Two key impeachment witnesses testify
Things look slightly different in the room for the second half of today's hearing.
Daniel Noble, a senior counsel on the House Intelligence Committee, has replaced Daniel Goldman as the staff attorney next to House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff for the home stretch of the committee’s impeachment hearing with Fiona Hill and David Holmes.
Goldman, who has had quite a busy week as the main Democratic questioner, is likely done for the day at the hearing, so long as the committee doesn’t conduct another round of staff questions.
The committee’s Republicans also have rolled out one last sign for the final scheduled public hearing — another procedural complaint.
“Zero days since Adam Schiff followed House rules,” the sign says.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham just issued a statement on today’s hearing, saying the "witnesses rely heavily on their own presumptions, assumptions and opinions."
She also said Democrats are "clearly being motivated by a sick hatred for President Trump."
Read the full statement below:
"As has been the case throughout the Democrats' impeachment sham, today's witnesses rely heavily on their own presumptions, assumptions and opinions. These two witnesses, just like the rest, have no personal or direct knowledge regarding why U.S. aid was temporarily withheld. The Democrats' are clearly being motivated by a sick hatred for President Trump and their rabid desire to overturn the 2016 election. The American people deserve better."
Republicans now get 45 minutes to question the two witnesses.
Former national security adviser John Bolton was spotted walking down Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue during the first part of today’s impeachment inquiry as Fiona Hill, the White House's former top Russia expert, testified.
Bolton, Hill's former boss, is among those who've refused to cooperate with impeachment investigators' request to testify.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that while "The action is all over in the House. We'll be ready if it comes over here."
He was referring to a potential impeachment trial in the Senate following the investigation in the House.
He did not answer whether or not he’d been watching the hearings or if he had spoken to President Trump.
Republican Rep. Scott Perry, who took part in the closed impeachment proceedings as part of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, insisted today that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 US election.
This directly contradicts the testimony of former White House Russia expert Fiona Hill, who said today that claims Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election are a "fictional narrative" propagated by Russian security forces.
Perry insisted that Ukraine "interfered" and questioned why the country is even considered a key strategic ally.
“Okay, suddenly they’re a key strategic ally. I never heard that before the last eight weeks, never heard that Ukraine was a key strategic ally, and I'm not disputing that they are a key ally and a strategic ally, but it's just interesting how you phrase that in this context like they can't survive without a White House meeting," he said.
Several Democrats made clear they believe they have more than enough evidence to move ahead with impeachment.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said today that Democrats would not fight in court to get acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, former national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — key administration figures implicated in public testimony so far — to testify. But some members of Congress think that the investigation has already gathered enough evidence without those witnesses.
Both Reps. Peter Welch and Jackie Speier said the case is overwhelming even without those firsthand witnesses and documents.
"I think we have been hampered in our ability because the White House, the State Department, the Department of Defense have all withheld documents from us, but even with our hands tied behind our backs, we've been able to present the American people a compelling argument for moving forward with a review of whether or not we should have articles of impeachment bought to the floor of the House," Speier said.
She continued: "The President helped us out immeasurably by releasing the summary of his telephone call" with Ukraine.
She said that the conversation "establishes the elements of bribery, where someone in office requests from someone else something of value, the investigation, and then withholds the White House meeting and the military aid. "
Rep. Eric Swalwell, a Democrat from California, said he feels the President commenting that he wasn’t focused on the “big things” in Ukraine to Ambassador Gordon Sondland is a key point so far this morning.
“The President had a deep interest on July 26 in investigating Joe Biden. In fact, Ambassador Sondland told Holmes that the president was not focused on the big things in Ukraine like the war with Russia, but big things for the president personally in investigating the Bidens,” Swalwell said.
“You hear the President saying, 'I told Ambassador Sondland on September 9 no quid pro quo no quid pro quo,' but as early as July 10 the President’s team has knowledge that employees at the White House are worried that a quid pro quo is underway with Ukrainians as they’re visiting the White House,” he said.
Asked by CNN if today is the last day of public impeachment hearings, Swalwell said he would leave it up to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff “as far as whether more witnesses come in.”
Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN during the break in the hearing that today's testimony so far has been "very rough" for President Trump.
“Just like yesterday, the testimony has been very rough for the President. I think both witnesses have come across as earnest, as public servants who are trying to tell the truth, who are concerned about the corruption that they witnessed So I look forward to the rest of the testimony," Castro said.