Donald Trump is facing the biggest crisis of his political career to date.

It all revolves around a controversial phone call he had with the President of Ukraine in July that was investigated after a whistleblower complained of corruption, reports News.com.au.

Now, thanks to that complaint, a formal impeachment inquiry has been launched against him. Joe Biden, who is also at the centre of the scandal, just went on Jimmy Kimmel's tonight show to say the President had committed a "blatant abuse of power" that "cannot stand".

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky. Photo / Getty Images
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky. Photo / Getty Images

This inquiry rests on one big question: Did the President of the United States try to bribe the President of Ukraine in exchange for a political favour?

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But that, in turn, prompts a host of other questions. Did Trump commit a crime? Is he facing the axe? Why is everyone now talking about Joe Biden, that bloke who was in heaps of memes with Barack Obama three years ago? Why is Ukraine involved?

This story is evolving into one giant fiasco, so let's hold hands and dive in together.

THE SHORT VERSION

On July 25, Trump had a 30-minute phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In August, a whistleblower from within the US intelligence community complained that Trump's behaviour during the phone call was highly unethical.

On September 19, it was revealed that the complaint alleged that Trump attempted to coerce the Ukrainian government into investigating alleged corrupt acts involving former vice president Joe Biden and his son Robert Hunter Biden.

Specifically, he wanted Ukraine to probe Joe Biden's role in the dismissal of the country's prosecutor-general, Viktor Shokin, who was axed in 2016.

Allegedly in exchange, he would grant Ukraine a previously-withheld $US400 million in military aid.

Trump dismissed the reports, urging the media to "look into" Biden's background with Ukraine.

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On September 24, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump, who said it was "Witch Hunt garbage".

On September 25, a rough summary of the phone call was released, revealing that Trump encouraged the Ukrainian leader to work with his Attorney-General William Barr and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to probe Biden's role in Shokin's dismissal.

WHO IS JOE BIDEN?

Joe Biden is an American politician who served as vice president of the United States from 2009 to 2017 under Barack Obama.

In April, Biden released a video formally announcing his candidacy for the 2020 election. He's running as a Democrat.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden. Photo / AP
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden. Photo / AP

He's widely regarded as the safest and most electable choice for the Democrats, with some polls suggesting he would do best against Trump at an election.

Of course, one could argue polls don't mean jack — and certainly not 14 months before an election. But it's safe to say that of all the Democratic presidential nominees, Biden would be the President's main concern.

WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH BIDEN'S SON?

Robert Hunter Biden, 49, served on the board of a major Ukrainian energy company called Burisma from 2014 to 2019.

Trump has confirmed he discussed the Bidens with Zelensky — the transcript backs that up — and accused the pair of corruption.

It must be stressed there is no evidence of corruption by either Joe or Hunter Biden.

The company Hunter Biden worked at was owned by a businessman who was being investigated by Ukraine's top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, and Trump's push relates to this prosecutor's removal.

WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENED WITH UKRAINE?

Viktor Mikolajovićh Shokin is a former General Prosecutor of Ukraine. Photo / Getty Images
Viktor Mikolajovićh Shokin is a former General Prosecutor of Ukraine. Photo / Getty Images

Back in March 2016, Shokin was axed after less than 14 months in the post.

That same year, with the support of other world leaders, Joe Biden threatened to withhold $US1 billion of US aid unless Ukraine's leaders fired him for being too soft on corruption.

But Trump and his allies claim Biden wanted Shokin fired because he was overseeing an active criminal investigation into Burisma, the gas company Biden's son worked for.

Trump's allies claim Biden abused his position as vice president to get Shokin fired and help Burisma — and Biden's son, by extension — avoid damage from a criminal investigation.

The investigation into Burisma had been inactive for over a year by the time Biden pushed for Shokin to be ousted.

Amid the current phone call scandal, Trump insists Biden abused his position as vice president to help his son.

With Democrats increasingly demanding Trump's impeachment over the allegation that he attempted to use his own power to investigate Biden, the President reiterated that Biden "forced a tough prosecutor out from investigating his son's company by threat of not giving big dollars to Ukraine".

WHAT'S TRUMP GOT AGAINST BIDEN?

If there's no evidence of corruption by the Bidens in the Ukraine, why the big push against them?

Trump insists Biden is guilty of corruption. He has implored the media to examine his political rival's ties to Ukraine, alleging he abused his position when he was vice president to keep his son's company out of a corruption investigation.

