Diplomats testifying on the opening day of impeachment inquiry hearings delivered a stark account Wednesday of President Trump’s pursuit of political “investigations” in Ukraine and attorney Rudy Giuliani’s alleged meddling in that country, while Republicans panned the entire process as a “low-rent Ukrainian sequel” to the Russia collusion case and hit back at the claims as mere “hearsay.”
For his part, Trump spent much of the day meeting with the visiting Turkish president, saying he was too busy to watch the historic hearing. And he released a video declaring: “They’re trying to stop me because I’m fighting for you. And I’ll never let that happen.”
Fireworks sparked from the very opening of the hearing, as GOP Rep. Devin Nunes accused Democrats of running a “scorched earth war” against the president. Republicans also ripped into Schiff after the Democrat interrupted GOP questioning to say a witness should be “cautious” about answering questions that assume facts not in evidence before him.
But in between the sparring among lawmakers was extensive testimony from the two lead-off witnesses, State Department official George Kent and top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine Bill Taylor.
Notably, Taylor testified, for the first time, that the president was overheard by a member of his staff on July 26 asking EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland about “the investigations,” to which Sondland responded that “the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.”
Taylor said that following Sondland’s call with Trump, the member of his staff asked what Trump thought about Ukraine.
“Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for,” Taylor said, revealing new information from his prior testimony last month. “At the time I gave my deposition on October 22, I was not aware of this information. I am including it for completeness.”
This conversation would have taken place a day after the now-famous phone call Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which he sought a probe into alleged Ukraine interference in the 2016 election and of Joe Biden’s role in ousting a prosecutor who had been looking into Burisma, where son Hunter Biden had a lucrative role on the board. Taylor made clear it was his understanding the term “investigations” indeed referred to the Biden family and Burisma. Trump is accused of not only pressing Kiev to look into those issues, but potentially linking that request to U.S. military aid for Ukraine, something Trump denies.
Taylor’s testimony would offer another account linking Trump to the pursuit of those probes, and to Giuliani’s controversial involvement abroad. Taylor also repeated his prior closed-door testimony that he understood critical U.S. aid was being held up, along with a Zelensky White House meeting, over the investigation issue. However, the newly revealed phone call did not by itself address any quid pro quo.
“The security assistance—not just the White House meeting—was conditioned on the investigations,” he said he was told.
Republicans sought to undercut the Democratic case by saying the Ukraine aid was ultimately released without any of the investigations sought by Trump, arguing that shows no quid pro quo took place.
Ohio GOP Rep. Jim Jordan referenced three separate meetings Ukraine’s president held with U.S. officials, saying there’s no evidence participants discussed the “linkage” of security assistance dollars in return for an investigation of the Bidens. Taylor confirmed that’s the case.
Jordan also got Taylor to acknowledge he’s never met Trump and stressed that Zelensky did not announce the investigations, saying, “Your clear understanding was obviously wrong, because it didn’t happen.”
Republicans were quick to point out that Taylor was not providing first-hand information. At one point, Taylor said, “I don’t know what President or candidate Trump was thinking about the Ukrainians.”
During one combative exchange, Texas Rep. John Ratcliffe asked the diplomats if they believe Trump committed an impeachable offense. Neither would say. “That’s not what either of us are here to do,” Taylor said. “This is your job.”
The White House further argued that Taylor offered “hearsay of hearsay” and accused House Democrats of basing “this entire sham on what amounts to a game of telephone.”
This whole thing is another shame by the left to try to win 2020! Do you think President Trump is guilty ? Leave us a comment below.