Key Moments from the Impeachment Hearings - Day 1
Does today's hearing change your mind about impeachment?
by Countable's Trump Impeachment Coverage | 11.13.19
Countable will continue to update this story throughout the day.
- Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat for Ukraine, and George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, are testifying Wednesday in the House’s first public impeachment hearing.
- The 30-second recap: On July 25, President Donald Trump had a phone call with Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelensky where he asked Zelensky to "do us a favor" and work with Attorney General William Barr and Trump's personal attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, to "look into" former Vice President Joe Biden and his family. (Hunter Biden was on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma.) Trump also asked Zelensky to investigate a debunked conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 election to benefit Hillary Clinton.
Here are some of the key moments from the hearing:
- Taylor testified that a member of his staff told him last Friday about events that occurred on July 26, a day after the now-infamous phone call. "The member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone asking Ambassador Sondland about the investigations," Taylor said. When he asked Sondland about Trump’s thoughts on Ukraine, "Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for," Taylor testified.
- Taylor had previously testified that Trump wanted Zelensky in a "public box." Asked to explain, Taylor responded: "Trump through Ambassador Sondland was asking for Zelensky to very publicly commit to these investigations. It was not sufficient to do this in private, that this needed to be a very public statement."
- Taylor testified that despite what he was told, he strongly believed there was a quid pro quo.
"Ambassador Sondland also said that he had talked to President Zelenskiy and Mr. Yermak [an aide] and had told them that, although this was not a quid pro quo, if President Zelenskiy did not 'clear things up' in public, we would be at a 'stalemate.' I understood a 'stalemate' to mean that Ukraine would not receive the much-needed military assistance."
- Taylor said Trump withholding a White House meeting with Zelensky was one thing, but withholding aid was "crazy."
"The White House meeting was one thing. The security assistance was much more alarming" because withholding that money puts "lives at stake."
- Taylor said he wasn't aware of another president conditioning foreign aid on his personal or political interests.
- Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA): "Just about an hour before the two of you sat down to testify the President tweeted multiple times about this hearing and he put in all caps "NEVER TRUMPERS." Mr. Kent, are you a 'never Trumper?'"
- Kent responded that he is a career diplomat "who serves whatever president is duly-elected and carries out the foreign policies of that president in the United States, and I've done that for 27 years for three Republican presidents and two Democrat presidents."
- Taylor was asked if he was a "never Trumper" and replied "No, sir."
- Steve Castor, the GOP lead counsel, pressed Taylor on whether Ukraine was "out to get the president," arguing it's a "very reasonable belief" for Trump to have had. Taylor repeatedly said he did not know.
- Kent was asked about allegations by Trump and his allies that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. election and Biden pressured Kiev to fire a prosecutor. Kent responded there's "no factual basis" for either allegation.
"I think it's amply clear that Russian interference was at the heart of the interference."
- Kent added that he "did not witness any efforts by any U.S. official to shield Burisma from scrutiny."
- As the above has been a key Trump talking point, here's the exchange in full:
Majority counsel for the House Intelligence Committee Daniel Goldman: "To your knowledge, is there any factual basis to support the allegation that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election?"
Kent: "To my knowledge, there is no factual basis, no."
Goldman: "And in fact, who did interfere in the 2016 election?"
Kent: "I think it's amply clear that Russian interference was at the heart of interference in the 2016 election cycle."
Trump and his allies have also accused Biden of using his diplomatic ties to get Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, in order to end an investigation into Burisma.
Goldman: "To your knowledge, is there any factual basis to support those allegations" against biden.
Kent: "None whatsoever."
Goldman: "When Vice President Biden acted in Ukraine, did he act in accordance with official US policy?"
Kent: "He did."
- Taylor said he was astonished by Giuliani's shadow campaign in Ukraine:
"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 US 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.
- Kent testified that Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, hurt U.S.-Ukrainian relations with "politically motivated investigations." Kent said that "In mid-August, it became clear to me that Giuliani's efforts to gin up politically motivated investigations were now infecting US engagement with Ukraine, leveraging President Zelensky's desire for a White House meeting.”
- He concluded: "In my opinion, those attacks undermined US and Ukrainian national interests and damaged our critical bilateral relationship."
- Kent testified that he did not believe Giuliani was protecting U.S. interests in Ukraine but "was looking to dig up political dirt." Taylor said he agreed.
- Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) asked if the "anti-corruption" statement being negotiated between Kurt Volker, Gordon Sondland, Rudy Giuliani and Ukrainian officials was ever issued. Kent: "That was not an anti-corruption statement, sir. ... Rudy Giuliani said it would not be acceptable if it didn't mention Biden, Burisma, and 2016."
- Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California, the ranking member on the committee, called the hearing a "carefully orchestrated smear campaign" against Trump.
"This spectacle is doing great damage to our country. It is nothing more than an impeachment process in search of a crime."
This is an ongoing story and will be updated.
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