The inquiry deepened this week with the public testimony of nine current and former US officials.
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Following a full day of testimony on Tuesday, more hearings took place on Wednesday, including that of Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union. Sondland offered bombshell testimony, saying there was “quid pro quo” (Latin for “a favour for a favour”).
On Thursday, the committee heard from Fiona Hill, former senior director for European and Russian Affairs on Trump’s National Security Council, and David Holmes, an official from the US embassy in Ukraine.
The inquiry is centred on a July phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in which the US leader asked his Ukrainian counterpart to open an investigation into former US Vice President Joe Biden, who is also a top Democratic 2020 presidential contender and his son, Hunter, who had served on a board of a Ukrainian gas company. There has been no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens.
The call came to light due to a whistle-blower complaint. At the time of the call, the US was withholding nearly $400m in military aid from Ukraine, prompting speculation that Trump was using the money as leverage to get the desired investigations. The money was later released.
Trump has denied that any quid pro quo took place, describing the call as “perfect”.
Here’s a look at the testimony, starting with the end of the Thursday’s here. Click here to start from the beginning.
Testimony of Fiona Hill, David Holmes ends
The public testimony of Fiona Hill, the former senior director for European and Russian Affairs on the White House National Security Council, and David Holmes, an official from the US embassy in Ukraine, has ended.
Thursday concluded the fifth day of public hearings in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
Hill testified that she became aware of two channels in US policy to Ukraine, one that she was working in, which was concerned with bilateral and security issues, and a second channel of a “domestic and political nature”. She began her wide-ranging testimony by warning legislators against perpetuating a “fictional narrative” that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election. She said such a claim played into the Russian’s hands.
Holmes, for his part, recounted a conversation he overheard between the Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland and Trump. After the call, Holmes said that Sondland told him that Trump only cares about “the big stuff” that benefits him personally, like the investigation into Joe Biden.
There were no more public hearings scheduled as of Thursday.
Hill: I never generally questioned Lieutenant Colonel Vindman’s judgement
Fiona Hill, the former senior director for European and Russian Affairs on the White House National Security Council, vehemently denied that she had raised concerns about the judgement of Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the White House National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert.
Hill, testifying as part of the impeachment inquiry, said that she had raised a very specific concern about Vindman, a key witness in the probe, but had never questioned “his overall judgement” or his “expertise”.
But, Hill added, “I did not feel that he had the political antennae” to handle what she described as President Donald Trump’s back channel to pressure Ukraine into investigating the Bidens while military aid was being held up.
Hill: I told Sondland ‘this is all going to blow up’
Former White House adviser Fiona Hill has said that she realised Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland was “being involved in a domestic political errand” while she and her team were “involved in national security policy”.
Hill, during public testimony as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, described warning Sondland that “this is all going to blow up”.
“And here we are,” she told legislators.
White House spokeswoman accuses Democrats of ‘rabid desire’ to oust Trump
The top White House spokeswoman on Thursday accused Democrats running the impeachment probe into Donald Trump of a “sick” and “rabid” desire to take down the president.
“The Democrats are clearly being motivated by a sick hatred for President Trump and their rabid desire to overturn the 2016 election. The American people deserve better,” Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement as impeachment hearings continued in Congress.
Hill: Two channels in Ukraine foreign policy, one ‘domestic and political in nature’
Fiona Hill, former senior director for European and Russian Affairs on the White House National Security Council, described two “channels” of diplomacy in Ukraine.
Hill, speaking during her public testimony as part of the impeachment inquiry, said that “it was clear” one of those channels was “domestic and political in nature” while the other was concerned with the bilateral relations between the US and Ukraine.
William Taylor, the current ambassador to Ukraine, had previously described a “regular” and an “irregular” channel in Ukraine foreign policy.
Pelosi: No final decision on impeachment made yet
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, has said there is clear evidence President Donald Trump had used his office for personal gain and undermined national security, but that no final impeachment decision had been made as House Democrats continued their impeachment inquiry into the Republican president.
Pelosi, speaking at her weekly press conference, reiterated that it was up to the House Intelligence Committee to determine how to proceed with the investigation as lawmakers continued to gather facts and hear from witnesses.
“The evidence is clear … that the president has used his office for his own personal gain and in doing so undermined the national security,” she told reporters. “He has violated his oath of office.”
Asked by a reporter whether the House was now ready to advance articles of impeachment against Trump, Pelosi said: “We haven’t made any decision.”
Hill testifies about meeting that raised alarm with Bolton
Former White House national security aide Fiona Hill testified that July 10 meeting of US and Ukrainian officials was so alarming that her boss told her to call a lawyer.
Hill said a key moment was when Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland said he and Trump’s acting chief of staff had worked out a deal for Ukraine’s president. Under the deal, Volodymyr Zelenskyy would visit the White House in exchange for opening investigations.
Hill says her boss, National Security Adviser John Bolton, stiffened.
She says it was “unmistakable body language that got my attention”.
Bolton later told Hill to call a lawyer and make clear that “I am not part of whatever drug deal” Sondland and Trump’s acting chief of staff were cooking up, she said.
Hill details why Bolton called Giuliani a ‘hand grenade’
Former National Security Council adviser, Fiona Hill, has testified that the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani had been making “incendiary” remarks on television about Ukraine.
That’s why, Hill said, National Security Advisor John Bolton described Giuliani as a “hand grenade”.
Hill was testifying Thursday before a House committee in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
Hill said that Giuliani was “clearly pushing forward” issues that would “probably come back to haunt us”.
And she says: “That’s where we are today.”
Holmes: Ukraine would have made link to investigations when given no explanation to military aid hold
David Holmes, an official from the US embassy in Ukraine, has said that Ukrainian officials, when given no explanation, would have linked withheld military aid to investigations pushed by president
Holmes made the comments during his public testimony as part of the House impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump.
Under questioning from the lawyer for House Democrats, Daniel Goldman, Holmes agreed that Ukrainian officials were savvy and would have put “two and two” together when the nearly $400m in aid was being withheld without explanation as Trump pushed for investigations in the Bidens and the 2016 election meddling.
Hill: Russians sought to put 2016 presidential election winner ‘under a cloud’
Former White House national security aide Fiona Hill has testified at a House impeachment hearing that Russia’s goal in 2016 was to put whomever was elected president “under a cloud”.
Hill said increased partisanship is “exactly what the Russian government was hoping for”.
Holmes: Ukraine still felt pressure to announce investigations after military aid released
David Holmes, an official from the US embassy in Ukraine, has said that Ukraine continued to feel pressured to announce investigations desired by President Donald Trump even after military aid had been released.
Holmes, testifying in the impeachment inquiry on Thursday, said that he had been concerned that Ukraine might announce the investigations into Trump even after the nearly $400m in security aid had been released.
He said Ukraine‘s apparent desire to announce the investigation underscores their reliance on maintaining a good relationship with the United States.
He said that Ukraine continues to be “careful” because “they still need us now going forward”.
Trump spends morning tweeting about inquiry
President Donald Trump has spent the morning of the fifth day of public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry tweeting criticisms of the investigation.
In a series of tweet, Trump criticised Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee who is leading the inquiry, claimed Wednesday’s testimony of the Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland was “was a great day” for the president and Republicans, and urged the public to “read the transcript” of his July 25 call with the Ukrainian leader, which he maintains shows no wrongdoing.
Trump also specifically referenced part of the testimony of David Holmes, an official from the US embassy in Ukraine, in which Holmes detailed a phone call between Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland and Trump.
Holmes said that while he was with Sondland, he could hear Trump clearly over the phone.
I have been watching people making phone calls my entire life. My hearing is, and has been, great. Never have I been watching a person making a call, which was not on speakerphone, and been able to hear or understand a conversation. I’ve even tried, but to no avail. Try it live!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 21, 2019
Holmes: Sondland told me Trump only cares about the ‘big stuff’
David Holmes, an official from the US embassy in Ukraine, doubled down on his previous testimony that Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland had told him that the president only cares about the “the big stuff” that benefits him personally.
Holmes said that Sondland made the comment to him during a lunch on July 26.
Holmes said that Sondland said that President Donald Trump didn’t care about Ukraine. Holmes then said Sondland specifically referenced the investigation into the Bidens as something the president cared about.
Sondland, during his testimony on Wednesday, denied connecting the gas-company Burisma to the Biden as he pushed for the investigation. He also said he did not think he would say that Trump only cares about the big stuff, but said he did not specifically recall details of the conversation.
Holmes: campaign against Ambassador Yovanovitch ‘unlike anything’ I’ve seen
David Holmes, an official from the US embassy in Ukraine, said a campaign to have the former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch removed from her post was “unlike anything” he had every seen.
Holmes made the statement while giving his opening testimony in the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
Yovanovitch and other witnesses have previously detailed a campaign by the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and his associates to have her removed from her post.
Holmes also said that, starting in March of 2019, work at the US embassy in Ukraine became overshadowed by a political agenda driven by Giuliani.
Nunes defends Republican interest in Ukraine election meddling
Ranking Republican on the House intelligence committee Devin Nunes said Republicans take meddling seriously by all foreign countries.
Nunes was responding to prepared testimony by Fiona Hill, former senior director for European and Russian Affairs on the White House National Security Council, who testified as part of the impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump on Thursday.
