The 1100 LHOB boardroom is one of the largest in the US Congress. It holds nearly 500 spectators and looks like a theater with its stucco columns and velvet curtains.
Or like a dish.
On Wednesday, a historic negotiation began here - the one about the political fate of Donald Trump.
"There is hardly a more momentous action than the impeachment of a president," said Democratic MP Adam Schiff to kick off. Nevertheless, Congress sometimes has no choice.
It is not that far yet. But the first third impeachment process in US history gained considerable momentum with this televised marathon session on all TV channels. That's when the first witnesses testified in public - and one of them charged Trump with a new revelation that caused shockwaves.
Liu Jie / Xinhua / DPA
Five-and-a-half-hour marathon: Kent and Taylor before their statement
That was not just a show. For the first time, millions of Americans got a gripping insight into the Ukrainian affair that has been haunting Washington for weeks.
The importance is not to be underestimated. An impeachment is, above all, also a political process: It is not just the politicians who vote in the end as jurors to be convinced - but also, and more importantly, the voters.
So, under the leadership of Schiff, who leads the intelligence committee, the Democrats began this crucial "public phase" with two invincible Stoic key witnesses.
Acting US ambassador to the United States, William Taylor, and Under Secretary of State George Kent are non-political, literally mouse-gray officials who fought "under the constitution" for presidents of both parties. Her biographies, full of heroic military stories and patriotic victims, are strikingly different from Trump's biography.
AFP / Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS
Heroic Biography: Ukraine Ambassador Taylor in front of the intelligence committee
"It is my privilege to serve our country and the American people for more than 50 years," Taylor said, praying down his many stations: West Point, NATO, Afghanistan, Iraq, Jerusalem, Ukraine. Kent summoned his ancestors, including the commander of an atomic submarine and a fighter pilot who was a Japanese prisoner of war.
"I'm not here to take sides," said Taylor, who was called by Trump to his post in Kiev. "My only intention is to provide facts."
It was incriminating facts. Meticulously recorded both men, as they would have experienced the affair up close and with growing horror - to the phone call Trumps with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj, which led to a whistleblower complaint and finally to the current investigation.
Most of them had already been said behind closed doors, documented in thousands of pages of transcripts. But loudly performed, in the glaring spotlight of Room 1100 LHOB, this screenplay became the five-and-a-half-hour thriller.
ALEX WONG / AFP
Impersonal star witness: Undersecretary Kent
Taylor's opening statement alone, 41 minutes long: Point by point, it reinforced the allegations against Trump.
- Trump has withheld from the Ukrainian government "for no good reason" almost $ 400 million US military aid, which she urgently needed to defend against Russia aggression: "It was illogical, it was inexplicable, it was crazy."
- Trump has made the release of funds and an invitation to Oval Ofiice hoped by Selenskyj on the condition that this can be instrumentalized for a "political campaign" - namely, Trump's US election 2020.
- For this purpose, an "irregular channel" was set up for Ukraine, operated by the diplomats Kurt Volker and Gordon Sondland, Energy Minister Rick Perry, Trump's acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Trump's private lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
- They urged Selenskyi to revive old conspiracy theories surrounding Kiev's interference in the 2016 US elections and Democrat Joe Biden's Ukraine Connections - by publicly announcing an investigation into Biden.
Then Taylor's bang followed. The day after his conversation with Selenskyj, Trump telephoned Sondland, who had just been in Kiev. Subsequently, Sondland had entrusted to an employee of Taylor, that Trump in the Ukraine policy "more interested in the investigation of Biden" than in Ukraine.
"Irregular channel" to Ukraine: US President Donald Trump
Taylor clarified the implications of these events. The blockade of funds for reasons that had nothing to do with the declared US foreign policy, had led to the death of Ukrainian soldiers. And she was a signal to Russia, which was pleased "about the humiliation of President Selenskyj by the Americans".
Taylor managed what the Democrats had hoped for in the summer from Russia investigator Robert Mueller: He distilled complex suspicions into understandable sound bites. Outraged, the Republicans tried one counterstrategy after another to derail him, and the whole hearing.
- Devin Nunes, the vice-chairman of the committee, cursed the proceedings as a "carefully orchestrated slander campaign" and "cheap Ukrainian sequel" to the Russian affair.
- His party colleagues interrupted the procedure with elaborate proposals and "parliamentary questions".
- They asked fewer questions and instead used monologues to record the conspiracy theories.
- They argued that there was no breach of law, as military aid was later released - 48 hours after the whistleblower complaint became public.
- They claimed that the whistleblower had "coordinated" with the Democrats - which was again denied by Schiff.
- They accused the witnesses of spreading only hearsay.
AP / J. Scott Applewhite
Historical Trial: The US Capitol, scene of the impeachment hearings
Schiff brought in his experience as an ex-prosecutor. Cool, he neutralized all the distractions of the Republicans.
But that was just the beginning. The public hearings are set to continue on Friday with Marie Yovanovitch, Trump's ex-ambassador to Ukraine. The witness list for next week is already full.
The question is how many Americans will turn on then.