William B. Taylor Jr., acting ambassador to Ukraine, testified Wednesday in the first open hearing of the impeachment inquiry about a July phone call between President Trump and U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland that was overheard by a member of Taylor’s staff in which Trump purportedly asked about “the investigations.”
The conversation was said to have occurred on July 26, a day after Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden at a time when U.S. military aid to Ukraine was being withheld.
Trump, asked about Taylor’s new testimony, said he had no recollection of such a call with Sondland.
Besides Taylor, members of the House Intelligence Committee also heard from George Kent, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs.
Pentagon inspector general won’t open investigation into military aid delay
The Defense Department watchdog turned down a request from Senate Democrats that he open an investigation into the Pentagon’s hold on military aid to Ukraine, at least while the impeachment inquiry is ongoing.
Acting inspector general Glenn Fine said in a letter sent to the Democrats that he didn’t want to open an investigation “that could lead to the DoD OIG potentially interfering with, duplicating, or otherwise impacting the ongoing House investigation.”
Fine left the door open to investigating the circumstances around the delay in military assistance in the future, writing that after the impeachment process concludes, “we would again consider investigating such DoD matters that have not been sufficiently addressed and that warrant additional scrutiny.”
November 13, 2019 at 5:00 PM EST
Trump says he doesn’t recall speaking to Sondland the day after his call with Zelensky
At a news conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Trump said he had no recollection of speaking to Sondland the day after his July 25 call with Zelensky.
The president was asked to respond to new testimony from Taylor that an aide overheard Sondland speaking to Trump on the phone on July 26. During the call, Trump asked for an update on his request that Ukraine investigate the Bidens, Taylor said, citing the aide.
Taylor said that after the call, the aide asked Sondland what Trump thought about Ukraine and Sondland said Trump cares “more about the investigations of Biden.”
“I know nothing about that,” Trump said Wednesday. “First time I’ve heard it. ... I don’t recall. Not at all. Not even a little bit.”
November 13, 2019 at 4:45 PM EST
Trump calls hearing a ‘joke,’ says he will release transcript of his first call with Zelensky on Thursday
Trump told reporters that he plans to release the transcript of his April phone call with Zelensky on Thursday.
“I’m going to be releasing — I think on Thursday — a second call, which actually, was the first of the two,” Trump said at the news conference with Erdogan.
Trump was also asked for his reaction to the impeachment hearing.
“I hear it’s a joke. I haven’t watched for one minute because I’ve been with the president,” he said.
“I’ve heard just a report. They said it’s all third-hand information. Nothing direct at all,” Trump added later. “Can’t be direct because I never said it. And all they have to do is look very, very simply at the transcript.”
November 13, 2019 at 4:20 PM EST
Jordan refers to ‘our administration,’ then quickly backtracks
In remarks to reporters after the hearing, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) made a brief reference to the Trump administration as “our administration,” before quickly backtracking.
“Look, Ukraine’s . . . one of the three most corrupt countries on the planet,” Jordan said. “President Trump and our administration — his administration — was checking them out.”
November 13, 2019 at 4:10 PM EST
Panel votes down effort to make whistleblower testify
The House Intelligence Committee summarily shot down an effort by Republicans to subpoena the whistleblower for closed-door testimony, voting 13 to 9 to deny GOP members their motion to make the anonymous individual a witness in the impeachment inquiry.
“We need to hear from the whistleblower. We need to understand what the inspector general meant by indices of bias. We need to speak to his motives,” Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-Tex.), who introduced the motion, said after it had been voted down.
Democrats initially expressed an interest in interviewing the whistleblower without revealing the person’s identity, but that swiftly faded after the impeachment probe got underway.
In recent weeks, Democrats have opposed Republican efforts to make the whistleblower a more central part of their impeachment inquiry, noting that many others have come forward with more-detailed information, essentially making the individual’s testimony superfluous.
November 13, 2019 at 4:00 PM EST
Trump campaign dismisses Taylor, Kent as ‘unelected, career government bureaucrats’
In a statement immediately after the impeachment hearing, Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign disregarded the testimony from Taylor and Kent as “third-hand hearsay.”
“We hate to break it to these unelected, career government bureaucrats who think they know best: the President of the United States sets foreign policy, not them,” said Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager. “And disagreement on policy is not an impeachable offense.”
November 13, 2019 at 3:50 PM EST
Schiff closes by saying Kent and Taylor have outlined a ‘deeply troubling’ story
Schiff closed out the hearing by summarizing what he called a “deeply troubling” story about a “dedicated ambassador” who was smeared and a president who sought to work through an “irregular channel” to undercut national security interests to promote his own political objectives in Ukraine.
The ambassador is former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who will appear for the second public impeachment hearing Friday. Still more witnesses are expected to appear in public hearings next week.
Schiff also reminded lawmakers that regardless of their political leanings, they would ultimately have to decide whether they think the president can invite a foreign country to intervene in elections.
November 13, 2019 at 3:45 PM EST
Taylor sent cable to Pompeo warning that it was ‘folly’ to withhold aid
Taylor said he sent a diplomatic cable directly to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — the only such missive he has sent in his career — warning that withholding U.S. aid to Ukraine would be “folly.”
Taylor said he never received a “direct” answer from Pompeo.
Near the end of hours of questioning, Taylor described how he was told by a senior Trump administration official to send the cable directly to Pompeo to make sure that the State Department was aware of his concerns.
The House Intelligence Committee has not received the classified cable, but Taylor described it in general terms. He said he told Pompeo that the U.S. aid to Ukraine “at this particular time is very important,” and that Ukraine “is important for our national security and we should support it. Not to provide that would be folly.”
Taylor turned to his fellow witness, Kent, to ask whether Pompeo received the message. Kent said he was on vacation at the time but had heard it went to Pompeo.
“I honestly can’t say for sure what happened with the cable once the message was brought in at the highest level,” Kent said.
November 13, 2019 at 3:40 PM EST
Kent and Taylor say Trump-Zelensky call wasn’t ‘perfect’
Trump has repeatedly insisted that his July 25 phone call with Zelensky was “perfect.”
The two career State Department officials testifying Wednesday disagreed.
“You don’t believe that July 25 call was perfect, did you?” asked Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.).
After a long pause, Kent said, “I think some of the language in the call gave cause for concern.”
“I agree,” Taylor said. “Part of the discussion of the previous ambassador was a cause for concern.”
November 13, 2019 at 3:30 PM EST
Giuliani was not promoting U.S. interests in Ukraine, diplomats say
Kent and Taylor said that Trump’s personal lawyer was undermining the country’s interests in his interactions with officials in Kyiv.
Both officials testified that Giuliani was not promoting U.S. policy or its national security priorities through his attempts to pressure the Ukrainian government to pursue investigations that could be damaging to Biden.
“He was not” acting in U.S. interests, Kent said in response to questions from Rep. Val Demings, a Florida Democrat and former police chief. “I believe [Giuliani] was looking to dig up political dirt on [Trump’s] potential rival in the next election cycle.”