Hill had warned in her testimony that a theory that Ukraine had meddled in the 2016 US elections a “fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services.”
“Needless to say, it is entirely possible for two separate nations to engage in election meddling at the same time. And Republicans believe we should take meddling seriously by all foreign countries, regardless of which campaign is the target,” Nunes said.
Schiff: Congress will determine ‘appropriate’ response to impeachment inquiry in coming days
Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has said Congress will decide in the coming days how to respond to the testimonies heard in the impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump
“In the coming days, Congress will determine what response is appropriate,” Schiff said during his opening statements in the fifth day of public hearings.
“If the president abused his power and invited foreign interference in our elections, if he sought to condition, coerce, extort, or bribe a vulnerable ally into conducting investigations to aid his reelection campaign and did so by withholding official acts – a White House meeting or hundreds of millions of dollars of needed military aid — it will be up to us to decide, whether those acts are compatible with the office of the Presidency,” Schiff said.
Hill: ‘I have no interest in advancing the outcome of your inquiry in any particular direction’
Fiona Hill, former senior director for European and Russian Affairs on the White House National Security Council, plans to also tell legislators that that she has no interest in partisan affairs, according to her prepared testimony.
Hill stressed in her prepared testimony, which she will deliver as part of the impeachment inquiry into US president Donald Trump, that she is a “nonpartisan foreign policy expert” who has served Republican and Democratic administrations.
“I have no interest in advancing the outcome of your inquiry in any particular direction, except toward the truth,” Hill will say, according to her prepared testimony.
Hill: Russia gearing up 2020 election interference
Fiona Hill, the former senior director for European and Russian Affairs on the White House National Security Councial, plans to warn legislators that Russia is gearing up to repeat its election interference activities in 2020.
“The impact of the successful 2016 Russian campaign remains evident today. Our nation is being torn apart,” Hill will said, according to her prepared testimony, in rebutting a theory pushed by the president and his allies that interference may have originated in Ukraine, not Russia.
In regards to the upcoming 2020 elections, Hill plans to tell legislators: “We are running out of time to stop them”.
Hill: Ukrainian interference in 2016 US election ‘fictional narrative’
Fiona Hill, former senior director for European and Russian Affairs on the White House National Security Council, plans to tell that legislators that the contention that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election is a “fictional narrative”, according to her prepared testimony.
Hill is testifying in the fifth day of public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
“I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests,” Hill plans to tell legislators.
She added that Ukrainian election meddling is a “fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services.”
In his July 25 call with Ukraine’s president, Trump referenced “Crowdstrike”, an apparent allusion to a largely debunked theory that 2016 election meddling came from Ukraine, not Russia. Some Republican allies of the president have echoed the need for an investigation.
Hill, Holmes arrive on Capitol Hill
Fiona Hill, former senior director for European and Russian Affairs on Trump’s National Security Council, and David Holmes, an official from the US embassy in Ukraine, have arrived on Capitol Hill.
The White House and State Department employees will testify as part of the fifth day of public testimony in the impeachment inquiry into US president Donald Trump.
Fiona Hill, David Holmes to testify
Members of House Intelligence Committee will question an official from the US embassy in Ukraine on Thursday as they seek to learn more about a phone call in which he says he overheard President Donald Trump ask about the status of an “investigation” into a political rival.
David Holmes told lawmakers in closed-door testimony that he heard Trump’s voice on a July 26 phone call with Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, in which the Republican president asked about Ukraine’s willingness to carry out an unspecified investigation.
The House panel Fiona Hill, former senior director for European and Russian Affairs on Trump’s National Security Council, who recounted in prior testimony a July 10 meeting in Washington, DC, that she attended with senior Ukrainian and US officials at which the investigations were discussed.
Read more here.
Wednesday, November 20 – Gordon Sondland; Laura Cooper and David Hale
Wednesday’s second impeachment hearing has come to a close
Department of Defense official Laura Cooper and David Hale, the No 3 State Department official, testified into the evening as part of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. It was the fourth of five impeachment hearings this week.
Cooper testified that her staff had given her new information that the Ukrainian Embassy had asked about military aid in July, earlier than was previously known.
The impeachment hearings start again on Thursday morning, with former White House official Fiona Hill and diplomat David Holmes.
Cooper: Ukrainians aware of possible hold earlier than previously known
A Defense Department official testified that the Ukrainian embassy was asking questions of her staff about a hold on military aid as far back as July 25, the day Trump asked Ukraine’s president to investigate the Democrats.
Testifying in an evening impeachment hearing, Laura Cooper told the House Intelligence Committee her staff has showed her emails she had not yet seen when she testified behind closed doors last month in the impeachment probe looking into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
The embassy’s July questions showed Ukrainians were aware of a possible hold on the aid earlier than previously known.
Republicans have argued there was no “quid pro quo” – investigations into Democrats for military aid – if Ukrainians weren’t aware of a hold on the aid.
Cooper: I never spoke to Trump about hold on aid
Defense Department official Cooper said she became aware in July that a hold was being placed on military aid to Ukraine and it had been directed by President Donald Trump.
Cooper is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia and Ukraine.
Cooper said she never spoke to the president about the hold, but she heard the hold was placed because of his concerns over corruption in Ukraine.
She said the funds were critical to supporting Ukraine. She said she was under the impression that the money was legally required to be obligated by September 30, the end of the fiscal year, and she fought to get it done.
Schiff opens evening impeachment hearing
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has gavelled in the second session of Wednesday’s impeachment hearings, featuring testimony on Trump’s moves to hold up military aid to Ukraine and his decision to fire Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
Under Secretary of State David Hale and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper are likely to testify into the evening.
Sondland testimony ends
The public hearing of Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland in the House impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump has ended.
Sondland testified for about seven hours on Wednesday, saying that the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to get Ukraine to launch the investigation desired by the president in exchange for a White House meeting was quid pro quo. Sondland said he was expressly told by the president to work with Giuliani.
Sondland also said that officials from the State Department and the White House National Security Council were “in the loop” and the president’s push for investigations were not a secret.
Republicans seized on Sondland’s statements that Trump never told him directly that a White House meeting with the Ukrainian president would not happen without a public announcement of the investigation. He said he heard that from Giuliani.
Republicans also criticised Sondland’s statement that it was his personal “presumption” that the military aid was being held up until an announcement on the investigation was made.
Next up to testify are Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defence for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasian affairs, and David Hale, undersecretary of state for political affairs at the State Department
State Department: Sondland never told Pompeo president was linking ‘aid to investigations of political opponents’
US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who testified on Wednesday in the House impeachment inquiry, never told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo he believed President Donald Trump was linking Ukraine aid to investigations of political opponents, a State Department spokeswoman said.
“Any suggestion to the contrary is flat out false,” spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.
Sondland had said that officials in the State Department and the White House National Security Council were aware of the his efforts to get Ukraine to conduct investigations pushed for by the president.
Asked if Pompeo had been made aware that Trump wanted a Ukrainian investigation of his domestic rival Joe Biden before agreeing to the White House meeting and releasing security aid, Sondland replied: “Yes”.
Democrats question Trump’s denial of quid pro quo in Sondland phone call
A House Intelligence Committee Democrat noted that President Donald Trump’s denial to Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland of quid pro quo in his Ukraine dealings came on the same day the House launched an investigation into the matter.
Representative Val Demings, a Democrat, first asked Sondland if he had used the term quid pro quo before Trump denied there was any during a September 9 phone call. Sondland responded he had not.
Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat, then noted that the phone call took place the same day three House committees launched an investigation into whether Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, tried to coerce Ukraine into investigating political rival Joe Biden by withholding military aid.
“You can’t rule out the possibility” that the reason the president said there was “no quid pro quo” was because congress had launched the investigation, Krishnamooorthi asked Sondland. Sondland said he could not.
Democrats ask why Sondland didn’t connect Burisma with Bidens
House Intelligence Committee Democrats questioned Sondland on why he didn’t make the connection between a Ukrainian gas company, Burisma, and the son of former Vice President Joe Biden.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, questioned Sondland on Wednesday on whether he ever put two and two together that looking into Burisma meant the Bidens, given the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, had continually made the connection in a published interview and on cable news.
“Apparently, a lot of people did not make the connection,” Sondland said to legislators.
Sondland had previously testified that while Giuliani had pushed for an investigation into Burisma, he did not realise the company had ties to the Bidens.
Republicans admonish Sondland for omitting phone call with Trump in opening statements
Republicans admonished Ambassador the EU Gordon Sondland for not including in his lengthy opening statement details of a phone call he had with Trump on September 9 during which Trump said there was no quid pro quo.
“It’s so memorable, so striking,” Republican counsel Steve Castor said. “This is an exculpatory fact shedding some light on the president’s state of mind about the situation.”
Sondland said his testimony was so long as it was and he assumed committee members would ask him about the call.
Trump says Sondland testimony exonerates him
President Donald Trump, citing a portion of US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland’s congressional testimony in a House impeachment inquiry on Wednesday, said it showed he wanted no quid pro quo with regards to Ukraine.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump cited comments by Sondland about a conversation with the president, in which he said Trump told him he wanted nothing from Ukraine.
“I said to the ambassador in response, I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelenskyy, President Zelenskyy to do the right thing,” Trump said, citing the testimony and referring to Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“I would say that means it’s all over,” Trump said of the impeachment investigation.