Trump's demand for the investigation also appears to be politically motivated. As we noted earlier, Biden is favoured to win the Democratic nomination for president next year, and some polls say he would beat Trump if the election were held today.

There's plenty of analysis around on why Trump is more worried about Biden than any other Democratic contender, but it basically boils down to Biden being most likely to defeat him in 2020.

WHO IS THE WHISTLEBLOWER?

On August 12, a whistleblower from the US intelligence community filed a complaint regarding some kind of wrongdoing at high levels of the US government.

The full transcript of this complaint has not been seen by the media, though members of Congress have now seen it.

On September 18, it was revealed Trump was caught up in this complaint based on his communications with a foreign leader to whom he had made a troubling "promise".

We now know the foreign leader in question was Zelensky.

The administration previously refused to share the complaint with Congress, saying it "involves confidential and potentially privileged communications".

The whistleblower's identity remains unknown, but Democratic Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer has called for their complaint to be made public.

President Donald Trump speaking during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. Photo / AP
President Donald Trump speaking during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. Photo / AP

HAS TRUMP COMMITTED AN IMPEACHABLE OFFENCE?

That's the big question! On one hand, it's illegal for a political campaign to accept favours from a foreign government.

But impeachment is not a legal remedy. It's a political one. It hinges on whether or not Trump committed a "high crime or misdemeanour", the definition of which is entirely subjective.

Arguably, the only high crime or misdemeanour here would be if Trump certifiably used the Biden investigation as a bargaining chip in exchange for granting military aid to Ukraine.

This is the issue on which the impeachment battle will be fought.

With the information we've got so far, it's hard to conclusively determine whether there was a quid pro quo — a "you give me this and I'll give you that" exchange — although Democrats argue it is heavily implied by Trump throughout the phone call.

A recent Washington Post report said Trump instructed his acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to withhold $US400 million in military aid to Ukraine shortly before the phone call took place. The funds were eventually released on September 11.

The White House released a memo of Trump's conversation with the Ukrainian President that does not conclusively draw this link.

However, this is a rough edited and summarised transcription — it is not the full word-for-word transcript of the call.

It includes a "caution" note explaining several factors affected the accuracy of the recording, citing poor telecommunication connections and "variations in accent and/or interpretation".

It also contained "inaudible" portions, and there is speculation chunks that could be significant may have been omitted.

HOW DOES THE IMPEACHMENT PROCESS WORK?

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced the House is launching a formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. Photo / AP
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced the House is launching a formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. Photo / AP

On September 24, Ms Pelosi announced a "formal impeachment inquiry" against the President.

Impeachment is a constitutional process by which a sitting president can be removed from office.

This can be achieved through first proving the President committed one of three major crimes — "treason", "bribery" and "high crimes and misdemeanours".

The first phase of the impeachment process is an "inquiry". This doesn't involve any voting taking place; it's just the process of gathering sufficient information and evidence to determine that a vote should take place. This is where the Democrats are now at with Trump.

If sufficient evidence is gathered, a two-part vote to impeach the President can be launched.

The first vote takes place in the House of Representatives, which is made up of 435 elected officials across the US. The magic number here is 218 — more than half of the House.

If a minimum of 218 officials votes to impeach the President, the vote passes the House and goes to the Senate.

For what it's worth, a 218-vote majority of the House has publicly backed Trump's impeachment, meaning that if a vote were held today, and they voted in line with their public stance, the House of Representatives would successfully impeach the President.

Not so fast! It would then go to the Senate, where two-thirds or more would have to vote to remove the President.

In the event that this occurs, the President would be ousted from the top job, and the Vice President would take his place.

No US president has ever reached this point. Only two US presidents — Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998 — have been impeached by the House of Representatives, and both were acquitted in the subsequent Senate vote because the two-thirds majority vote wasn't reached.

President Richard Nixon was also facing impeachment after the Watergate scandal in 1974, but he resigned before the process could be completed.

SO … COULD TRUMP BE IMPEACHED?

It's highly unlikely.

Yes, the House of Representatives may vote to impeach Trump, judging by the numbers.

But Republicans are in control of the Senate, with 53 senators to the Democrats' 47. For the Senate to convict Trump and complete the process, 20 members of Trump's own party would be required to vote against a man who is easily their best shot at another four years in government.

In other words, captivating as all this hoo-ha is, it's dubious to claim we're seeing the early demise of the US President.