November 13, 2019 at 3:25 PM EST
Democratic congressman quips that Trump is ‘welcome’ to testify
Responding to Republican complaints that the first witnesses in impeachment hearings had no firsthand knowledge of the president’s conduct, Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) invited a new witness to testify: Trump.
“I would be glad to have the person who started it all come in and testify. President Trump is welcome to take a seat right there,” Welch said, drawing laughter from the packed hearing room.
Welch went on to argue the president had crossed a clear line in his conduct regarding Ukraine, despite Republican protests that the conduct at issue was not that serious.
November 13, 2019 at 3:20 PM EST
Kent, Taylor say Trump’s ask makes it harder for U.S. diplomats to advance democracy abroad
The two State Department witnesses agreed with a Democrat’s contention that Trump’s desire for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens undermines U.S. foreign policy goals of spreading democratic ideals.
“When American leaders ask foreign governments to investigate their potential rivals, doesn’t that make it harder for us to advocate on behalf of those democratic values?” Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash.) asked.
“I believe it makes it more difficult for our diplomatic representatives overseas to carry out those policy goals, yes,” Kent affirmed. He added: “There’s an issue of credibility. They hear diplomats saying one thing and U.S. leaders saying something else.” Taylor also voiced agreement with Kent’s remarks.
November 13, 2019 at 3:15 PM EST
GOP attempts to talk whistleblower, but Schiff shuts them down
Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.) attempted to grill House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) about the whistleblower as the GOP’s time for questions wound down.
“When are House Republicans going to find out what House Democrats already know?” Ratcliffe demanded, directing his question awkwardly toward the witnesses after Schiff denied his request for a “colloquy” — effectively an exchange between members.
Ratcliffe protested that he didn’t want to know the identity of the whistleblower, just the timing of when the individual made contact with Schiff’s office and what was discussed.
November 13, 2019 at 3:10 PM EST
Taylor says tying aid to election investigation was ‘wrong’
Taylor said that it was “wrong” to tie American aid to a demand that Ukrainian officials investigate a matter related to the 2016 U.S. election.
Taylor’s statement came in response to questioning from Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), who recited a comment from Mulvaney that tying foreign aid to an investigation in an American political matter is something done “all the time … get over it.”
“Is this something we would do all the time?” Swalwell asked. Taylor responded that holding up aid for such assistance “for no good policy reason, no good substantive reason, no good national security reason, is wrong.”
Swalwell also asked Taylor and Kent whether they were “NEVERTRUMPERS,” as Trump tweeted earlier Wednesday.
Taylor responded, “No, sir,” and Kent said that he has served presidents of both parties for the past 27 years.
November 13, 2019 at 3:00 PM EST
Stefanik focuses on Obama-era probe of Burisma
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) sought to portray Trump’s involvement with Ukraine as part of a long-running effort that began during the Obama administration to probe Burisma, a Ukrainian energy firm linked to Hunter Biden.
Hunter Biden sat on Burisma’s board, and Trump had urged Zelensky to investigate the company and the Bidens. Stefanik pressed Kent to describe how the Obama administration also pursued an investigation of Burisma.
Under questioning from Stefanik, Kent described the U.S. role in an international effort beginning in 2014 to fight corruption in Ukraine, find any looted assets, and help establish a better-functioning criminal justice system.
“This was the first case that the U.S., the U.K. and the Ukraine investigators worked on, was against the owner of Burisma?” Stefanik asked.
“That’s correct,” Kent said.
November 13, 2019 at 2:50 PM EST
Wenstrup suggests that Obama is to blame for Russia’s Ukraine invasion
Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) made a case that Trump’s administration was far more supportive of Ukraine than Obama — and in the process, suggested that Obama may have given Russia the green light to invade the country and seize Crimea.
Wenstrup, recalling how Obama told former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev he’d have “more flexibility” after the 2012 election, flatly suggested that “maybe that flexibility was to deny lethal aid to the Ukraine, allowing Russia to march right in and kill the Ukrainians.”
Wenstrup’s overall argument was that the Trump administration had been better to Ukraine because it had supplied them with lethal weapons, which the Obama administration successfully resisted sending to Ukraine. But his words seemed to skirt some of the chronological details about when and why the United States started sending Ukraine significant amounts of military aid in the first place.
Russia did not actually seize Crimea nor dispatch military resources to help pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine until 2014. Those events were the catalysts not only for sanctions against Russia, but for Congress to approve increasing amounts of military assistance to support Ukraine’s forces.
Schiff leaped on that chronological gap, pointing out to witnesses that “there’s no reason to think” Obama had intentionally denied military aid to Ukraine “for an invasion that hadn’t happened yet.”
November 13, 2019 at 2:45 PM EST
Ratcliffe says impeaching Trump means calling Zelensky ‘a liar’
Ratcliffe asserted that there couldn’t have been a quid pro quo because Zelensky has said repeatedly he didn’t know about the U.S. military aid hold when Trump asked him to investigate the Bidens during their call in July. Suggesting otherwise, Ratcliffe said, is calling Zelensky a liar.
“Do you have any evidence to prove that President Zelensky was lying to the world press when he said those things? Yes or no?” Ratcliffe asked.
“I have no reason to doubt what the president said in his ... ” Taylor began, as Ratcliffe cut him off.
“In this impeachment hearing today — where we impeach presidents for treason or bribery or other high crimes — where is the impeachable offense in that call? Are either of you here today to assert there was an impeachment offense in that call? Shout it out. Anyone?” Ratcliffe said.
Taylor sought to clarify, as he has several times throughout the hearing, that he is not there to weigh in on the question of impeachment, but simply as a fact witness.
Ratcliffe ignored this, and continued to make his point, asserting that if House Democrats impeach the president “for quid pro quo involving military aid,” then they are also calling Zelensky a liar.
November 13, 2019 at 2:40 PM EST
White House argues Democrats have no firsthand witnesses
White House officials are attacking Democrats for not having firsthand witnesses in the public opening phase of the impeachment probe Wednesday, even though the president’s lawyers have repeatedly told his aides not to testify.
“Rep Turner rightly points out that the first 2 ‘star’ witnesses in this impeachment sham have never even spoken to @POTUS. Think about that: in a Presidential impeachment hearing, the dems witnesses have never even spoken w President Trump. This country deserves so much better,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a tweet.
Many of the witnesses the Democrats want to call, such as acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and acting Office of Management and Budget director Russell T. Vought, have refused to come.
November 13, 2019 at 2:35 PM EST
Stewart keeps focus on Biden and Ukraine
Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) continued to keep the focus on Biden, as several other Republicans have done.
He argued that it would be “absurd” to argue that public officials should be immune from being investigated, adding: “I think we have a higher standard, not immunity, from asking these types of questions.”
Democrats have not argued that Biden should be immune from investigation because he is a public official. They have focused on Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to conduct that investigation into his political rival at a time when military aid was being withheld.
“There is one sentence, one phone call, that is what this entire impeachment proceeding is based upon,” Stewart argued, dismissing the previous testimony of other witnesses behind closed doors about other conversations and meetings.
“All you can do is give your opinion of this, this one phone call,” he told Taylor and Kent.