Sondland questions diplomat’s description of mobile phone conversation with Trump
Gordon Sondland questioned some details of a July cellphone call with President Donald Trump as recounted by a diplomat who overheard the call from a Kyiv restaurant.
David Holmes testified in private that he heard the two men discussing investigations Trump was seeking as Sondland held the phone out.
Sondland said it “seems a little strange” that he would hold the phone that way.
Sondland also said he did not think he would have told Holmes that Trump did not care about Ukraine, and only cared about “the big stuff” that helped him personally, as Holmes recounted.
Holmes also said Sondland told Trump the Ukrainian president “loves your ass” – which Sondland said “sounds like something I would say”.
Sondland said that’s how he communicated with Trump: “a lot of four-letter words. In this case three letters.”
Energy department denies Sondland characterisation of Perry’s role
US diplomat’s Gordon Sondland’s testimony in President Donald Trump impeachment hearings on Wednesday misrepresented Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s interaction with Trump and his lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, the Department of Energy said.
“Ambassador Sondland’s testimony today misrepresented both Secretary Perry’s interaction with Rudy Giuliani and direction the Secretary received from President Trump. As previously stated, Secretary Perry spoke to Rudy Giuliani only once at the President’s request,” it said in a statement.
“At no point before, during or after that phone call did the words ‘Biden’ or ‘Burisma’ ever come up in the presence of Secretary Perry,” the statement said.
Sondland had testified that he, along with diplomat Kurt Volker and Secretary Perry, worked with Giuliani as the former New York City mayor pushed for investigations desired by Trump. Sondland said the president had instructed the trio to work with Giuliani.
Giuliani denies Sondland’s allegation of ‘quid pro quo’
Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, denied testimony by the Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland that Giuliani’s effort to get Ukraine to open investigations into Trump’s political rivals “were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit”.
Giuliani, in a since-deleted tweet, characterised his support of the investigations as his “opinions” and not “demands”.
He also said he had “very little contact” with Sondland and had never met him.
“I came into this at Volker’s request. Sondland is speculating based on VERY little contact. I never met him and had very few calls with him, mostly with Volker,” Giuliani wrote in the deleted tweet.
“Volker testified I answered their questions and described them as my opinions, NOT demands. I.E., no quid pro quo!” Giuliani said.
Trump says he doesn’t know Sondland, seems like ‘nice guy’
President Donald Trump said he did not know Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland “very well”, but that he seemed liked a “nice guy”.
Trump made the comment to reports during Sondland’s hearing as part of the House impeachment inquiry.
Trump has said he did nothing wrong and has specifically denied any quid pro quo took place in regards to pressuring Ukraine’s leader to conduct politically motivated investigations.
Chief of staff to vice president: Sondland never voiced concerns
The chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence said a conversation with Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland about a link between Ukraine military aid and investigations sought by the president “never happened.”
Marc Short, the chief of staff, said Pence never spoke with Sondland “about investigating the Bidens, Burisma, or the conditional release of financial aid to Ukraine based upon potential investigations”.
He added that Pence and Sondland were never alone together during the September 1 meeting between Pence and Ukraine’s president in Poland.
Sondland testified on Wednesday as part of the impeachment probe that he had voiced “concerns” to the vice president that the aid was being tied to investigations sought by President Donald Trump.
“The vice president nodded, he heard what I said, and that was pretty much it,” Sondland testified.
Schiff: Sondland testimony ‘very important moment in history of this inquiry’
Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff has told that Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland’s testimony is “a very important moment in the history of this inquiry”.
“It goes right to the heart of the issue of bribery as well as other potential high crimes and misdemeanors,” Schiff told reporters. “But we also have heard for the first time that knowledge of this scheme was pervasive.”
Schiff made the comments during a break in Gordon’s public testimony, in which he detailed a quid pro quo push by the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to have Ukrainian officials conduct investigations sought by President Donald Trump in return for a White House meeting.
Sondland testified that Giuliani’s instructions “reflected President Trump’s desires and requirements” and that State Department and National Security Council officials, as well as the president’s Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney were “in the loop”.
Today, the American people hear from EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland — a Trump appointee who confirmed he "followed the President's orders" to pressure Ukraine into investigating Trump's political rival. #DefendOurDemocracy
Watch here: https://t.co/IbtCYSfj4R
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) November 20, 2019
White House distances Trump from Sondland
Pam Bondi, a White House adviser assisting the administration on impeachment messaging, said on Wednesday that President Donald Trump didn’t know his European Union ambassador very well.
Bondi said on CBS This Morning that Sondland was a “short-term ambassador” and incorrectly described himself as the envoy to Ukraine.
“The president doesn’t know him very well,” she said.
Bondi also said that Trump probably won’t offer testimony in the impeachment hearing. The president said earlier this week that he was weighing submitting written testimony.
Meanwhile, Trump reiterated his position via Twitter that the White House released memo of the July 25 call with Ukraine’s president exonerates him.
Read the transcripts! https://t.co/gQxYzjWehV
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 20, 2019
Pompeo ignores questions following Sondland testimony
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has ignored questions about testimony from the US ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland that he and others were aware of a quid pro quo involving military aid to Ukraine
Pompeo three times declined to respond to shouted questions from reporters about what Gordon Sondland has told the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
Pompeo is in Brussels attending a NATO foreign ministers meeting. Pompeo was asked about Sondland at photo opportunities at the start of meetings with the foreign ministers of Romania and Turkey and the secretary general of NATO.
Pompeo rarely answers questions at such events and is scheduled to have a formal press conference later on Wednesday.
Sondland: Trump ‘never’ directly discussed Ukraine aid freeze with me
Ambassador the European Union Gordon Sondland has said President Donald Trump never spoke to him about stalled military aid to Ukraine or any alleged link to Trump’s demands for political investigations.
“I never heard from President Trump that aid was conditioned on an announcement of (the investigations),” Sondland said.
“I don’t recall President Trump ever talking to me about any security assistance, ever,” he added.
He said instead he put “two plus two” together when he realised the aid might be tied to the investigations.
Sondland confirms July 26 call with Trump
Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, has confirmed that he spoke by phone with President Donald Trump one day after the president prodded Ukraine’s leader to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden.
Sondland said that the White House has also confirmed the recently revealed call, which came a day after the July 25 phone call that sparked a whistle-blower complaint and shared call logs with his lawyers.
The July 26 phone call between Sondland and Trump was disclosed by multiple witnesses within the last week.
Sondland says there’s no reason to doubt that he discussed investigations with Trump, as other witnesses have maintained. He says the call did not strike him as significant at that time.
Sondland: Pompeo told me: ‘You’re doing great work. Keep banging away’
Ambassador the EU Gordon Sondland said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seemed to approve of his efforts to get Ukraine to agree to investigations sought by President Donald Trump.
“You’re doing great work. Keep banging away,” Pompeo told Sondland in early September, according to email correspondence cited during Sondland’s public testimony in the House impeachment investigation on Wednesday.
Pompeo has been widely criticised for failing to defend US diplomats who were targeted by Trump and his allies.
Sondland said he had updated Pompeo and the White House’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, about Trump’s demand that Ukraine commit the investigations. He said he told Pompeo and Mulvaney that Ukraine’s leader would conduct a “fully transparent investigation” and “turn over every stone”.
Sondland: We worked with Giuliani at ‘the President’s orders’
Ambassador the EU Gordon Sondland said on Wednesday he worked with Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine issues on “the President’s orders”
“We followed the president’s orders,” Sondland said in his prepared testimony to an open hearing of the House Intelligence Committee.
He said that Trump forced US diplomats to work with his personal lawyer, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.
“We did not want to work with Mr Giuliani. Simply put, we played the hand we were dealt,” he said.
“At the time we did not believe his role was improper,” he said, adding if he had known who Giuliani was associating with at the time, he would have raised concerns.
Sondland: Access to State Department documents would help memory
Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland has said his memory of the events at the centre of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump has “not been perfect” and that being allowed to review State Department access to calendars, phone records and other documents would help.
Sondland made the comments during his public hearing on Wednesday. The State Department and White House have both refused to participate in the House investigation or turn over documents relevant to the investigation.
“These documents are not classified and, in fairness, should have been made available,” he said.
“I have no doubt that a more fair, open and orderly process of allowing me to read the State Department records would have made this process more transparent,” he said.
Sondland added he is not a “note taker”.
Moments before Sondland spoke, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, called on the White House and State Department to cooperate.
Sondland: I told vice president military aid appeared to be stalled in push for investigation
US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland said he told Vice President Mike Pence in September that the Ukraine aid appeared to be stalled because of the demand for investigations.
“The vice president nodded, he heard what I said, and that was pretty much it,” Sondland said.
The exchange took place during a meeting between Pence and Zelensky in Warsaw, Poland.
Sondland: I did not engage in ‘rogue diplomacy’, have emails to prove
The US Ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, has denied that he engaged in “rogue diplomacy” in his dealings with Ukraine and he has emails to prove it.
Sondland said the State Department leadership was aware and “fully supportive” of his efforts in Ukraine and said the department was “aware that a commitment to investigations” by Ukrainian officials was being pursued.
Sondland said he laid out Trump’s push for the investigations, and his efforts to have Ukraine comply, in detail to members of State Department, Energy, and White House staff. Recipients included Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House Chief of Staff, he said.
