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AOC challenges GOP after impeachment inquiry hearing
02:25 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Wednesday put the onus on Republicans to take a stand following the kickoff of public hearings in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump and Ukraine.

“Right now what Republicans have to do is decide what their role is going to be in the scope of history,” the New York Democrat told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in an interview on “The Situation Room” after the televised hearing. “Because we will look back at this time and really, truly examine the moral decisions that each member of Congress has decided to make.”

Trump could become just the third impeached president in American history. Congress has conducted two presidential impeachment trials: President Andrew Johnson in 1868, for firing a Cabinet secretary without the consent of Congress, and President Bill Clinton in 1998, for perjury and obstruction of justice. Both Johnson and Clinton were acquitted, so they stayed in office.

Asked by Blitzer whether it will hurt Democrats politically if they can’t persuade any Republicans that Trump’s behavior reaches the threshold for impeachable conduct, Ocasio-Cortez said she wasn’t “overly concerned” by the prospect.

“I’m actually not overly concerned about this because I think the whole point of our public hearings is to present these facts to the public and to let the general public really see the facts for themselves and to understand why we have chosen to move forward with the impeachment inquiry,” she said.

Wednesday’s testimony from diplomats Bill Taylor and George Kent, she said, was “astounding and devastating.”

Taylor, the senior US diplomat in Ukraine, told the House Intelligence Committee about a previously unknown conversation Trump had had the day after his phone call with the Ukrainian President that sits at the center of the House’s inquiry.

In this call, Taylor said, Trump asked the US ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, about Ukraine opening investigations that would help him politically. Taylor testified that Sondland had told an aide that Trump’s interest in Ukraine was the “investigations of Biden,” and that he cared more about an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden than he did about Ukraine.

There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden in Ukraine.

Ocasio-Cortez characterized news of that call as having “added a layer of proximity” to Trump’s dealings in Ukraine, adding to previous testimony that the President’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani had been directly involved.

“What we heard today was that (Trump) himself was making and partaking in some of these phone calls – not just Giuliani, not just anyone else in the administration, but him,” she said. “And that really adds a much more disturbing degree of the involvement that he had in using the powers of government to create politically motivated investigations.”

CNN’s Jeremy Herb and Manu Raju contributed to this report.