November 13, 2019 at 2:30 PM EST
Kent blames ouster of long-serving U.S. ambassador on ‘pissed off’ corrupt Ukrainians
In a clipped, biting tone, Kent testified to what he described as a coordinated “smear campaign” that resulted in the ouster of Yovanovitch from her post as ambassador to Ukraine in May.
Kent testified that he and other State Department officials had asked Yovanovitch to extend her tenure in Kyiv until 2020. But then, Giuliani met twice in January and February with Ukrainian prosecutor general Yuri Lutsenko.
With sarcasm in his voice, Kent then explained that through Giuliani’s “good offices,” it was arranged for Lutsenko to be interviewed by conservative columnist John Solomon in March. Lutsenko claimed that Yovanovitch had given him a list of people his office should not prosecute.
Kent testified that he knew that claim to be untrue. In fact, he said, Yovanovitch, like other U.S. officials, has helped Ukrainians fight corruption — earning her enemies abroad. “You can’t promote principled anti-corruption activities without pissing off corrupt people,” he said.
The Solomon column was followed, Kent testified, by a “campaign” against Yovanovitch on Fox News and social media, which culminated in her removal at Trump’s orders in May.
Rosalind S. Helderman
November 13, 2019 at 2:25 PM EST
Ukrainians did not understand that U.S. security aid was withheld until after July 25 call
Schiff sought to clarify the timing of when Ukrainian officials learned that the Trump administration had put a hold on badly needed aid that paid for weapons in the war against Russia.
Taylor said that the Ukrainian government apparently did not realize the aid was frozen when Zelensky had his July 25 conversation with Trump.
When the Ukrainians did learn about the hold, Taylor said, he wasn’t initially able to tell them the reason. The first public acknowledgment about the aid being withheld came in an Aug. 28 Politico story. Then, on Sept. 1, Sondland told a Zelensky aide during a meeting in Warsaw “what would be required” for the money to be released.
Schiff recounted the events in this way: “Ukraine finds out about the hold. No one can give them a reason for the hold. Then they are told in Warsaw by Ambassador Sondland, essentially, you are not getting the aid unless you are doing the investigations, is that correct?”
“That is correct,” Taylor responded.
November 13, 2019 at 2:20 PM EST
Schiff draws out reasons why Zelensky would deny feeling pressured
Republicans have repeatedly used Zelensky’s public statements that he did not feel pressured by Trump as evidence that Trump, in fact, did not inappropriately pressure the Ukrainians to open investigations into his political rivals.
Under questioning from Schiff, however, Kent and Taylor laid out reasons why Zelensky might have felt compelled to take that position.
They agreed that Ukrainians are savvy about U.S. politics and would understand that Trump could impose serious consequences should Zelensky publicly challenge his account of their interactions.
They also agreed that Zelensky is sensitive to domestic perception and would not want to tell his own people that he had felt like he had to capitulate to American demands.
Rosalind S. Helderman
November 13, 2019 at 2:15 PM EST
Rep. Turner seeks to place distance between Taylor, Kent and Trump
Rep. Michael R. Turner (R-Ohio) used his questioning time to highlight the fact that neither Taylor nor Kent spoke directly to Trump — furthering a line of argument that much of the evidence against Trump is hearsay.
“So you both know that this impeachment inquiry is about the president of the United States, don’t you — the man that neither one of you have had any contact with?” Turner asked, before noting that their testimony would be inadmissible as hearsay in a court hearing.
Turner turned to Taylor: “Isn’t it true, possible, that the things that you heard were not true?”
Taylor responded, “I’m here to tell you what I know, I’m not going to tell you anything that I don’t know.”
“But since you learned it from others, you could be wrong?” Turner pressed. “They could be wrong, or they could be mistaken or they could have heard it incorrectly, right?”
Said Taylor, “People make mistakes.”
November 13, 2019 at 2:05 PM EST
Jordan tries to undermine Taylor’s testimony about linkage between Ukraine aid and investigations
Jordan sought to undercut Taylor’s testimony that it was “clear to me” that not just a White House meeting but also needed military aid was conditioned on a public statement of investigations.
Jordan noted that Taylor met with Zelensky three times between July and September. He asserted that in all three there was no discussion of a link between investigations and the needed aid.
“It’s certainly accurate on the first two meetings,” Taylor said. But on the third, he said, there was no reason for it to have.
Jordan also tried to show that Taylor’s understanding of events was at best secondhand, through Sondland, who had filed a revised version of his testimony acknowledging that he had in fact told Ukrainians that the Trump administration was linking the provision of military aid to investigations.
“I think this clarification from Ambassador Sondland was because he said he didn’t remember this in his first deposition, so he wanted to clarify,” Taylor said. “But the way I read this, he remembers it the way I do.”
November 13, 2019 at 2:00 PM EST
Schiff presses Taylor about fears that Zelensky would publicly announce investigation
Kicking off the first round of questioning by members of the Intelligence Committee, Schiff asked Taylor about his concern that Zelensky was under pressure to make a public statement that he was opening an investigation into the Bidens.
Taylor confirmed that he remained concerned even after the release of the military aid and the subsequent whistleblower complaint.
“I was worried, Mr. Chairman, that he would do that,” Taylor said. “So, yes, I thought that it would be a bad idea.”
He said he addressed his concerns with Zelensky’s staffers, who were making plans for some sort of public announcement.
Zelensky, Taylor added, “knew it would be a bad idea to interfere in other people’s elections.”
November 13, 2019 at 1:50 PM EST
Taylor agrees with GOP lawyer that irregular communications with Ukraine could have been worse
Stephen R. Castor, a lawyer for committee Republicans, sought to downplay conversations with Ukraine that took place outside the normal State Department channels of communication justifying that they could have been even more abnormal.
“This irregular channel of diplomacy, it is not as outlandish as it could be, is that correct?” Castor asked.
“It is not as outlandish as it could be, I agree,” Taylor conceded, with a chuckle.
Castor then suggested it wasn’t so strange that Sondland would be engaged in communications with Ukraine.
“It’s a little unusual for the U.S. ambassador to the E.U. to play a role in Ukraine policy,” Taylor responded.
“It might be irregular, but it’s certainly not outlandish,” Castor pressed.
Taylor, with a bemused smile, paused, slightly nodded his head, then shook his head side to side, but said nothing to affirm Castor’s semantics.
November 13, 2019 at 1:45 PM EST
Taylor’s voice reminds viewers of Walter Cronkite during impeachment hearing
Taylor testified Wednesday in the first public hearings the House impeachment inquiry. For many watching online and on television, this is was the first time hearing Taylor’s voice.
And that voice, a steady baritone with a hint of folksy comfort, sounded very familiar.
He sounded like Walter Cronkite, the legendary broadcaster who anchored “CBS Evening News” for nearly two decades and retired in 1981. The similarity was so uncanny that within hours of Taylor’s opening statement, “Walter Cronkite” was trending on Twitter.
Trump is holding another round of lunches with Republican senators at the White House on Thursday — sessions with no real agenda that have often veered into discussions about impeachment.
Sens. Steve Daines (Mont.) and Kevin Cramer (N.D.), both allies of the president, are among those who have been invited to this week’s lunch, the senators confirmed on Wednesday. About a half-dozen or so Republicans are expected to be in attendance.