He said there are emails, particularly one sent on July 19, that would support this claim.
“These emails show that the leadership of State, NSC and the White House were all informed about the Ukraine efforts from May 23, 2019, until the security aid was released on September 11, 2019
“Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret,” he said.
Sondland: Giuliani’s efforts were a quid pro quo
Sondland said in prepared remarks to the investigation that Giuliani’s efforts to push Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for investigations into Trump’s political rivals “were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit” for the Ukrainian leader.
“Was there a quid pro quo? As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes,” Sondland said in his opening statements on Wednesday.
Quid pro quo is Latin for “favour for a favour”.
Nunes requests subpoenas for Hunter Biden, whistle-blower
US Representative Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, has said committee Republicans have requested subpoenas including a demand for testimony by Hunter Biden, son of former US Vice President Hunter Biden, and the impeachment whistleblower.
Republicans do not have subpoena power in the House, where Democrats hold a majority of seats, but the request underscored partisan bitterness in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump and his dealings with Ukraine.
Schiff calls for White House, State Department to cooperate in inquiry
Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, called on the White House and State Department to cooperate in the House impeachment probe.
Schiff said the House has “not received a single document” from the administration as it has investigated Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
He said Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have made “a concerted and across the board effort” to obstruct the investigation and “they do so at their own peril.”
Sondland arrives on Capitol Hill
Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, has arrived on Capitol Hill for his public hearing in the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
Sondland’s role as an intermediary between Trump and Ukrainian and State Department officials has become central to the investigation. The hotelier had previously told legislators in closed-door testimony last month that he saw no link between Trump’s investigation request and the White House’s decision to temporarily withhold nearly $400m in security aid to Ukraine.
Weeks later, Sondland updated his story in supplemental testimony, telling legislators he had remembered that he had told Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky‘s administration that it would likely not get the money unless it publicly committed to taking action.
Sondland: Highly-anticipated impeachment witness to testify
US Ambassador Gordon Sondland, the most anticipated witness in the Trump impeachment inquiry, will face questions about his evolving accounts of the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine and a newly revealed summertime phone call with the United States president.
Sondland, a wealthy hotelier Trump tapped as his ambassador to the European Union, is more directly entangled than any witness yet in the president’s efforts to get Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden and Democrats in the 2016 election. Yet Sondland has already amended his testimony once – “I now do recall,” he said, talking to Ukraine about investigations.
Tuesday, November 19 – Jennifer Williams and Alexander Vindman; Kurt Volker and Tim Morrison
House panel wraps up another five-hour hearing
The House Intelligence Committee has concluded a five-hour hearing with two former Trump administration officials.
Kurt Volker, the former US special envoy to Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, a former deputy national security adviser, both testified that they did not believe Trump had engaged in a “quid pro quo” (Latin for “a favour for a favour”), linking military aid to Ukraine with an investigation of Joe Biden.
But Volker spoke up for Biden in Tuesday’s impeachment hearing, rejecting “conspiracy theories” embraced by Trump and some of his allies. Volker said he has known Biden as an honourable man for more than two decades.
Devin Nunes, the panel’s top Republican, blasted the hearing as part of a “Ukraine hoax”. The panel’s chairman, Adam Schiff said Volker has debunked once and for all any conspiracy theory about Biden.
Volker recalls Ukrainian’s quip about probes
A top diplomat said he now remembers a top Ukrainian official taking issue with advice he offered cautioning against political investigations.
Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, said that during a September dinner with Andriy Yermak, he had discouraged Ukraine from trying to prosecute the country’s previous president. Volker says he warned it would sow deep societal divisions.
Volker said Yermak quipped in response, “You mean like asking us to investigate Clinton and Biden?”
Volker claimed he did not “quite understand” the remark and was “kind of puzzled” by it.
Volker said he accepted the idea of Ukraine going along with a push by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to investigate the Ukraine gas company Burisma and the 2016 elections. But he said he was unaware of a connection to Joe Biden, whose son served on Burisma’s board.
Morrison says he was warned about Sondland
Morrison said one of his colleagues warned him about Trump’s European Union ambassador, Gordon Sondland, and even coined a name for her concerns, “the Gordon problem”.
Other witnesses have testified that Sondland talked directly to Trump as the president pushed Ukraine to investigate Democrats. Sondland, who testifies on Wednesday, tried to negotiate with the Ukrainians for the investigations.
Sondland also clashed with some in the White House as he took a leading role in Ukraine policy, including former adviser Fiona Hill, who Morrison said coined the phrase.
After talking to Hill, Morrison said he kept track of what Sondland was doing and “didn’t necessarily always act” on what he suggested.
Volker: Discussions of investigations ‘inappropriate’
Volker said he felt a discussion of investigations was “inappropriate” in a July meeting between Ukrainian and US officials at the White House.
Testifying during a House impeachment hearing on Tuesday, Volker confirmed others’ testimony that President Trump’s European Union ambassador, Gordon Sondland, raised the investigations “in a generic way” to the Ukrainians and that then-national security adviser John Bolton immediately ended the meeting.
The meeting happened two weeks before a call in which Trump asked Ukraine’s president to investigate Democrats. That call is central to the impeachment probe.
Other witnesses have testified that the investigations were discussed further in a second meeting that day. Volker said he does not recall that discussion.
Morrison: Bolton told me to ‘tell the lawyers’
A former White House national security official said his boss told him to “tell the lawyers” about two worrying conversations in which a diplomat told him about blocking military aid to Ukraine.
Morrison testified at Tuesday’s House impeachment hearing about two September exchanges with Gordon Sondland.
Sondland is an envoy overseeing European Union policy who was also helping shape US policy toward Ukraine.
Morrison said Sondland said he had told a Ukrainian official that his government would have to announce investigations into Trump’s Democratic political foes to free up the US military assistance.
Morrison said Sondland also told him there was no “quid pro quo” (Latin for “favour for a favour”) but that Ukraine needed to announce those investigations to get the aid.
Morrison said his boss, then White House national security adviser John Bolton, told him to tell their lawyers about Sondland’s remarks.
Volker: Trump said talk to Giuliani
Volker testified in the impeachment inquiry that Trump told him he should talk to his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani about the new Ukrainian president. But he “didn’t take it as an instruction”.
The exchange with Trump happened soon after Volker and other officials returned to Washington, DC, from Ukrainian Zelenskyy’s inauguration in May. Volker and others spoke highly of Zelenskyy and urged Trump to host him for a White House meeting.
But Trump pushed back and said the diplomats should talk to Giuliani.
Volker recalled that Trump said he hears “terrible things” about Zelenskyy and he should talk to Giuliani.
Volker testified that he “understood from that context that that’s where he hears it from” and he “didn’t take it as an instruction”.
Morrison: Call memo placed in highly classified system by ‘mistake’
A former top national security adviser to President Donald Trump said a rough transcript of Trump’s July 25 call with Zelenskyy was placed on a highly classified system by mistake.
The official, Tim Morrison, said he and a top White House lawyer, John Eisenberg, agreed that access should be restricted to officials with high-level security clearances.
But Morrison said he later learned that the rough transcript of the call was placed on a highly classified server typically reserved for national secrets.
Morrison said the placement on the more secure server “was a mistake. It was an administrative error”.
Morrison said nothing on the call warranted placement on the server.
Kellogg: ‘I heard nothing wrong with call’
The vice president’s national security adviser pushed back after a subordinate said she had concerns about Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president.
Keith Kellogg said of the July 25 conversation: “I heard nothing wrong or improper on the call. I had and have no concerns.”
He released a statement after the testimony of Jennifer Williams, who was detailed to Vice President Mike Pence’s staff from the State Department.
Williams testified Tuesday that she found the call “unusual” since it “involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter”.
Williams said she never raised the call with her superiors, since Kellogg was also listening in on the call.
Volker: Criticism of Biden ‘no credible’
Volker is testified in a House impeachment hearing that Republican criticism of former Vice President Joe Biden is “not credible”.
Republicans, including Trump, have questioned the role of Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.
Trump asked Zelenskyy to investigate the Bidens in a July phone call that is at the heart of the impeachment probe.
Volker testified that Biden “respects his duties of higher office” and it is not credible that he would act in any way other than in the national interest.
Volker says he did not ‘knowingly’ take part in Ukraine pressure campaign
Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, in his opening statements in the the House impeachment inquiry, said he did not “knowingly” take part in an effort to press Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.
Volker said that while he was aware of a push to have Ukraine investigate the gas company Burisma, he did not connect the company to Biden. Hunter Biden sat on the board of Burisma, and Trump’s desire to have the company investigated is at the centre of the impeachment inquiry.
Volker added that he understands now, thanks to hindsight and the testimony of other witnesses, that it was possible that Trump was using the nearly $400m in withheld military aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.
“In retrospect I should have seen that connection differently, and had I done so, I would have raised my own objections,” Volker said.
Volker also defended the Bidens, referring to the accusation that the former vice president was influenced by his son’s role at Burisma as a “conspiracy theory”.
Morrison says resignation unrelated to impeachment inquiry testimony
Former senior White House aide Timothy Morrison said during his opening statements in the House impeachment inquiry that he had resigned from the National Security Council of his own volition and felt no pressure to resign.
He added he did not fear retaliation for his testimony.
Morrison also said he did not know the identity of a whistle-blower, whose complaint lead Democrats to launch the inquiry.
