Currents News Staff
The first day of public hearings in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump began with a startling revelation for House investigators.
Top diplomat to the Ukraine, Bill Taylor, described a phone call between President Trump and the u-s ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, overheard by his aide one day after Trump’s July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president.
“Ambassador Sondland told President Trump the Ukrainians were ready to move forward. Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine,” Taylor said. “Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for.”
Trump denied that call, saying, “I know nothing about that — first time I’ve heard it.”
House Democrats say Taylor’s latest information helps make their case that Trump abused his oath of office even stronger.
“What this call indicates as other testimony has likewise indicated is that the instructions are coming from the president on down,” said Democratic Representative Adam Schiff, Chairman of House Intelligence.
Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent described what they encountered as the Trump administration used military aid and a meeting at the White House as leverage for the Ukraine to begin investigations for the president’s political gain.
“To withhold that assistance for no good reason other than help with a political campaign made no sense. It was illogical. It could not be explained. It was crazy,” said Taylor.
Kent expressed his concerns about Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani’s involvement in U.S. relations with the Ukraine, including helping lead a smear campaign against then U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
“I became alarmed as these efforts bore fruit. They led to the ouster of Ambassador Yovanovitch and hampered U.S. efforts to establish rapport with the new Zelensky administration,” he said.
House Democrats like Representative Val Demings also asked about Giuliani’s intent.
“I believe he was looking to dig up political dirt against a potential rival in the next election cycle,” Kent said when asked by Demings regarding what interest he believed Giuliani was promoting.
When asked by Demings, Ambassador Taylor agreed with Kent’s statement.
Meanwhile Republicans are defending Trump, casting the hearing as a partisan show. And arguing the two witnesses lack first-hand knowledge.
“The main performance, the Russia hoax, has ended. And you’ve been cast in the low-rent Ukranian sequel,” said Republican Representative Devin Nunes, a ranking member of House intel.
“I‘ve seen church prayer chains that are easier to understand than this,” said Republican Representative Jim Jordan.
“No pressure, no demands, no threats, no blackmail, nothing corrupt,” Representative John Ratcliffe.
But House Democrats are standing firm. “This what we want a president to do, to leverage their power?” asked Representative Eric Swalwell. “ I think for most Americans, that’s sinking in.”
After this week, lawmakers expect at least one more week of public hearings.