The White House has invited small batches of GOP senators for lunch in recent weeks. During a lunch on Oct. 31, Trump mused repeatedly about his decision to release notes from the July 25 call with Zelensky and said he was glad that the so-called transcript was made
Seung Min Kim
November 13, 2019 at 1:30 PM EST
Questioning moves to committee members
Questioning by lawyers for the Democrats and Republicans have concluded. The hearing now transitions to more traditional questioning by members of the committee.
November 13, 2019 at 1:25 PM EST
Kent says Hunter Biden’s board position raised possibility of perception of conflict
Kent testified that he was concerned in 2015 when Hunter Biden was named to the board of Burisma.
Under questioning by Stephen R. Castor, a lawyer for committee Republicans, Kent testified that when he learned of Hunter Biden’s appointment, he contacted the vice president’s office to express his fear that “there was a possibility of a perception of a conflict of interest.”
Kent said he did not know whether the vice president’s office took any action in response to his concerns but confirmed that Hunter Biden continued to serve on the company’s board, while his father continued to help run Ukraine policy for the U.S. government.
In other ways, however, Kent’s testimony regarding the Ukrainian company — which came in response to a long series of questions from Castor — undermined key GOP talking points about the Burisma issue.
For one, he said that he believed an investigation into the company’s Ukrainian chief executive had been shut down in 2014 — before Joe Biden began advocating for the removal of Ukraine’s top prosecutor.
Republicans have argued that Joe Biden may have taken that step as a way to halt investigations into Burisma. Kent said that in fact he believed that assistants to the very prosecutor who Biden worked to oust were responsible for halting efforts to investigate Burisma’s chief executive because they had corruptly accepted bribes. Biden led an international coalition to remove Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, largely because it was believed he led a corrupt office.
Additionally, in response to Castor’s questions, Kent declined to say that he believed that Biden’s efforts in Ukraine were problematic because of his son’s service to Burisma. Instead, he said, “the vice president’s role was critically important.”
Rosalind S. Helderman
November 13, 2019 at 1:15 PM EST
Republicans spar with Schiff over objections
In his first questions to Taylor, Republican lead counsel Steve Castor asked Taylor whether Trump was justified in being suspicious of Ukrainian officials given their activities in 2016.
“You certainly can appreciate that President Trump was very concerned that some elements of the Ukrainian establishment were not in favor of him, did not support him, and were out to get him,” he said to Taylor.
Schiff at that point jumped in and cautioned Taylor and Kent about commenting about “facts not in evidence.”
That prompted a retort from Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.), who questioned Schiff’s interjection: “I sat here through the first 45 minutes and literally had an objection to almost the foundation of every question that [Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman] asked regarding facts not in evidence,” he said, asking Schiff whether he believe such objections were in order: “Let me know now, because this hearing is going to change significantly.”
Schiff said he would allow Castor’s question.
“So you certainly can appreciate President Trump’s concerns,” Castor said to Taylor.
Said Taylor, “Mr. Castor, I don’t know the exact nature of President Trump’s concerns.”
November 13, 2019 at 1:10 PM EST
Who is Ukrainian presidential aide Andriy Yermak?
Andriy Yermak is one of a number of Ukrainian officials who now find themselves in the spotlight at the first hearing in the impeachment inquiry on Wednesday.
Yermak is the top aide to Zelensky. He has been described in local media as a friend of the Ukrainian president who previously worked as a lawyer in the entertainment world. This year, he appears to have become a key point of contact for U.S. figures interested in Ukraine, communicating with Giuliani, former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland at key moments.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times last month, Yermak said his job was to help U.S. officials understand Ukraine.
“The fact is that some American politicians were not informed in the right degree about what is going on here,” Yermak told the newspaper. “Clearly, over the years, President Trump had developed a negative impression of Ukraine, which was not what we wanted.”
November 13, 2019 at 1:00 PM EST
Pelosi urges Democrats not to let ‘Republican disruption’ make them lose focus
In a meeting with House Democrats on Wednesday morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) urged members of her caucus not to let “Republican disruption” take their focus off the task at hand.
“I do think that we need to have a common narrative,” Pelosi said, according to a Democratic aide. “This is a very serious event in our country. We wish it could have been avoided. None of us came here to impeach a president.”
She said today is “a prayerful day for all of us — for our country.”
November 13, 2019 at 12:55 PM EST
Nunes uses GOP question time to present alternate narrative
During the first five minutes of Republican question time, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) asked no questions but instead recited a counternarrative that denied any wrongdoing by Trump — and sought to justify his interest in Ukraine by suggesting that the country intervened against Trump in the 2016 election.
He called the transcript of Trump’s July 25 call as “dramatically different from [Democrats’] nefarious fiction of it.
“What it actually shows is a pleasant exchange between two leaders who discuss mutual cooperation over a range of issues,” he said. “The president did not ask Ukraine to make up dirt on anyone. The Democrats are not trying to discover facts; they’re trying to invent a narrative. And if the facts they need do not exist, then they’ll just make it up.”
Nunes then ran through a litany of allegations that he claimed showed illicit Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election, including an op-ed a Ukrainian minister wrote in the U.S. press, contacts between a Democratic National Committee operative and Ukrainian officials, and sourcing of allegations against Trump from other Ukrainian officials.
Nunes called it “a shocking about-face for people who, for three years, argued that foreign election meddling was an intolerable crime that threatens the heart of our democracy.”
“If there actually were indications of Ukraine election meddling, and a foreign election meddling is a dire threat, then President Trump would have a perfectly good reason for wanting to find out what happened,” he said.
November 13, 2019 at 12:50 PM EST
‘Everybody has their impression of what truth is,’ key Republican says
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a key Trump ally on Capitol Hill, offered a novel defense of the president Wednesday, arguing that the truth is subjective.
“I think what happens is, when we start to look at the facts, everybody has their impression of what truth is,” Meadows told reporters at the Capitol.
His comments were reminiscent of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway’s now-infamous statement about “alternative facts” during the early days of Trump’s presidency.
November 13, 2019 at 12:35 PM EST
State Department official says there was no basis for Trump claim on Biden
Kent told the House panel Wednesday that there no basis for Trump’s assertion that Biden, while vice president, had stopped an investigation into a Ukrainian gas company where his son served on the board of directors.
“None whatsoever,” Kent testified.
The issue is a crucial one in the impeachment hearings because Trump and his allies have for months alleged without evidence that Biden was seeking to prevent an investigation that could have affected his son Hunter.
Hunter Biden served on the board of directors of Burisma Holdings, a gas company based in Ukraine. He joined the board in 2014, at the same time his father was handling Ukraine matters for the Obama administration.
Joe Biden has said he did pressure Ukraine to fire a prosecutor that the United States believed was not cracking down on corruption or face the loss of $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees. But he has said the threat had nothing to do with his son’s work at Burisma.
November 13, 2019 at 12:30 PM EST
Trump decries ‘television lawyers,’ says he isn’t watching ‘hoax’ while meeting with Erdogan
Trump said the impeachment hearing was a “witch hunt” and a “hoax” during an Oval Office meeting with Erdogan, and said he had not been watching.