He added the United States must continue to support Ukraine, with backing from both Republicans and Democrats.
Schiff references Volker texts, ‘three Amigos’ in opening statements
The Democratic Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, referenced a series of text messages sent by Kurt Volker, a special envoy to Ukraine, and his role in the so-called “three amigos” as he opened the second portion of House impeachment hearings on Tuesday.
Schiff said that Volker and Tim Morrison, a former National Security Council Russia expert, were testifying at the request of Republicans, who are a minority on the committee.
Schiff described a series of text messages betweek Volker, Ambassador the European Union Gordon Sondland, and an aide to the president of Ukraine in which Volker encouraged Ukrainian officials to announce investigations wanted by Trump in return for a White House meeting.
Schiff also referenced Volker’s role in the group dubbed the “three amigos”, which also included Sondland and Energy Secretary Rick Perry. In several testimonies, witnesses said the trio carried out back-channel negotiations with the Ukrainian government.
Ranking Republican Devin Nunes remained adversarial in his opening statements, referring to the hearing “act two of today’s circus”.
Volker, Morrison arrive on Capitol Hill for impeachment inquiry hearing
Kurt Volker, the former US special envoy for Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, a former National Security Council Russia expert, have arrived on Capitol Hill for their public hearing as part of the House impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump.
The hearing is expected to start at 3:30 PM (8:30 GMT).
White House spokeswoman slams witness testimonies
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, referencing the first round of interviews in Tuesday’s impeachment hearings, said the public “learned nothing new in today’s illegitimate ‘impeachment’ proceedings”.
She characterised the witness testimonies of Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s (NSC) top Ukraine expert, and Jennifer Williams, a special adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, as little more than “personal opinions and conjecture”.
She charged the proceedings “further” expose that Democrats are “blinded by their hatred for Donald Trump and rabid desire to overturn the outcome of a free and fair election”.
Public hearing of Vindman and Williams ends
The public hearing of Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s (NSC) top Ukraine expert, and Jennifer Williams, a special adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, as part of the House impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump has ended.
The House intelligence committee will now hear from Kurt Volker, the former US special envoy for Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, a former National Security Council Russia a expert.
Vindman says he knew he was ‘assuming a lot of risk’ by reporting concerns about Trump call
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s (NSC) top Ukraine expert, said he knew he was “assuming a lot of risk” by reporting his concerns about a July 25 phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukraine’s new president.
Vindman was asked during Tuesday’s impeachment hearing whether he understood he was taking on the “most important person” when he did it.
Vindman earlier in his opening statement told his father, an immigrant from Ukraine, not to worry about his coming forward, that he would be fine because in the US it was okay to speak out.
He said he felt comfortable speaking out, because: “Here, right matters.”
The statement was met with brief applause.
Trump calls impeachment ‘disgrace’ and ‘kangaroo court’
President Donald Trump slammed the ongoing impeachment hearings as a “disgrace” and “kangaroo court,” while acknowledging he watched part of the third day of public hearings.
Trump made the comments as the House impeachment panel listened to testimony from National Security Council aide Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman and Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence.
Trump said he caught some of Tuesday’s testimony from Vindman, a Ukraine specialist, who says Trump inappropriately pressured Ukraine’s president to open an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son’s dealings in Ukraine.
The president dismissed Vindman’s testimony, and praised Republican legislators for “killing it”.
Trump said, “I don’t know Vindman…I never heard of him.”
Vindman rejects criticism of judgment, credibility
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s (NSC) top Ukraine expert, has rejected attacks on his judgment and credibility during the House impeachment hearings into President Donald Trump by reading from a glowing performance review he received.
The review came from Fiona Hill, who was his boss on the National Security Council until this summer. She described Vindman as “brilliant” and “unflappable” and a stellar military officer with excellent judgment.
Vindman pulled out a copy of the review and read from it during questioning on Tuesday from Republican Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, who asked the Army officer why some colleagues have raised questions about his judgment.
Zelensky: Ukraine is ‘tired’ of Trump impeachment questions
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Tuesday that his country was “tired” of questions related to the Trump scandal, amid a critical week of public impeachment hearings in Washington.
“We have our country, we have our independence, we have our own problems,” he complained after a press conference in Kiev with visiting Czech prime minister Andrej Babis.
An American reporter pressed Zelenskyy on whether he had been ready to launch a probe into Joe Biden’s son’s ties to Ukraine energy company Burisma, as a concession to Trump.
“Everyone in Ukraine is so tired of Burisma,” Zelenskyy said, before quickly leaving the room full of reporters.
Official: Army, local law enforcement providing security for Vindman
A US official says the Army and local law enforcement are providing security for Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, who is testifying Tuesday during the House impeachment hearing.
The official says that the Army did a security assessment in order to make sure that Vindman and his family are secure, so the officer did not have to worry about that as the proceedings go on.
The official said the Army was prepared to take additional steps if needed, which could include moving Vindman and his family to a more secure location on a base.
Vindman, Williams: I do not consider myself a ‘never Trumper’
Under questioning from Representative Jim Himes, a Democrat, as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s (NSC) top Ukraine expert, and Jennifer Williams, a special adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, both said they were not “never Trumpers”.
Vindman and Williams were responding to previous accusations by the president that both witnesses belonged to a group of government officials who Trump and his allies say have vowed to defy him at every turn.
Vindman says he was offered the post of Ukraine’s defence minister three times but rejected the suggestion
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s director for Ukraine, said he was made an offer to become the defence minister of Ukraine while attending the inauguration of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as part of the official US delegation.
Vindman says “I immediately dismissed these offers”, which he added he did not interpret to be serious.
He says two American officials witnessed the exchange with a top adviser to Zelenskyy, and that he notified his chain of command and counterintelligence officials about the offer upon returning to the US.
Vindman is testifying before the House Intelligence Committee about his concerns about President Donald Trump’s decision to press Ukrainian officials to launch an investigation of his political opponents.
Schiff interrupts Republican questioning to ‘protect the whistle-blower’
Chairman of the House intelligence committee Adam Schiff, a Democrat, interrupted Republican questioning during a public hearing as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump to “protect the whistle-blower”.
During questioning, ranking Republican committee member Devin Nunes asked if Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s (NSC) top Ukraine expert, had told anyone outside of the White House about the July 25 phone call between Trump and the president of Ukraine, which has become central in the impeachment probe.
Vindman said he had told George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state, and a member of the intelligence community. The whistle-blower whose complaint lead Democrats to launch the investigation is from the intelligence community, which is composed of 17 agencies.
Schiff interrupted, saying “I want to make sure there is no effort to out the whistle-blower in these proceedings”.
Vindman then answered, “per my counsel, I’ve been advised not to answer questions about specific individuals from the intelligence community”.
Vindman not wanting to discuss who in the intelligence community he talked to about this whole thing. Schiff cuts off question.
— Mark Meadows (@MarkMeadows) November 19, 2019
Vindman, Williams say they have not leaked info on Trump call to press
Under questioning from the ranking Republican on the House intelligence committee, US Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s (NSC) top Ukraine expert, and Jennifer Williams, a special adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, said they had not leaked information about a July 25 call at the centre of the House impeachment investigation.
Devin Nunes asked both witnesses, who testified on Tuesday in the third day of public hearings in the investigation, if they had personally encouraged anyone, or knew anyone who had leaked information on the call between Trump and the president of Ukraine.
Both Vindman and Williams responded “I did not” to all questions.
Vindman’s former boss, Tim Morrison, in his closed-door testimony, had said White House officials had raised concerns that Vindman might leak information. Morrison said he never had any concerns that Vindman would leak information.
Vindman says he told Ukrainian officials to stay out of US politics
Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s (NSC) top Ukraine expert, said during his public hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump that he had instructed Ukrainian officials to stay out of US politics.
Vindman was on a July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine’s new president where Trump pressed for investigations into the 2016 presidential election and the son of his Democratic rival.
Vindman said he knew “without hesitation” that he had to report the call to the White House counsel.
He told the committee that US Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, later said the Ukrainians needed to provide “a deliverable” which was “specific investigations”.
Vindman later told Ukrainian officials they should steer clear of the requests.
Vindman calls Trump call with Zelenskyy ‘improper’
Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the White House National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert, testified at the third public hearing in the House impeachment investigation.
“It is improper for the president of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a US citizen and political opponent,” Vindman said in his opening statement.
Vindman, who along with other witnesses has been publicly criticised by Trump, also told legislators that “vile character attacks” against public servants testifying in the impeachment inquiry were “reprehensible,” urging Americans to be “better than callow and cowardly attacks”.
Vindman did not specifically mention Trump when he referred to “cowardly attacks”. Some Trump allies in the conservative media have questioned Vindman’s loyalty to the US.
Williams calls Trump call with Zelenskyy ‘unusual’
Jennifer Williams, a special adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, said President Donald Trump‘s July 25 call with the president of Ukraine was “unusual”.
Williams, speaking during the third day of public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry into Trump, said the call struck her as strange because “it involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter”.
Williams also said the White House Budget office had said Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, had directed that nearly $400m in security aid to Ukraine be put on hold and that she never learned why the assistance was later released in September.
Williams, who was attacked by Trump on Twitter just days before her public appearance, also told legislators that she was committed to serving America’s interests, adding “it was with great pride and conviction that I swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution”.
