First public hearing in the Trump impeachment inquiry
House Intel Majority Counsel asked diplomat George Kent: "To your knowledge, is there any factual basis to support the allegation that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election?"
"To my knowledge, there is no factual basis, no," Kent said.
Following up, Goldman asked Kent who did interfere in the 2016 US presidential election.
"I think it's amply clear that Russian interference was at the heart of the interference in the 2016 election cycle," Kent said.
Watch the exchange:
If you're watching the hearing live, you may not know the man asking most of the questions.
He's not a US congressman — he's House staff lawyer Daniel Goldman.
Goldman, Democrats’ questioner, is a former federal prosecutor with the Southern District of New York who joined the committee in March and led the questioning in the closed-door depositions.
The Republicans have a lawyer to ask questions, too: That's Steve Castor, the chief investigative counsel for the House Oversight panel who has been detailed over to the House Intelligence Committee.
Bill Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine, said Ukraine didn't owe anything to President Trump.
"They owed appreciation for the support, and they were getting support and they appreciated that, but there was nothing owed to President Trump on that," he said.
Taylor went on to say Trump "had a feeling of having been wronged by the Ukrainians."
"And so this was something that he thought they owed him to fix that wrong," he said.
The diplomat said he understood the wrong to be investigations into the 2016 election and Burisma, a Ukrainian natural gas company.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham has now reacted to the start of the first public hearing in the House impeachment inquiry, calling it a “sham,” “boring,” and a “colossal waste” of time and money in a tweet.
As she previously told CNN, President Trump is “working right now.” Trump’s account has retweeted several times since the hearing began at 10 a.m. Trump is expected to welcome Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the White House momentarily.
The top US diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, today described how his staff was told that President Trump "cares more about the investigations of Biden."
Taylor testified that an aide told him of a phone conversation Trump had with US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland on July 26 — one day after Trump's phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Taylor's aide, who was accompanying Sondland to meetings in Kiev with Ukrainian officials, could hear Trump asking Sondland about the investigations, Taylor testified. Sondland "told President Trump that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward," Taylor said.
Taylor testified that his aide later asked Sondland what Trump thought of Ukraine.
"Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which (Trump personal attorney Rudy) Giuliani was pressing for," Taylor said.
Majority counsel for the House Intelligence Committee Daniel Goldman asked Bill Taylor, top US diplomat in Ukraine, about what he understood when Ambassador Gordon Sondland described a "stalemate" between US and Ukraine during his public hearing on Wednesday.
According to Taylor, "Ambassador Sondland said that if President Zelensky did not clear things up in public, we would be at a stalemate. He began that again by repeating this is not a quid pro quo.
"What I understand for that meaning, the meaning of stalemate, was that security assistance would not come."
Daniel Goldman, House Intel Majority Counsel, asked diplomat Bill Taylor, "What did you understand that to mean, to put Zelensky in a public box?"
"I understood that to mean that President Trump, through Ambassador Sondland, was asking for President Zelensky to very publicly commit to these investigations, that it was not sufficient to do this in private, that this needed to be a very public statement."
Asked by Goldman why it needed to be in public as opposed to a private confirmation, Taylor said he had "no further information on that."
More context: In his opening statement, Taylor said Sondland said on a September 1 call that "everything was dependent, including security assistance" on a public announcement by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky of investigations of Burisma and the alleged interference of the 2016 election.
Sondland added, according to Taylor, that President Trump wanted Zelensky "in a public box by making a public statement about ordering such investigations."
Bill Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, was just asked to elaborate on his comments that he was "alarmed" when he learned about the link between the military aid and the investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden.
"You said previously that you were alarmed to learn this. Why were you alarmed?" Taylor was asked.
Here's how he answered:
"It's one thing to try to leverage a meeting in the White House. It's another thing, I thought, to leverage security assistance — security assistance to a country at war, dependent on both the security assistance and the demonstration of support. It was much more alarming, the White House meeting was one thing, security assistance was much more alarming."
The House Intelligence Committee has scheduled two more closed-door depositions, including with an aide to the top US diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor.
The committee has scheduled a deposition for David Holmes, the Taylor aide, on Friday` and Mark Sandy, an official at the Office of Management and Budget, on Saturday.
In his public testimony today, Taylor testified that an aide told him about a July 26 call phone conversation he overheard between Ambassador Gordon Sondland and President Trump in which Trump asked Sondland about the investigations, and Sondland said Ukraine was ready to move forward. It’s not immediately clear if Holmes is the aide Taylor referenced.