“I see they’re using lawyers that are television lawyers. They took some guys off television. You know, I’m not surprised to see it, because Schiff can’t do his own questions,” Trump said, appearing to refer to Schiff and Daniel Goldman, a former New York prosecutor who was also previously a MSNBC contributor.
Goldman has been leading the questioning of Taylor and Kent, the witnesses. The president is expected to meet with Erdogan and senators at 2 p.m. before having a joint news conference with Erdogan around 3 p.m.
Trump said he expects to get a “report” on the testimony later.
November 13, 2019 at 12:25 PM EST
Congressional Republicans dismiss damaging testimony as hearsay
Even before Republicans had a chance to cross-examine Taylor, GOP lawmakers sought to downplay the ambassador’s detailed testimony by suggesting that he is not a firsthand witness to Trump’s conduct.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and other Republicans began tweeting or blasting news releases arguing that Taylor had had no conversations with the president — seeking to undercut his assertions that Trump leveraged foreign policy on political favors.
“Taylor did NOT have any direct communications with President Trump, Mr. Rudy Giuliani, or Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney during the time period relating to the Democrats’ partisan impeachment inquiry,” McCarthy’s office wrote in an email blasted to reporters.
Scalise also tweeted that sentiment, writing: “meet the ‘star witnesses’ Adam Schiff called today: — Neither have any firsthand knowledge — Neither spoke to @realDonaldTrump — One got his info from the New York Times[.] This hearing is a sham.”
Schiff is the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Scalise was referring to Taylor’s comment in a closed-door deposition in which he said he learned that Giuliani was representing Trump’s interests in Ukraine from a New York Times story.
However, while Taylor has always been clear that he has never had direct contact with Trump, he has testified that others in the administration who did, including Ambassador to the European Union Gordan Sondland, told him Trump was making these demands on Ukraine.
November 13, 2019 at 12:20 PM EST
Barr asserts that impeachment has derailed legislative talks on gun reform
Attorney General William P. Barr asserted Wednesday that the impeachment inquiry on Capitol Hill has derailed legislative efforts on gun reform.
Appearing at a news conference to announce a new Justice Department initiative to crack down on gun violence, Barr said the administration had — before Labor Day — assembled a series of legislative proposals on the topic.
“Unfortunately,” he said, “our discussions on the legislative aspects of this have been sidetracked because of the impeachment process on the Hill.”
Barr said the administration remained open to new laws, but added, “Right now, it does not appear that things in Washington are amenable to those kinds of negotiations and compromises.”
November 13, 2019 at 12:15 PM EST
Staffer who heard Sondland-Trump phone call about ‘the investigations’ will testify Friday
The embassy staffer who Taylor said overheard Trump ask U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland about the status of “the investigations” via phone just a day after Trump spoke to the Ukrainian leader will testify behind closed doors Friday in the House’s impeachment probe, according to two people familiar with the investigation.
David Holmes, who is the top political affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, was present at a dinner Sondland attended July 26 in Ukraine. At one point, Sondland called Trump, and the staffer — Holmes — could overhear the president “asking Ambassador Sondland about ‘the investigations,’ ” Taylor testified, adding that “Ambassador Sondland told President Trump that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.”
The staffer — again Holmes — then asked Sondland what Trump thought of Ukraine, according to Taylor’s testimony. “Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for,” Taylor said.
Taylor’s new information — which he said he did not know at the time of his closed-door deposition Oct. 22, but reported later through counsel to the House Intelligence Committee and the State Department’s legal adviser — opens a new a critical facet of the impeachment probe. But the speed with which Holmes has been added to the deposition list also indicates how quickly investigators want to move forward with their inquiry.
Holmes’s deposition Friday is expected to take place on the same day Yovanovitch comes to Capitol Hill for a public hearing.
The panels also announced that they expect Mark Sandy, who is in charge of national security programs at the Office of Management and Budget, to testify Saturday. No OMB staff member has yet shown up for testimony in the impeachment probe.
November 13, 2019 at 12:10 PM EST
Impeachment hearing is ‘boring,’ White House says
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham dismissed the impeachment hearing in a tweet, calling it “not only boring” but also “a colossal waste of taxpayer time & money.”
Trump, meanwhile, has sent more than a dozen tweets and retweets about the hearing while it has been underway.
He also sent out a straight-to-camera video in which he denounces the Democratic-led probe and maintains that he’s working to drain the swamp.
“What’s going on now is the single greatest scam in the history of American politics … It’s all very simple: They’re trying to stop me because I’m fighting for you, and I’ll never let that happen,” Trump says in the video.
November 13, 2019 at 12:05 PM EST
Taylor says he was greatly alarmed by the Trump administration withholding security aid to Ukraine
Taylor, a key witness in the first day of impeachment hearings in the House, told lawmakers that he was greatly alarmed to learn in September that the Trump administration’s demands to Ukraine included withholding military aid.
Previously, Taylor had expressed concerns that the president appeared to be withholding a much-sought White House meeting with Zelensky but in early September learned that security assistance was also being withheld while Trump administration officials sought a public announcement by Zelensky that his country would investigate Biden and his son Hunter.
“It’s one thing to try to leverage a meeting in the White House. It’s another thing, I thought, to leverage security assistance,” Taylor said, noting that Ukraine is fighting a war on its territory with Russia. Withholding security assistance to a country at war “was much more alarming,” Taylor said.
Asked by the Democrats’ lead lawyer, Daniel S. Goldman, if Taylor had ever in his decades of government service seen another instance in which foreign aid was “conditioned on the personal or political interests of the president of the United States,” Taylor replied: “No, Mr. Goldman, I have not.”
Withholding aid sent a message not just to the Ukrainians, Taylor said, but to the Russians. Without public and material support from the United States, Ukraine was in a weaker negotiating position with the Russians, he said.
November 13, 2019 at 12:00 PM EST
Kremlin says impeachment hearings are ‘absolutely none of our business’
A Kremlin spokesman said Wednesday that Russia is “not in the position to judge” the impeachment hearings.
“That’s absolutely none of our business. We would not like to comment on this,” Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, the Tass news agency reported.
Peskov also cast doubt on the veracity of some of the information that has emerged during the impeachment probe, arguing that there have been “different scandalous affairs where Russia was mentioned but which had very little, almost nothing at all, to do with the truth and the reality,” Tass reported.
November 13, 2019 at 11:50 AM EST
More depositions coming later this week
The public hearings are underway, but two more officials are set to appear in closed-door depositions later this week, according to an official working on the impeachment inquiry.
David Holmes, the counselor for political affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, will testify in closed session Friday, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity as the official was not authorized to publicly discuss the matter.
Mark Sandy, the associate director for national security programs at the Office of Management and Budget, will give closed-door testimony Saturday.
Sandy had originally been scheduled to appear on Nov. 8 but did not show up.
News of the depositions came immediately after Taylor testified Wednesday morning that one of his staffers overheard the phone call between Sondland and Trump.