Nunes decries media coverage of public hearings in opening statements
The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee used his opening statement to blame the media for the impeachment drive against President Donald Trump.
Devin Nunes, at the beginning of the third day of public hearings in the investigation, excoriated media coverage of the hearings.
“You may have noticed a disconnect between what you actually saw and the mainstream media’s description of it,” Nunes said addressing the public, adding the media wanted to stoke a “partisan frenzy”.
“The media of course are free to act as Democratic puppets … at the direction of their puppet masters,” he said.
Schiff references attacks on witnesses’ character in opening statements
In his opening statement in the third day of public hearings in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said both US Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s (NSC) top Ukraine expert, and Jennifer Williams, a special adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, had faced “attacks” on their “character”.
Schiff referenced a Tweet by president Trump on Sunday accusing Williams of being a “Never Trumper”.
Schiff added that Vindman, an Iraq war veteran and purple heart recipient, had faced more “scurrilous attacks” on his characters from Trump allies.
Schiff also said that both Williams and Vindman had reported that the president of Ukraine specifically referred to “Burisma”, the gas company linked to Hunter Biden, in the July 25 phone call with Trump. That reference was not reflected in the memo of the call released by the White House.
Giuliani criticises first three witnesses to testify publicly
President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has criticised the first three witnesses to testify publicly in the House impeachment inquiry.
Several witnesses have testified that Giuliani led a shadow foreign policy campaign as an unofficial envoy to Ukraine. His blurring of what was official and unofficial government business rankled some officials, according to previous testimonies.
Shortly before the third day of public hearings began on Tuesday, Giuliani tweeted that three witnesses who had previously testified, William Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine, George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, and Marie Yovanovitch, the former US ambassador to Ukraine “had absolutely zero admissible evidence and no evidence of any criminal activity”.
Giuliani, along with his associated, allegedly ran a smear campaign again Yovanovitch which eventually led to her removal from the post in May.
The first 3 “star witnesses” (the State Department permanents) had absolutely ZERO admissible evidence and NO evidence of any criminal activity. Nothing they said would be admissible in a court of law or, presumably, in an impeachment presided over by the Chief Justice of the US.
— Rudy W. Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) November 19, 2019
Vindman, Williams arrive on Capitol Hill
US Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s (NSC) top Ukraine expert, and Jennifer Williams, a special adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, have arrived on Capitol Hill for a third day of public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
Vindman, who arrived in full military regalia for Tuesday’s hearing, and Williams are the first people to have listened in on the July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine’s leader at the centre of the impeachment probe.
The president has characterised both Vindman, who as a member of the NSC is a White House employee, and Williams, who is a State Department employee assigned to the Vice President’s office, as “never Trumpers”.
Trump impeachment inquiry deepens with Week Two of public hearings
The House Intelligence Committee will first hear from Jennifer Williams, a special adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, and US Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert. They listened to the call between Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, that prompted a whistle-blower complaint and eventually led to the impeachment inquiry.
A second hearing will follow with Kurt Volker, the former US special envoy for Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, a former National Security Council Russia expert.
Read more about what to expect here.
Pelosi invites Trump to testify as new witnesses prepare
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited Trump to testify in front of investigators in the House impeachment inquiry ahead of a week that will see several key witnesses appear publicly.
Pushing back against accusations from the Republican president that the process has been stacked against him, Pelosi said Trump was welcome to appear or answer questions in writing, if he chose.
“If he has information that is exculpatory, that means ex, taking away, culpable, blame, then we look forward to seeing it,” she said in an interview that aired Sunday on CBS’s Face the Nation. Trump “could come right before the committee and talk, speak all the truth that he wants if he wants”, she said.
On Monday, Trump tweeted he might be willing to offer written testimony: “She also said I could do it in writing. Even though I did nothing wrong, and don’t like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea & will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!”
Friday, November 15 – Marie Yovanovitch
Public testimony of former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch ends
The former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch publicly testified for about five hours as part of the House impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump.
In her testimony on Friday, Yovanovitch largely described a smear campaign against her, lead by the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and his associates, that undermined national interests and security for the personal gain of others.
She also warned that the undermining of her ambassadorship has hurt morale at the State Department and could potentially make the mission of other US diplomats more difficult.
Questions from Democrats mostly sought to support this narrative, while Republican questioning attempted to portray Yovanovitch’s concerns as an internal State Department issue unrelated to the impeachment investigation.
Tuesday will begin the next series of public hearings. Set to testify are Jennifer Williams, the special adviser to Vice President Mike Pence for Europe and Russia, Alexander Vindman, a US Army officer assigned to the National Security Council, Kurt Volker, a former US special envoy to Ukraine, and Timothy Morrison, a White House aide with the National Security Council.
On Friday, a House panel will also hear behind closed doors from career diplomat David Holmes, an aide to Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor, who is expected to discuss his recollection of a July 26 call between Trump and Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union.
Trump: Twitter posts during Yovanovitch hearing were not intimidating
US President Donald Trump has said he does not believe his Twitter posts were intimidating after his real-time attack on former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch drew criticism during a public hearing as part of the House impeachment inquiry.
“I don’t think so at all,” Trump told reporters at the White House when asked whether his tweets or words can be intimidating.
Trump said he watched a little bit of the second public impeachment hearing on Friday and “thought it was a disgrace”.
Democrats had accused Trump of witness intimidation after he said “everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad”.
Yovanovitch says Trump political ally suggested she ‘send out a tweet, praise the president’ to save her job
Former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch described an exchange with Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland during the House impeachment hearing on Friday.
When it became clear that Yovanovitch would be removed her post, Sondland suggested she “send out a tweet, praise the president”, she said. Yovanovitch said she rejected the advice.
Sondland was a Trump campaign contributor who was appointed by the president to the prestigious post.
Yovanovitch said Sondland’s advice was to “go big or go home,” which he explained meant lauding Trump.
She says she didn’t do it because, “It felt partisan, it felt political” and inappropriate for an ambassador”.
White House: Trump tweet about Yovanovitch ‘not witness intimidation’
The White House says President Donald Trump’s tweets criticising former US Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch as she testified before the House as part of its impeachment inquiry was “not witness intimidation”.
In a statement, White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said the tweet was “simply the President’s opinion, which he is entitled to”.
Trump has drawn criticism for tweeting early in Yovanovitch’s testimony that everywhere the career diplomat was posted “turned bad”.
Yovanovitch said the tweets were “very intimidating” to her and other witnesses.
Yovanovitch rejects Trump claim that Ukraine tried to interfere in the 2016 presidential election
Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is rejecting the notion that Ukraine tried to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, as President Donald Trump has proposed.
Trump has said that Ukraine tried to “take me down”.
Testifying in Friday’s impeachment hearing, Yovanovitch said “we didn’t really see it that way.”
She noted that the US intelligence community “has conclusively determined” that those who interfered in that election were in Russia.
Yovanovitch also pushed back against Trump’s suggestions that former Vice President Joe Biden was pursuing his own interests in Ukraine during President Barack Obama’s administration.
She said he was pursuing “official US policy”.
Nunes: ‘I’m not exactly sure what the ambassador’s doing here today’
The ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes has said he is unsure why diplomat Marie Yovanovitch had been called to testify publicly in the impeachment investigation.
Speaking during the Republican committee members allocated 45-minute questioning period as part of Friday’s hearing, Nunes said Yovanovitch is “not a material fact witness” and portrayed the ambassador as unrelated to the central questions House investigators are trying to answer – whether the president pressured a foreign government into conducting investigations for his own political gain.
“You admitted in your opening statement that you don’t have any first-hand information of what we’re looking into to,” Nunes said.
Schiff says Trump tweet ‘witness intimidation in real-time by the president of the United States’
Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee leading the impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump, said a tweet by the president criticising the former ambassador to Ukraine during her public hearing was “witness intimidation in real-time by the president of the United States”.
Schiff made the statement to reporters during a break from the public testimony of former diplomat Marie Yovanovitch on Friday.
In the tweet, Trump said that “everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad” and said the Ukrainian president “spoke unfavourably of her” during the July 25 phone call between the two leaders at the heart of the investigation.
Schiff reads Trump tweet to Yovanovitch
Adam Schiff, the Democratic Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, read a tweet by President Donald Trump attacking former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch during her public hearing.
Asked if she agreed with Trump’s assertion that “everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad”, Yovanovitch said: “I actually think that where I’ve served over the years I and others have demonstrably made things better.”
When asked by Schiff if she found the president’s attacks intimidating, she responded, “It’s very intimidating”.
“Some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously,” Schiff said.
Former US Ambassador to Ukraine on Trump comments about her to Zelenskyy: ‘it sounded like a threat’
Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch has said that comments made by President Trump about her to Ukraine‘s leader in a phone call at the heart of the House impeachment inquiry “sounded like a threat”.
Yovanovitch, testifying on Friday in the second public hearing in the investigation, was read the comments made in the July 25 phone call by Daniel Goldman, the lawyer for the committee Democrats. During the call, Trump said Yovanovitch was “bad news” and that she’s going to “go through some things”.
Yovanovitch said a colleague told her the blood had drained from her face when she first read a memo of the call.
“It was a terrible moment,” she said. “I think I even had a physical reaction, even now words kind of fail me.”
