.”

“We have enough evidence from the depositions that we’ve done to warrant bringing this forward, evidence of an extortion scheme, using taxpayer dollars to ask a foreign government to investigate the president’s opponent,” Swalwell said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Trump argued on Twitter that he was not guilty of misconduct and that the probe was politically driven. “NOTHING WAS DONE WRONG!” he wrote on Sunday.

Democrats consider the open hearings to be crucial to building public support for a formal impeachment vote against Trump. If that occurs, the Republican-controlled Senate would hold a trial on the charges. Republicans have so far shown little support for removing Trump from office, which would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate. The House Intelligence Committee will first hear from William Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, who told the committee in closed-door testimony that he was unhappy US aid to the country was held up by the administration.

Taylor said he also became uncomfortable with what he described as an “irregular channel” of people involved in Ukraine policy, including Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer.

George Kent, a senior State Department official who oversees Ukraine, will appear at Wednesday’s hearing as well. Kent was also concerned about Giuliani’s role in conducting shadow diplomacy — and has testified that he was cut out of
the decision-making loop on Ukraine matters.

On Friday, the committee will hear from former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. She says she was ousted from her post after Giuliani and his allies mounted a campaign against her with what she called “unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.”

Democrats are likely to call further witnesses after this week.

House Republicans released their list on Saturday of witnesses they would like brought before the committee, including Hunter Biden and the yet-unnamed whistleblower who first brought the complaint against Trump over his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a Democrat, is unlikely to summon either to testify, and even some Republicans have opposed the push from Trump and some of his supporters that the whistleblower be identified.

“I think we should be protecting the identity of the whistleblower,” Will Hurd, a former CIA officer and a Republican member of the committee, said on the “Fox News Sunday” program, “because how we treat this whistleblower will impact whistleblowers in the future.”


Homegrown Saudi show ‘Takki’ now on Netflix

Updated 09 July 2020

Homegrown Saudi show ‘Takki’ now on Netflix

  • Saudi series provides insight into the life of a generation caught between conservatism and modernism

Webedia Arabia Group, a media and technology company developing strategic, insight-driven, culturally led and creative content for Arab consumers, has announced Netflix’s licensing of the popular Saudi drama series “Takki,” which is now available for viewing on the platform.

Produced by UTURN, which is part of Webedia Arabia Group, the series follows the story of a young Saudi film director and reflects the different facets of Saudi society, including the social challenges faced by its youth. The homegrown Saudi series, written and produced by Mohammed (Anggy) Makki, provides insight into the life of a generation caught between conservatism and modernism.

Kaswara Al-Khatib, chairman of the board at Webedia Arabia Group and founder of UTURN, continues to nurture Saudi talent and propel the industry forward by drawing international recognition. The licensing of “Takki” by Netflix reflects the interest for hyper-localized Saudi content.

“In a region that lacks content relevant to Saudi youth, localization was key. Additionally, Saudi Arabia is filled with rising stars and through UTURN, we’ve created talent pools and incubated them. This is our way of helping to reshape the future of content and Saudi digital culture. Webedia Arabia Group is now full of opportunities that are in line with the Saudi Vision 2030, and we are positioned to develop outstanding content reaching worldwide audiences,” he said.

Webedia Arabia Group CEO George Maktabi added: “In a fast-moving world and with our 63 million Arab users, we are constantly combining the right narrative with insightful data, bridging the gap between audiences and broadcasters by engaging viewers in topics they are passionate about and giving them a space to express their creativity.”

As part of the Kingdom’s transformational era in promoting culture and entertainment, UTURN by Webedia Arabia Group continues to foster the talent of Saudi youth with several new projects in the pipeline.

Both seasons of “Takki” are now available on Netflix.