November 13, 2019 at 11:45 AM EST
Why Ukraine matters, according to Kent and Taylor
Kent and Taylor both offered detailed accounts of why Americans should care about helping Ukraine fend off Russian encroachment — appealing to the very origins of American patriotism in the process.
“The American colonies may not have prevailed against British imperial might without help from transatlantic friends after 1776,” Kent said in his opening statement, likening Ukraine’s current “fight for the cause of freedom” to the American Revolution, and the $1.5 billon Congress has appropriated for Ukraine over the past five years to the help Lafayette offered George Washington’s army.
“Support of Ukraine’s success … fits squarely into our strategy for central and Eastern Europe since the fall of the Wall 30 years ago this past week,” Kent stated, stressing that Ukraine was “on the path to become a full security partner of the United States within NATO.”
Taylor’s appeal was less historically poetic, but equally emphatic that assisting Ukraine was in the “strategic” interests of the United States, “important for the security of our country as well as Europe.”
The weapons and other items paid for by U.S. “security assistance demonstrates our commitment to resist aggression and defend freedom,” Taylor said.
“If we believe in the principle of the sovereignty of nations … we must support Ukraine in its fight against its bully neighbor,” Taylor added. “Russian aggression cannot stand.”
November 13, 2019 at 11:30 AM EST
Trump asked Sondland about ‘the investigations,’ Taylor says he was told
Taylor added new information to his opening statement Wednesday, describing a July phone call between Trump and U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland overheard by a member of Taylor’s staff in which Trump purportedly asked about “the investigations.”
Taylor said one of his aides told him that Sondland called Trump from a Kyiv restaurant on July 26 to update him on meetings he was having in the city.
The aide heard Trump through the phone asking about “the investigations” and Sondland said the Ukrainians were ready to move forward, according to Taylor.
The phone call purportedly took place after Sondland met with Andriy Yermak, a top aide to Zelensky, and one day after Trump asked Zelensky to pursue investigations into his political opponents in a controversial phone call.
Taylor said that after the call, the aide asked Sondland what Trump thought about Ukraine and Sondland said that Trump cares “more about the investigations of Biden” that Giuliani “was pressing for.”
Taylor said he had not provided this account to impeachment investigators during his Oct. 22 deposition because his staff member only told him about the episode last Friday.
“I am including it here for completeness,” Taylor said of the information. “ … It is my understanding that the Committee is following up on this matter.”
Immediately following the revelation, Sondland attorney Robert Luskin responded to a request for comment, writing in an email to The Washington Post that “Sondland will address any issues that arise from this in his testimony next week.”
November 13, 2019 at 11:15 AM EST
Pompeo dismisses impeachment hearings as ‘a lot of noise’
Pompeo on Wednesday dismissed the House impeachment hearing as “a lot of noise” and said the inquiry had been unfair to State Department employees and U.S. citizens.
In an interview with Hugh Hewitt, whose son works at the State Department, Pompeo was asked whether he agreed with Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) that the hearings create “a permissive atmosphere for communists and the authoritarians.”
“Look, there’s a lot of noise,” Pompeo said. “There’ll be noise today. There’ll be noise for the rest of this week. … I’ve told the team to stay focused. There’s all this chatter, but then there’s challenges and opportunities for America around the world, and our mission set has to be to make sure that the risk that Representative Gallagher identified doesn’t come to bear.”
Pompeo repeated his complaint that no State Department lawyers were present when officials testified in private meetings with investigators.
“I regret that for the team that works for me here at the State Department that I believe has been treated incredibly unfairly,” he said. “But most importantly, I regret it for the American people that we haven’t had a process that has allowed an inquiry to proceed in a way that’s fair and equitable and gets the facts in an appropriate way to the American people. I hope that’ll change.”
Quiet reigned at the State Department as the impeachment hearing started. In the public areas, the television sets were all turned to the internal channel that did not air any of the testimony. But many working in private offices were watching at least part of what their colleagues had to say. Several employees said they admired their willingness to speak publicly.
“We want to watch,” one said.
November 13, 2019 at 11:10 AM EST
White House says Trump isn’t watching, but he’s tweeting
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the president is not watching the impeachment hearing.
“He’s in the Oval in meetings. Not watching. He’s working,” she said.
Grisham said she had been with Trump in the Oval Office, and he had been there since 8 a.m.
No Marine is standing guard outside the West Wing, which usually happens when Trump is present.
The president has retweeted a video called “Impeachment Hoax” that was posted by the official White House account and has sent other all-caps tweets, including “NEVER TRUMPERS!” and “READ THE TRANSCRIPT!”
Aides say Trump usually watches high-profile hearings.
November 13, 2019 at 11:00 AM EST
Taylor testifies of a ‘highly irregular’ channel of policymaking on Ukraine
The top U.S. envoy to Ukraine told the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday that when he arrived in that country in June he “found a confusing and unusual arrangement for making U.S. policy toward Ukraine.”
“There appeared to be two channels of U.S. policymaking and implementation, one regular and one highly irregular,” Taylor told the impeachment committees meeting in public for the first time.
Taylor, a career public servant who was called out of retirement to take the post, told lawmakers in his opening statement that he stands by his earlier characterization that “withholding security assistance in exchange for help with a domestic political campaign in the United States would be ‘crazy.’”
Taylor is a crucial witness, because he was in touch with diplomats and others working on both the official and unofficial aspects of U.S. policy toward Ukraine and its new government.
In his opening statement, Taylor asked lawmakers to remember that Ukraine is under daily attack from Russia. He had visited the front line last week, on a day when one Ukrainian soldier was killed and four wounded, Taylor said.
He laid out his growing concern in the summer that Trump had soured on Ukraine and Zelensky, as Zelensky sought to get on good footing with his most important single ally and backer.
“By mid-July it was becoming clear to me that the meeting President Zelensky wanted was conditioned on the investigations of Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. It was also clear that this condition was driven by the irregular policy channel I had come to understand was guided by Mr. Giuliani,” Taylor said, referring to the Ukrainian gas firm that had employed Hunter Biden.
“In an instant, I realized that one of the key pillars of our strong support for Ukraine was threatened. The irregular policy channel was running contrary to the goals of long-standing U.S. policy,” Taylor said.
November 13, 2019 at 10:55 AM EST
House GOP campaign arm tweets doctored ‘clown’ photo of Schiff
The National Republican Congressional Committee voiced its thoughts about the proceedings Wednesday morning in a tweet calling the hearing another one of Schiff’s “clown shows.”
To illustrate its point, the NRCC shared a doctored photo of Schiff (D-Calif.) depicting him wearing clown makeup and a red sponge nose.
November 13, 2019 at 10:50 AM EST
About 20 members of Congress join hearing audience
The opening impeachment hearing is must-see TV around Capitol Hill, and for some members, it was just as imperative to attend in person.
About 20 members of Congress are occupying the first two rows of seats in the audience section of the impeachment hearing room.
Several of them, like Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) and Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), are members of the other two congressional panels that have been running the closed-door depositions and were present for several of the hearings.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a member of the House Oversight Committee and a confidant of Trump, was one of the earliest to arrive, telling a reporter that he had been at every single deposition hearing to date, and he was “not going to lose my perfect attendance record” on Wednesday.