When asked what she made of Trump’s “bad news” comment, Yovanovitch said she was “shocked, appalled, devastated, that the president of the United States would talk about any ambassador like that to a head of state, and it was me, I couldn’t believe it”.
Goldman then asked Yovanovitch about Trump’s statement that she was going to “go through some things”.
“I didn’t know what to think, but I was very concerned. ‘she’s gonna go through some things’. It didn’t sound good. It sounded like a threat,” she said.
In tweet, Trump attacks former Ambassador Yovanovitch as she testifies in impeachment investigation
President Donald Trump has tweeted an attack against the former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch while she was in the middle of testifying in his impeachment investigation, saying everything she touched went “bad”.
The president’s response came as Yovanovitch testified in the House of Representatives about her abrupt firing from her post in Ukraine following an alleged smear campaign by Trump’s allies.
“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” Trump said, finishing his tweet with a reminder that presidents have the “absolute right” to hire and fire ambassadors.
Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him. It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 15, 2019
Trump said on Wednesday he did not watch the first public hearing in the investigation, but tweeted a livestream during the hearing on Friday.
Former Ambassador Yovanovitch: corrupt Ukrainians found Americans ‘willing to partner with them’
The former US ambassador to Ukraine told a public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump on Friday that corrupt Ukrainians found Americans willing to work with them to oust her.
Marie Yovanovitch told the US House Intelligence Committee that not all Ukrainians “embraced” US anti-corruption work in the country.
“Thus, perhaps, it was not surprising, that when our anti-corruption efforts got in the way of a desire for profit or power, Ukrainians who preferred to play by the old, corrupt rules sought to remove me,” Yovanovitch said in her opening statement.
“What continues to amaze me is that they found Americans willing to partner with them and, working together, they apparently succeeded in orchestrating the removal of a US ambassador,” she added, in apparent reference to the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who led a campaign to depose her.
Yovanovitch said her removal has the potential to undermine US diplomats around the world.
“Shady interests the world over have learned how little it takes to remove a US Ambassador who does not give them what they want,” she said.
She added she was “disappointed” that the State Department leadership did not acknowledge that attacks against her were “dangerously wrong”.
“These events should concern everyone in this room,” she said, adding that the agency is being “hollowed out from within”.
White House releases memo of an April phone call between Trump and Zelenskyy
The White House has released a summary of an April phone call in which President Donald Trump congratulated Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shortly after his election win.
Trump had said repeatedly that Democrats wanted details of his April 21 call with Zelenskyy, but it has never been a focus of the legislators leading the impeachment investigation of Trump on Capitol Hill.
A separate call between the two leaders on July 25 sparked the impeachment inquiry.
Trump, in the April call, invited Zelenskyy to the White House.
“We’ll have a lot of things to talk about, but we’re with you all the way,” he said according to the memo.
Ranking committee Republican derides inquiry, does not mention Yovanovitch in opening statements
The ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, decried the Democrat-lead House inquiry into US Presidential Donald Trump in his opening statements in the second public hearing of the investigation.
Nunes did not comment on former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who sat before him as she prepared to testify before the committee on Friday.
Nunes instead said the legislators had convened for another day of the “Democrats day-long TV spectacle” which he said distracted from “solving the problems we all came to Washington to address”.
He said that Democrats were holding Friday’s public hearing to “advance their operation to topple a duly elected president”.
Nunes went on to describe Wednesday’s testimony, the first public hearing in the investigation, as “hours of hearsay testimony”.
He finished his testimony by reading a transcript of an April phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president, which the White House released on Friday.
In opening statements, Schiff calls Yovanovitch anti-corruption ‘champion’ who got in the way of Trump’s ‘personal and political’ agenda
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has described the former US Ambassador to Ukraine as a career diplomat whose anti-corruption work got in the way of the president’s “personal and political” agenda.
In his opening statements during the second public hearing of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, Schiff described former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch as an “exemplary officer who is widely praised and respected by her colleagues” and an “anti-corruption champion”.
She said Yovanovitch’s anti-corruption work didn’t just rankle “corrupt Ukrainians … but also certain Americans” like the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and his associates.
“Why did Rudy Giuliani want her gone? And why did Trump?” Schiff said.
He said Yovanovitch was “considered an obstacle to furtherance of the president’s personal and political agenda, for that she was smeared and cast aside”.
Trump cites Ukrainian foreign minister in tweet decrying inquiry
Minutes before the second public hearing in the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump began, the president that statements made by Ukraine’s foreign minister the night prior should absolve him of any wrongdoing.
Trump was referring to comments made by Vadym Prystaiko, the foreign minister of Ukraine, who said last night US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland did not explicitly link withheld military aid to investigations pushed by the president.
“Ambassador Sondland did not tell us, and certainly did not tell me, about a connection between the assistance and the investigations. You should ask him,” Prystaiko said about Sondland.
On Friday, Trump tweeted on Friday that “the impeachment witch hunt should be over” following the foreign minister’s statements.
The Impeachment Witch Hunt should be over with the statement made last night by the President and Foreign Minister of Ukraine. Nervous Nancy Pelosi, who should be home cleaning up the dangerous & disgusting Slum she is making of her District in San Francisco, where even the……
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 15, 2019
Yovanovitch arrives on Capitol Hill
The former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch has arrived on Capitol Hill to testify publicly in the House impeachment investigation of US President Donald Trump.
Yovanovitch, who had previously testified in private that she had become the target of an apparent smear campaign by the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and his associates, did not respond to reporters questions as she passed through security.
Former US Ambassador Yovanovitch to testify in impeachment investigation
The former US ambassador who was removed by Donald Trump is set to testify in a public hearing on Friday as part of the impeachment inquiry of the US president.
Marie Yovanovitch, the former US ambassador to Ukraine, is expected to tell the House Intelligence Committee in an open session that she became the target of a political smear campaign by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and was recalled by Trump.
Read more here.
Wednesday, November 13 – William Taylor and George Kent
Trump denies asking about investigations on call
President Donald Trump denied he asked a US ambassador about “investigations” in Ukraine a day after his call with that country’s president.
The existence of the call was revealed Wednesday by William Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine. He testified that one of his staffers overheard Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, speaking on the phone with Trump on July 26.
Sondland used his mobile phone to call Trump, and the staff member could hear Trump on the phone asking about “the investigations”.
Trump denied knowledge of the call, saying, “I know nothing about that.” He adds, “First time I’ve heard it.”
An official familiar with the matter said the staffer Taylor referred to is David Holmes, the political counselor at the embassy in Kyiv. Holmes is invited to testify before Congress on Friday.
House intelligence committee votes to table motion to subpoena whistle-blower
The House intelligence committee has voted 13 to 9 to vote on subpoenaing the whistle-blower at a later date.
Republicans had repeatedly called on House Republicans leading the impeachment investigation to call the whistle-blower to testify during the investigations first public hearing on Wednesday.
Representative Mike Conaway, a Republican, had introduced the motion to subpoena the whistle-blower at the beginning of the hearing.
Hearing ends with Schiff reiterating he has never met with whistle-blower
Top State Department official George Kent and US Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor have been dismissed from the first public hearing as part of the House impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump.
Taylor Kent testified for more than five hours Wednesday about their concerns with Trump’s requests that Ukraine investigate Democrats as the US withheld military aid to the country.
Next up will be former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was removed in May on Trump’s orders. She will testify Friday
In his closing statement, Adam Schiff, the Democrat leading the investigation, again denied Republican claims that he had met with the whistle-blower, whose complaint over a July 25 phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president sparked the investigation.
“It was false the first time they said it,” he said. “It will be false the last time they said it.”
House Republican says the whistleblower is the ‘one witness’ who should be brought in front of the American people
Jim Jordan, a Republican representative, said the whistle-blower at the heart of the House impeachment inquiry is the “one witness” who should be brought in front of the American people.
Jordan said the whistle-blower, whose complaint touched off the inquiry, should come before the committee.
He said he wanted to know the identity of the whistle-blower, who is a CIA officer assigned to the White House.
Jordan earlier complained that the witnesses Wednesday testifying publicly for the first time didn’t have firsthand knowledge of the accusations and never spoke directly to President Donald Trump.
The whistleblower has not been asked to testify.
Representative Peter Welch, a Democrat, said he’d be glad to have the person at the centre of the investigation testify.
“President Trump is welcome to sit right there,” he said.
Kent, Taylor deny they are ‘never Trumpers’
George Kent and William Taylor, the two veteran diplomats testifying in the House impeachment hearing, have denied President Donald Trump’s accusation that they adamantly oppose him.
Shortly before Wednesday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing began, Trump tweeted, “NEVER TRUMPERS!” He offered no evidence.
Representative Eric Swalwell, a Democrat, asked both men if Trump’s claim was true.
State Department official George Kent responded that he’s served under three Republican and two Democratic presidents during his 27 years of service. He said he serves “whatever president is duly elected” and carries out their foreign policies.
William Taylor answered, “No sir”. Taylor is the top US diplomat in Ukraine and was recruited by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to serve there.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 13, 2019
Democrats, Republicans question Taylor and Kent
Democratic and Republican House intelligence committee members questioned William Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, in a rapid-fire sequence as part of the first public hearing into the House impeachment inquiry.
