WASHINGTON — The House is taking a historic step forward Wednesday in its impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, holding public hearings that Democrats hope will show the public that the President abused the power of his office to obtain dirt on a potential 2020 rival while withholding vital security aid from Ukraine.
The top US diplomat in Ukraine Bill Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent are testifying at 10 a.m. ET Wednesday in the first public hearing of the House Democrats’ impeachment investigation into Trump and Ukraine.
Taylor is one of the most important witnesses for the Democrats’ impeachment case. He testified behind closed doors last month that he was told Trump held up US security aid and denied a one-on-one meeting with the Ukrainian President unless Ukraine announced an investigation into his political rivals. Taylor said he was told by officials who spoke with the President that Trump wanted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “go to a microphone” to announce the investigation.
And Kent told lawmakers in his closed-door deposition that the President’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was part of a “campaign of lies” in Ukraine that led to the ouster of US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and then the push for investigations.
A Democratic aide said Taylor and Kent were paired together because they were able to provide the “full timeline” of the President’s actions in Ukraine.
Republicans are expected to use the hearing to try to undercut the Democrats’ impeachment arguments. They released an 18-page memo pushing back on the Democrats’ case, arguing that both Trump and Zelensky say there was no pressure and the aid money was released without any investigation. Republicans have also argued that Taylor’s charges against the President are only based on second- and third-hand information.
In his opening statement, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff plans to explain the scope of the Democrats’ impeachment investigation, according to a Democratic aide. Schiff, who tends to write his own opening statements, plans to “lay out the stakes for the American people,” the aide said.
The public portion of the impeachment inquiry continues Friday with the testimony of former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. Schiff said more witnesses are expected to be announced later this week.