He took a seat next to Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who also attended a large number of closed-door deposition hearings.
The members in the audience are not allowed to participate in the hearings, but that did not keep certain members from reacting — sometimes in murmurs that were audible at a nearby press table.
When Schiff spoke about the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky and how Trump asked Zelensky for a “favor,” Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) softly voiced his objections to those around him.
“It’s not his immediate response,” Gohmert said. “This is tough to sit through.”
November 13, 2019 at 10:45 AM EST
Kent said Giuliani’s efforts ‘undermined’ U.S. national security
Kent told the House Intelligence Committee he was “alarmed” by Giuliani’s efforts “to gin up politically motivated investigations,” both because it ended up in the ouster of former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and because they were “infecting U.S. engagement with Ukraine.”
Kent said Giuliani’s campaign was based on “false information” peddled on the Ukrainian side by “corrupt former prosecutors” who were simply seeking “to exact revenge against those who had exposed their misconduct, including U.S. diplomats.”
“In my opinion, those attacks undermined U.S. and Ukrainian national interests and damaged our critical bilateral relationship,” Kent said.
Kent spoke highly of diplomacy at several points in his opening remarks, but saved special congratulations for Yovanovitch, former National Security Council senior Russia and Europe director Fiona Hill, and current NSC Ukraine expert Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who came to the United States as immigrants before deciding to serve as public officials.
“We and our national security are the better for it,” Kent added, calling them “the 21st century heirs” of national security giants like Zbigniew Brzezinski and Henry Kissinger, who also “fled Nazi and communist oppression to contribute to a stronger, more secure America.”
Kent added that he raised concerns in February 2015 that Hunter Biden’s appointment to the board of energy company Burisma “could create the perception of a conflict of interest.” But he said he “did not witness any efforts by any U.S. official to shield Burisma from scrutiny” — and that U.S. officials were “consistently advocating” to revive the case against the company’s founder.
November 13, 2019 at 10:40 AM EST
Republicans seek to subpoena whistleblower
Several Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee sought to delay the hearing by focusing on the identity of the whistleblower and requesting the individual testify behind closed doors.
Conaway made a motion to subpoena the whistleblower. After a back-and-forth, Schiff responded that the motion will be suspended until after today’s witnesses testify.
Jordan claimed that Schiff is the only lawmaker who knows the identity of the whistleblower — a statement Schiff immediately disputed.
“I do not know the identity of the whistleblower, and I am determined to make sure that identity is protected,” he said.
November 13, 2019 at 10:35 AM EST
Schiff swears in the witnesses
After the delivery of the opening statements, Schiff swore in the witnesses.
“Do you swear and affirm that the testimony you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” he asked. Both Kent and Taylor responded in the affirmative.
November 13, 2019 at 10:30 AM EST
Nunes accuses Democrats of ‘deceptions large and small’ in opening statement
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, used the first lines of his opening statement to portray the Democratic impeachment inquiry as the evolution of a failed effort to remove Trump for unproved allegations of Russian collusion.
A July hearing with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, Nunes said, was “the pitiful finale of a three-year long operation by the Democrats, the corrupt media, and partisan bureaucrats to overturn the results of the 2016 election.”
“They turned on a dime, and now claim the real malfeasance is Republicans’ dealings with Ukraine,” Nunes said.
He went on to accuse Democrats of abuses including “trying to obtain nude pictures of Trump from Russian pranksters who pretended to be Ukrainian officials” and “countless other deceptions large and small that make them the last people on Earth with the credibility to hurl more preposterous accusations at their political opponents.”
Later, Nunes named one of the officials he said Democrats redacted from interview transcripts released last week: Alexandra Chalupa, a political operative who was affiliated with the Democratic National Committee in 2016 who, Nunes said, “worked with Ukrainian officials to collect dirt on the Trump campaign.”
“Anyone familiar with the Democrats’ scorched-earth war against President Trump would not be surprised to see all the typical signs that this is a carefully orchestrated media smear campaign,” he said.
November 13, 2019 at 10:15 AM EST
The facts ‘are not seriously contested,’ Schiff says in opening remarks
In his opening statement, Schiff outlined the facts of the inquiry that have been established by the witnesses who have already testified behind closed doors — facts, he argued, that “are not seriously contested.”
The question is, do those facts mean that Trump invited Ukrainian interference in the 2020 election and conditioned official acts on Kyiv’s willingness to do so — and, if so, is Trump’s “abuse of his power” compatible with the office of the presidency?
“The matter is as simple, and as terrible, as that,” Schiff said.
“Our answer to these questions will affect not only the future of this presidency, but the future of the presidency itself, and what kind of conduct or misconduct the American people may come to expect from their commander in chief,” he said.
November 13, 2019 at 10:06 AM EST
Schiff opens the hearing
Schiff has gaveled in the open hearing featuring two career diplomats expected to testify about the White House’s efforts to press Ukraine for investigations that could benefit Trump politically.
November 13, 2019 at 9:40 AM EST
Republicans hint at impeachment defense with signs
Three signs posted behind the GOP side of the dais suggest how Republicans plan to defend against the impeachment effort during Wednesday’s hearing.
One sign features a May quote from Rep. Al Green (D-Tex.), an early and vocal supporter of Trump’s impeachment, saying, “I’m concerned if we don’t impeach this president, he will get reelected.” Republicans say Green’s comment is proof the inquiry is politically motivated.
Another sign notes “93 Days Since Adam Schiff Learned the Identity of the Whistleblower.” That is a reference to an early encounter between Schiff’s staff and the anonymous whistleblower who sought to alert Congress to Trump’s Ukraine dealings. That, Republicans say, shows proof of partisan collusion against Trump.
And also in support of that argument, a third sign shows a January 2017 tweet from lawyer Mark S. Zaid, who is representing the whistleblower, suggesting a “#coup has started … #impeachment will follow ultimately” in the earliest days of the Trump administration.
November 13, 2019 at 9:35 AM EST
Pelosi praises patriotism of witnesses
In a morning tweet, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) praised the patriotism of Taylor and Kent, two career diplomats who are testifying despite efforts by the White House to keep administration officials from participating.
“Patriotism means putting country ahead of politics and personal ambition, and speaking out when you see something wrong,” Pelosi tweeted. “The witnesses coming forward to testify today have shown that patriotism again and again.”
November 13, 2019 at 9:30 AM EST
Kent arrives for testimony
Kent has arrived at the Longworth House Office Building ahead of his testimony scheduled for 10 a.m.
November 13, 2019 at 9:15 AM EST
Taylor arrives for testimony
Taylor has arrived at the Longworth House Office Building ahead of his testimony scheduled for 10 a.m.
Both Taylor and Kent will be appearing under subpoena, according to an official working on the impeachment inquiry. The House Intelligence Committee issued the subpoenas Wednesday morning, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss part of the proceedings that had not been publicly announced.
November 13, 2019 at 8:30 AM EST
Trump returns to Twitter, shares disparaging quote about Pelosi
Trump returned to Twitter to share an extended quote from Charles Hurt, the opinion editor of the Washington Times, disparaging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry.
