DemDaily: The Impeachment Hearings: Day One

November 14, 2019

The historic public hearings in the US House of Representatives' impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump commenced yesterday.

(Image: CBSNews)

THE SUBJECT
The hearings involve the Ukraine-Trump corruption scandal which began with awhistleblower complaint, filed by a member of the intelligence community. The complaint alleges corrupt actions committed by the President in his July 25, 2019 conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Trump is accused of withholding crucial military aid from Ukraine, a US ally who has been under attack by Russia since 2014, in an attempt to force Zelensky to open a public investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter, and to extort help from the Ukrainians for his 2020 reelection.

Trump's personal attorney, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, is also implicated, along with senior administration officials.

House Resolution 660: "Directing certain committees to continue their ongoing investigations as part of the existing House of Representatives inquiry into whether sufficient grounds exist for the House of Representatives to exercise its Constitutional power to impeach Donald John Trump, President of the United States of America, and for other purposes."

THE WITNESSES
November 13, 2019 (Wednesday)

William Taylor, Current Acting United States Ambassador to Ukraine 
A former Captain and Company Commander in the United States Army, Taylor served in the Vietnam War and earned a Bronze Star and an Air Medalwith a V device for VALOR.

From 1992 to 2002, Taylor served as a US Diplomat in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Middle East. From 2006 to 2009, he served as the US Ambassador to Ukraine under the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations. He continued diplomatic work in the Middle East from 2011 to 2013 and, in 2015, was appointed Executive Vice President of the United States Institute of Peace.

Following the ouster of US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch in June 2019, Taylor was appointed to the role of Chargé d'Affaires for Ukraine under the Trump administration.

George KentDeputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs
Kent has been in the State Department's foreign service since 1992. He speaks UkrainianRussian, and Thai, as well as some PolishGerman, and Italian.

From 1995 to 1997, he was posted in Warsaw, Poland, as an economics officer dealing with trade, environmental, and counter-narcotics issues. Kent was later assigned to serve as deputy political counselor in Kyiv, Ukraine, from 2004 to 2007, which includes the time period of the Orange Revolution.

Kent served as Director of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs from 2012 to 2014, then as senior anti-corruption coordinator in the European bureau from 2014-2015. From 2015 to 2018 he was Deputy Chief of Mission in Kyiv, and on September 4, 2018, he was appointed to his current position.

KEY TAKEAWAYS
Ambassador Bill Taylor and State Department Official George Kent delivered damning evidence, linking Trump directly to the Ukraine plot.

*  Trump demanded foreign help for his re-election campaign in exchange for US military funding.
*  Trump advisors confirmed that plot in several closed-door, and now public, testimony.
*  In an attempt to cover up the plot, Trump and advisors launched personal attacks on top US foreign and intelligence advisors, including at least six who have been fired or resigned over the last six months.
*  For the first time, Taylor revealed new information that his aide overheard Trump on a phone call with Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland in which Trump was demanding the investigations in Ukraine.
*  The plot was initiated by Trump's personal attorney, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who claims he was taking order from the State Department. Taylor and Kent's testimony confirms that both Trump and Giuliani lied about the interactions.

HIGHLIGHTS
Kent: "You don't step into the public arena of international diplomacy, in active pursuit of principled US interests, without expecting vigorous pushback, including personal attacks...

House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (Saul Loeb/Getty)

It was unexpected and most unfortunate, however, 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."

Taylor: When I arrived in Kyiv, "I found a confusing and unusual arrangement for making U.S. policy toward Ukraine. There appeared to be two channels of U.S. policy-making and implementation, one regular and one highly irregular.. operated mostly outside of official State Department channels ... unaccountable to Congress, a channel that included then-Special Envoy Kurt Volker, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and, as I subsequently learned, Mr. Giuliani."

"By mid-July it was becoming clear to me that the meeting President Zelensky wanted was conditioned on the investigations of (the Bidens) and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections."

Taylor: "I said to Ambassadors Sondland and Volker that '[t]he message to the Ukrainians (and Russians) we send with the decision on security assistance is key. With the hold, we have already shaken their faith in us. I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign."

Kent: "A White House meeting was being held contingent to an announcement" that Ukraine was investigating the Bidens.

Joaquin Castro (D-TX): "the President of the United States either committed extortion and bribery of a foreign official, or attempted (to do so)"

Taylor: "The meaning of the stalemate was that the security systems would not come."

Kent: "Giuliani's effort to gin up politically motivated investigations.."

Taylor: "In the presence of my staff, at a restaurant, Ambassador Sondland called President Trump and told him of his meetings in Kyiv. The member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone asking about the investigations. Ambassador Sondland told President Trump that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward. Following the call, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what the President thought of Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump care more about the investigation of the Bidens, which Giuliani was pressing for."

Republicans claim that the testimony is second-hand information, and that President Trump's actions were a duty-bound effort to investigate and end corruption in Ukraine.

Jim Himes (D-CN): "In your opinion, was this a comprehensive and whole of government effort to end corruption in Ukraine? Kent: Referring to the requests in July? I would not say so, no sir. I don't."

Is this what Americans can now expect from their President? If this is not impeachable conduct, what is? -- House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff

On November 15, 2019 (Friday) former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch will testify before the Committee.

The committee will also hear, in a closed-door session, testimony from David Holmes, current Counselor for Political Affairs at the US Embassy in Ukraine and the aide to Ambassador Taylor who witnessed the July 26th Sondland-Trump call. A career diplomat, Holmes won a state department award in 2014 for speaking out against the Obama administration's policy in Afghanistan.

Next Week

November 19th (Tuesday)
* Jennifer Williams, VP Pence's Adviser on Europe and Russia
* Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, NSC Ukraine expert
* Kurt Volker, former US Special Representative to Ukraine
* Tim Morrison, former NSC Director, Europe and Russian Affairs
November 20th (Wednesday)
* Gordon Sondland, US Ambassador to the EU
* Laura Cooper, Dep Asst Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia
* David Hale, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
November 21st (Thursday)
* Fiona Hill, former NSC Director for Europe and Russia

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