First public hearing in the Trump impeachment inquiry
Rep. Jeff Van Drew, one of two Democrats who voted against the House impeachment inquiry resolution, called diplomat Bill Taylor's testimony today on Capitol Hill "hearsay."
At the crux of Taylor's testimony is a July 26 call in which President Trump spoke by phone with Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, about "the investigations" into the Bidens.
The call came one day after Trump's phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that prompted a whistleblower complaint that alleged Trump solicited "interference" from a foreign country to help his 2020 presidential campaign.
This information on the July 26 call came from one of Taylor's staffers who overheard Trump’s phone call with Sondland.
“It’s hearsay,” Van Drew said this afternoon after Taylor's testimony. “It���s really difficult dealing with this because it’s he said-she said.”
Van Drew suggested he would need to see evidence such as verifiable documents or an incriminating audio recording of the President to prove the allegations before getting on board with impeachment.
“Frankly the aid did flow, so that really isn’t an issue at the end of the day,” he added. “The aid flowed, and everything resolved."
What is this aid exactly?: The aid Van Drew is referring to is nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine that was reportedly held back as leverage as Trump pressed Ukraine to investigate domestic political rivals like former Vice President Joe Biden.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi addressed today's first public hearing in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.
"What has come forth has further, of course, given us the truth of what happened at the time," she said.
Pelosi went on to say she was consumed with other legislative matters — prescription drugs, Dreamers, appropriations and the US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement today — and caught a "few minutes" of the beginning of the hearing.
Rep. Francis Rooney, a Republican from Florida who has not ruled out supporting impeachment, said the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry would be stronger if they had someone who had direct communication with President Trump alleging wrongdoing.
Asked if Rooney thinks acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney should testify, Rooney said he should.
“I think everyone should come to testify," he said.
Where Mulvaney fits in with the impeachment inquiry: Mulvaney and White House counsel Pat Cipollone have engaged in a long-simmering feud over impeachment strategy, each blaming the other as ineffective in preventing Trump's current predicament.
Last week, Mulvaney defied a congressional subpoena to appear in closed testimony. Investigators want to hear from him after multiple witnesses named him as a key orchestrator of the alleged Ukraine quid pro quo.
Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, a member of the House Intelligence Committee member, told reporters after today’s hearing that he was “pleasantly surprised how civil it ended up being.”
“I've been to other hearings where my colleagues on the other side kind of jump up and down and they make a circus out of some of these proceedings. So I was a little concerned, but I was pleasantly surprised with the tone and the tenor and dignity of the hearing," the Illinois lawmaker said.
Earlier today: Diplomats Bill Taylor and George Kent testified before the committee at the first public hearing in the impeachment probe. One of the biggest bombshells came from Taylor who discussed a July 26 phone call that happened one day after Trump's phone call with Ukraine's leader. Taylor testified that his staff was told of the call, in which President Trump said he cared more about the "investigations of Biden" than Ukraine.
In today's episode of "The Daily DC: Impeachment Watch" podcast, CNN Political Director David Chalian gives:
- Real-time analysis of today’s highly-anticipated day on Capitol Hill, where diplomats Bill Taylor and George Kent testified
- Context following a historic day
Chalian is joined today by CNN political analyst Molly Ball and Carrie Cordero, CNN's legal and national security analyst.
At a news conference with the Turkish president, President Trump was asked about new information revealed in today's public testimony from diplomat Bill Taylor.
Taylor said that on July 26 — one day after Trump's phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that prompted a whistleblower complaint that alleged Trump solicited "interference" from a foreign country to help his 2020 presidential campaign — Trump spoke by phone with Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, about "the investigations."
Trump today denied any knowledge of this call.
"I know nothing about that. The first time I've heard it," Trump said.
Trump called it "more secondhand information."
He added: "I don't recall. Not at all. Not even a little bit."
Rep. Adam Schiff called new information that diplomat Bill Taylor provided today "very important."
Schiff said Taylor's testimony — in which he said his aide overheard Trump telling an ambassador he wanted a Biden probe — is evidence that ties the scandal directly to the President, and not any Trump aides.
"This is very obviously very important because there is an effort apparently to by the President's allies to throw Sondland under the bus, throw Mulvaney under the bus, throw anybody under the bus in an effort to protect the president. But what this call indicates as other testimony has likewise indicated is that instructions are coming from the President on down," Schiff said.
He added that this witness who was on that call is "potentially very important," noting that the committee scheduled a closed-door deposition with the staffer for Friday.
More context: David Holmes is the aide who heard the July 26 call between US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and President Trump, according to a source familiar with a scheduled deposition.
Taylor testified today that Sondland told an aide that Trump's interest in Ukraine was the "investigations of Biden," and he cared more about an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden than he did about Ukraine.
House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff said today's impeachment inquiry hearing showed President Trump "sought to advance his political and personal interest at the expense of the United States' national security."
Here's how he put it:
"The portrait that I think their testimony paints is one of an irregular channel that ran from the president through Mick Mulvaney and Ambassador Sondland, Ambassador Volker on down to Rudy Giuliani in which the President sought to advance his political and personal interest at the expense of the United States' national security. And the President did that by pressing this vulnerable ally to get involved in the next presidential election in a way that the president thought would advance his reelection prospects."
More on this: Taylor explained that Rudy Giuliani's efforts led to an "irregular" policy channel was "running contrary to the goals of longstanding US policy." Kent's testimony also expressed alarm at Giuliani's efforts — which he described last month as a "campaign of lies" — that led to the ouster of US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and then the push for investigations.
Following today's first public hearing, Rep. Jim Jordan said, "I think it is a sad chapter for the country but a good day for the facts and the President of the United States."
Another Republican on the intel committee, Rep. Elise Stefanik, called the hearing "an abject failure for the Democrats and for Adam Schiff."
Asked about the White House blocking key witnesses from testifying — like acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton. Jordan said, "There is a court case. And I think December 10 they'll rule. We'll find out then."
He added: "We'll see what the court says on Bolton and Mulvaney."