House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) announced that public hearings in the impeachment inquiry will begin Nov. 13, and will also be held on Nov. 15. First up will be William B. Taylor Jr., whose blockbuster hearing transcript was released today, and George Kent, another State Department witness. (According to the New York Times, Kent previously testified about “concerns raised to colleagues early this year about the pressure being directed at Ukraine by Mr. Trump and his private lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to pursue investigations into Mr. Trump’s political rivals.” He reportedly has written documentation such as emails that will back up his testimony.)

We will also hear from former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was told her safety was at risk when she was summarily recalled to the U.S. More hearings will follow.

Suddenly, these testimonies are becoming all too real for President Trump and his Republican allies. No whining about process. No mischaracterization of witnesses by Republican Freedom Caucus bomb-throwers. Just witnesses, lifelong and apolitical foreign service people, giving evidence of what they heard and saw.

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In particular, Taylor and Kent will be able to testify that the Giuliani/Trump political policy designed to help Trump’s reelection supplanted our actual Ukraine policy. They will further help establish that Trump put a price (concocting dirt on former vice president Joe Biden) on release of aid. In other words, these witnesses can speak to a bribe executed under Trump’s and Giuliani’s auspices.

The Post reports on the release of Taylor’s testimony:

According to the transcript of Taylor’s deposition, Taylor testified about Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to benefit him politically.
In one exchange, Taylor was asked whether U.S. military aid being withheld from Ukraine was conditioned on investigations.
“That was my clear understanding, security assistance money would not come until the President [of Ukraine] committed to pursue the investigation,” Taylor testified.

“The investigation" was that into the Bidens and Burisma, the company on whose board Hunter Biden sat.

Schiff, Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), the acting chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, put out a statement that explained: “The testimony of Ambassador Taylor — a West Point graduate, Vietnam veteran, and nonpartisan diplomat — shows how President Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine and conditioned its release, as well as a vital White House meeting, on the President of Ukraine publicly announcing investigations into debunked conspiracy theories involving the Bidens and the 2016 election.” They continue by explaining that Taylor corroborates “how this shadow foreign policy channel pursued by the President’s agent, Rudy Giuliani, with the assistance of Ambassadors Sondland and Volker, placed immense pressure on the Ukrainian government to accomplish the President’s goal.”

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Schiff is smart enough to lead off the hearings — the first of which likely will be the most heavily watched — with his strongest witnesses, who can establish Trump solicited help from a foreign country, extorted help by holding back aid, and his personal interest directly contradicted and took precedence over our national security interests in protecting Ukraine from Russia.

That is the essence of the issue: a bribe using public funds to extract private benefit. Attacking these witnesses in public may not work out well for Republicans. If the witnesses are credible, as we expect they will be (otherwise Schiff would not lead with them), Republicans’ “no quid pro quo” and “no corrupt quid pro quo” arguments go out the window.

Many assume that public opinion will not change with public testimony. However, as we saw with the start of formal impeachment hearings, the public is moved by new information. The danger for Trump is that Americans will see for themselves the incontrovertible evidence that he hijacked government funds for his own political gain. And if that’s not impeachable, then nothing is.

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