Hurt, according to Trump’s tweet, said Pelosi “cares more about power than she does about principle” and accused Democrats of turning impeachment into “a political cudgel.”
In subsequent tweets, Trump wrote “NEVER TRUMPERS!” and “READ THE TRANSCRIPT!”
In recent days, Trump has contended that the witnesses being called by Democrats are “Never Trumpers,” a term that refers to Republicans who were against his presidency from the start. He has not provided any evidence.
Trump has also argued that the transcript of a July call with Zelensky shows he did nothing wrong because he did not explicitly condition the resumption of military aid on investigating the Bidens.
November 13, 2019 at 7:15 AM EST
Trump lashes out at Democrats ahead of hearing
Trump lashed out at Democrats hours before Schiff was scheduled to gavel in the first open hearing in the impeachment proceedings against the president.
In tweets, Trump quoted conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh calling the inquiry a “partisan sham” and shared the assertion of Fox News host Steve Doocy that the Democrats “have stacked the deck against President Trump and the Republicans.”
In one tweet, Trump seemed to suggest that Daniel S. Goldman, the lawyer Democrats have tapped to question witnesses, had a conflict because he had worked for Trump.
“Also, why is corrupt politician Schiff allowed to hand over cross examination to a high priced outside lawyer,” Trump tweeted. “Did that lawyer ever work for me, which would be a conflict?”
It was not clear what Trump was referencing, and a White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for elaboration.
Goldman previously spent a decade as an assistant U.S. attorney in Manhattan, a jurisdiction known for its tough, high-profile cases. He left that job in 2017, shortly after Trump became president, to become a television legal analyst.
John Wagner and Devlin Barrett
November 13, 2019 at 7:00 AM EST
First public hearing will feature testimony from Taylor and Kent
The first open impeachment hearing before the House Intelligence Committee is set to begin at 10 a.m. with testimony from Taylor and Kent, two diplomats who previously told lawmakers in closed-door depositions that the White House improperly sought to leverage U.S. military assistance and an Oval Office meeting to pressure Ukraine to open investigations into Democrats.
Taylor previously testified that he learned through conversations with White House aides, national security officials and Trump’s point people in Ukraine that there was a concerted effort to force Ukraine into a quid pro quo. However, he couldn’t conclusively say Trump directed all of this.
Kent previously testified that Trump wanted Zelensky to publicly and explicitly announce he would be investigating matters involving Democrats, and he wanted him to use the words “Biden” and “Clinton.” Kent said he didn’t hear this directly from Trump, but rather from other officials who talked to people who talked to Trump.
After opening statements, lawyers for the Democrats and Republicans will be given 45 minutes to question witnesses before committee members proceed with traditional five-minute rounds of questioning.
John Wagner and Amber Phillips
November 13, 2019 at 7:00 AM EST
Trump allies take to Twitter early Wednesday to defend him
Trump’s allies went on Twitter to defend him hours before Wednesday’s hearing was set to begin.
“Facts matter,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) tweeted. “And the facts prove this entire sham has been a premeditated plot to take down the president.”
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel characterized the upcoming proceeds as a “kangaroo court” and asked her followers to remember that neither Taylor nor Kent were “present for any key meetings/calls that would allow them to corroborate Dems’ bogus allegations.”
Meanwhile, Tim Murtaugh, a Trump campaign spokesman, dismissed the hearing as “a new act in the Democrat sham impeachment.”
“Democrat-selected ‘witnesses’ will just offer their opinions of a phone call, the transcript of which we can all read ourselves.”
November 13, 2019 at 6:45 AM EST
Turkish leader to visit the White House as hearing plays out on Capitol Hill
As witnesses testify in the impeachment proceedings on Capitol Hill, Trump plans to welcome Erdogan to the White House on Wednesday.
The visit comes just weeks after Turkey invaded Syria and attacked U.S.-allied Kurdish forces.
In a letter last week, more than a dozen members of Congress, including House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) called on Trump to rescind his invitation, arguing that “now is a particularly inappropriate time for President Erdogan to visit the United States.”
Erdogan is scheduled to arrive at noon, two hours after the House hearing begins. His visit includes a meeting with a group of Republican senators.
Trump and Erdogan have a joint news conference scheduled at 3:10 p.m.
It is unclear whether the House proceedings will still be going on at that point. An official working on the impeachment inquiry has estimated that the hearing will wrap up sometime between 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
November 13, 2019 at 6:30 AM EST
In late-night tweets, Trump quotes Hannity calling hearings a ‘phony showtrial’
Trump went on Twitter late Tuesday night to share a lengthy quote from Fox News host Sean Hannity disparaging the upcoming impeachment hearings, which he called a “phony showtrial.”
“Everything you’re going to see in the next two weeks is rigged,” Trump quoted Hannity as saying. “There is zero due process, none. It is yet another fraudulent hoax conspiracy theory. It is another Witch Hunt. This is what the Socialist Doemocrat Party has become.” (Democrat was misspelled in the tweet.)
Trump closed out his tweets by offering praise for Hannity: “Sean the amazing warrior!”
November 13, 2019 at 6:15 AM EST
Democrats announce witnesses for next week’s hearings
Eight witnesses will testify over three days next week, the House Intelligence Committee announced Tuesday night.
On Nov. 19, lawmakers will hear from Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council director for European affairs; Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine; Jennifer Williams, a special adviser to Vice President Pence on Europe and Russia; and Tim Morrison, a former White House national security aide.
Witnesses on Nov. 20 will be Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union; Laura Cooper, the Pentagon official who oversees Ukraine policy; and David Hale, the State Department’s third-ranking official.
And on Nov. 21, Fiona Hill, former top Russia adviser to the White House, will testify.
Of the numerous witnesses Republicans had requested, only three — Morrison, Volker and Hale — were greenlighted by Democrats, who control the majority on the panel.
“The Majority has accepted all of the Minority requests that are within the scope of the impeachment inquiry,” Democrats on the Intelligence Committee said in a statement.
November 13, 2019 at 6:00 AM EST
Giuliani writes Wall Street Journal op-ed defending Trump
The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed Tuesday night in which Giuliani argued that the president’s July 25 conversation with Zelensky was “innocent” and denounced the House impeachment inquiry as “a travesty.”
Trump “requested that Ukraine root out corruption; he didn’t demand it,” Giuliani wrote, adding that “out of a five-page transcript Mr. Trump spent only six lines on Joe Biden.”
“His words were cordial, agreeable and free of any element of threat or coercion,” he wrote. “Mr. Trump offered nothing in return to Ukraine for cleaning up corruption. If you doubt me, read the transcript.”
The Washington Post’s Fact Checker has released a guide that debunks many of the claims that have been made by Giuliani and other Trump allies.
What’s happening now: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has asked committee chairs to proceed with articles of impeachment – meaning they will write a list of what they see as impeachable offenses by the president.
What happens next: Those articles will be voted on, one by one, by the House Judiciary Committee and then the full House. Pelosi gave no indication of a timeline, nor did she say how narrowly crafted the articles of impeachment would be. The Judiciary Committee is scheduled to meet Monday for presentations on Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine from lawyers for the Intelligence Committee. Here’s a guide to how impeachment works.