The questioning came after both sides were given 45-minute sessions, which they used for in-depth questioning by appointed lawyers. Committee members were then given five minutes for questioning, which Republicans largely used to portray the testimonies of Kent and Taylor as “hearsay”.
In one exchange, Republican committee member Jim Jordan asked if Taylor was on the July 25 call between Trump and Zelenskyy, if he had spoken with Trump’s chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, or ever met the president. Taylor responded in the negative to all.
“And you’re their star witness. You’re their first witness. You’re the guy, you’re the guy. Based on this, based on this. I’ve seen church prayer chains that are easier to understand than this,” Jordan said, portraying Taylor’s source of information as convoluted.
“I don’t consider myself a star witness for anything,” Taylor said.
Top Senate Republican says any motion to immediately dismiss impeachment charges in Senate would likely fail
Top Senate Republican John Cornyn said on Wednesday that should the House vote to impeach President Donald Trump, he doubts a motion in the Senate to immediately dismiss the charges would succeed.
Cornyn, who spent years as the Senate’s number two Republican, said such a motion would not receive the 51 votes necessary in the Republican-controlled Senate to pass.
He added he was confident that ultimately, a vote in the Senate to remove Trump from office would fail.
Report: Pelosi urges Democrats not to be distracted by ‘Republican disruption’
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged House Democrats not to be distracted by “Republican disruption” in meeting shortly before the first public hearing in the impeachment inquiry, the Washington Post reported.
“I do think that we need to have a common narrative,” Pelosi said, according to a Democratic aide, the newspaper reported. “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.”
The aide added Pelosi said it was ‘a prayerful day for all of us – for our country”, according to the report.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) November 13, 2019
Trump calls impeachment inquiry hearing a ‘witch hunt’ and a ‘hoax’
President Donald Trump said Wednesday he skipped the first public hearings in his impeachment investigation because he was “too busy.”
“I’m too busy to watch it. It’s a witch hunt, it’s a hoax, I’m too busy to watch it. So, I’m sure I’ll get a report,” Trump told reporters.
Trump was, however, active on Twitter during the beginning of the hearing, retweeting many House Republicans critical of the inquiry.
Taylor describes two US policy channels operating within Ukraine
The top US diplomat to Ukraine William Taylor told House legislators conducting an impeachment investigation that he noticed there were two policy channels operating with Ukraine, a “regular” and an “irregular” one.
William Taylor said the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was guiding requests through the irregular channel.
Taylor also reiterated his previous statement, which he made in a closed-door hearing, that it slowly became clear to him that a White House meeting desired by Ukrainian officials was conditioned on investigations into the gas company linked to Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, and into alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 US elections.
Spokeswoman: Trump not watching public impeachment inquiry hearings
Grisham told reporters that Trump is instead participating in meetings in the Oval Office. Trump was also scheduled to receive the Turkish president at 12pm (17:00 GMT).
“He’s in the Oval (office) in meetings. Not watching. He’s working,” Stephanie Grisham said more than an hour into the public hearing.
Trump was, however, retweeting House Republican tweets about the hearing during the proceedings.
This sham hearing is not only boring, it is a colossal waste of taxpayer time & money. Congress should be working on passing USMCA, funding our govt & military, working on reduced drug pricing & so much more. @realDonaldTrump is working right now-the dems should follow his lead!
— Kayleigh McEnany (@PressSec) November 13, 2019
Taylor says it was ‘crazy’ and ‘illogical’ for Trump to withhold aid in exchange for investigations
The US Ambassador to Ukraine said he thought it was “crazy” and “illogical” for the Trump administration to make military aid contingent on Ukraine announcing investigations into political rival Joe Biden.
William Taylor made the statements in response to questioning from Daniel Goldman, the investigations chief for Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Taylor said the security assistance was important not only to Ukraine but to America’s own military interests. He said “it made no sense” to withhold that money and was “counterproductive to all of what we had been trying to do”.
Goldman showed Taylor text messages he sent to other diplomats explaining his belief that it was “crazy” to withhold the military aid for political gain.
In new disclosure, diplomat Taylor says staff overheard Trump ask Sondland about ‘the investigations’
The US Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor saida member of his staff recently told him they overheard President Donald Trump speaking on the phone to US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland about “investigations”.
Taylor made the disclosure in his opening statements as he testified publicly in the House impeachment inquiry.
He said the staff member was at a restaurant with Sondland on the day after the July 25 call between Trump and the new leader of Ukraine. That call later prompted a whistle-blower’s complaint that lead to the launch of the inquiry.
Taylor told the committee that Sondland called Trump from the restaurant and the staff could hear Trump on the phone asking about “the investigations”.
Sondland, a hotelier who was appointed to the prestigious post by Trump, responded to the president that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward, Taylor said.
The staff member then asked Sondland about Trump’s thoughts on Ukraine.
Sondland replied that “Trump cared more about the investigations of Biden” than Ukraine itself, Taylor testified.
Kent says he never saw any effort by US officials to shield company linked to Hunter Biden from scrutiny
Top State Department official George Kent said he never saw any effort by US officials to shield from scrutiny a Ukrainian natural gas company on which Hunter Biden sat on the board.
Kent said he raised concerns in 2015 that his status could create the perception of a conflict of interest. But, he added, he never saw any attempt to shield Burisma from scrutiny because of Biden’s connection to the company.
During the hearing, House Republicans portrayed Trump’s request for Ukraine to investigate Burisma as a legitimate concern in a general anti-corruption push by the president.
Kent: US should not ask other countries to engage in ‘selective, politically associated investigations’
George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state, has said the US shouldn’t engage in “selective, politically associated investigations” during his opening statement during the first public hearing of the House impeachment inquiry.
Kent said such “selective actions” undermine the rule of law regardless of the country.
He then apparently referenced a campaign by President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to oust former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
“It was unexpected, and most unfortunate, to watch some Americans – including those who allied themselves with corrupt Ukrainians in pursuit of private agendas – launch attacks on dedicated public servants advancing US interests in Ukraine,” he said.
“In my opinion, those attacks undermined US and Ukrainian national interest and damage our critical bilateral relationship,” he said.
House Republicans push to hear from whistle-blower
House Republicans at the start of the first public hearing in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s immediately pushed Democrats to hear from the anonymous whistleblower whose complaint sparked the investigation.
Congressman Michael Conaway, a Republican from Texas, asked that the panel issue a subpoena for the still-unknown whistleblower to appear in a closed-door hearing.
But Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, denied the request Wednesday, saying it would be considered later.
“We will do everything necessary to protect the whistleblower’s identity,” Schiff said.
.@Jim_Jordan to Chairman Schiff: "Of the 435 members of Congress, you are the only Member who knows who the whistleblower is, and your staff is the only staff who has had a chance to talk with that individual.
"We would like that opportunity. When might that happen?" pic.twitter.com/UBzmorAbOR
— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) November 13, 2019
Schiff opens first public hearing in impeachment investigation
Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff has opened the first public hearing in the impeachment inquiryinto President Donald Trump, saying the investigation will determine what “conduct or misconduct the American people may come to expect from their commander-in-chief”.
In his opening statement, Schiff said that Democrats believe the testimonies will answer whether Trump “abused his power and invited foreign interference in our elections, or if he sought to condition, coerce, extort, or bribe an ally into conducting investigations to aid his reelection campaign”.
“If this is not impeachable conduct, what is?” he said.
Schiff added there were still “missing pieces” in the inquiry, as a result of the White House’s refusal to cooperate in the investigation. He said the refusal will force the House to consider whether Trump’s “obstruction of the constitutional duties of Congress constitute additional grounds for impeachment”.
Meanwhile, the ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, offered a conflicting narrative in his opening statement, portraying the inquiry as a “carefully orchestrated media smear campaign” and the public hearing as a “televised theatrical performance staged by the Democrats”.
Addressing William Taylor and George Kent directly, Nunes said: “It seems you agreed wittingly or unwittingly to participate in a drama”.
Kremlin weighs in on Trump impeachment hearings
The Kremlin has drawn a parallel between the impeachment proceedings against Trump and accusations of Russia’s interference in his election.
Asked about the hearings opening Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded that “there are a lot of things far-fetched”.
Peskov compared the proceedings to the US claims of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, which he described as having “little relation to reality”.
The Kremlin has shrugged off special counsel Robert Mueller’s exposure of Russian interference in the vote.
Mueller found there wasn’t enough evidence to establish a conspiracy between Trump’s campaign and Russia. But Mueller charged 12 Russian military intelligence officers with breaking into Democratic Party computers and the email accounts of officials with Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
What to expect from the first public hearings
Republicans and Democrats in Congress are competing to sell their own very different narratives in the impeachment process. Republicans are calling the witness testimony hearsay and arguing that while some may conclude Trump did, in fact, push Ukraine for political investigations that do not warrant impeachment.
Schiff told the United States‘s National Public Radio (NPR) on Tuesday that he believes Trump committed a form of “bribery” that rises to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanours” defined in the Constitution as impeachable offences.
“Bribery, first of all, as the founders understood bribery it was not as we understand it in law today. It was much broader,” Schiff told NPR. “It connoted the breach of the public trust in a way where you’re offering official acts for some personal or political reason, not in the nation’s interest.”
Read more here.
Updated public hearing schedule
Public hearings will take place on Wednesday and Friday. More hearings have been scheduled for next week.
Stay up-to-date with the latest public hearing schedule here.