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Congressional Impeachment Hearings, November 13, 2019

Top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine William Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent are sworn in prior to testifying before the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, Washington, D.C., November 13, 2019.

The U.S. House Intelligence Committee hosted its first public impeachment hearings on November 13. Both acting Ambassador William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent testified under subpoena. Experts from the Center for American Progress followed along to share context throughout the proceedings. Find more on the hearings and other impeachment-related resources on our page dedicated to Trump’s Constitutional Crisis.

3:07 p.m. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) is trying to argue that Trump only put a hold on military aid out of his sincere concern for corruption until he could get a better read on Zelensky. So why did Trump wait two whole months after Zelensky’s inauguration—three full months after his election—before he decided to place the hold? And what happened in September—other than the whistleblower complaint and public pressure from Congress—that made him release the aid?

2:38 p.m. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) is once again trying to paint Trump’s demands as a legitimate interest in corruption.

He never mentioned corruption on the July 25 call. He did mention Biden and CrowdStrike, however.

2:34 p.m. A key point from Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL): Trump’s defenders keep complaining about hearsay evidence but apparently don’t mind the White House blocking most of the people with firsthand knowledge from testifying. In other words, they don’t actually care about hearsay—they’re just trying to delegitimize the hearings.

2:20 p.m. Someone needs to tell Ratcliffe that he’s not auditioning for “A Few Good Men.”

2:05 p.m. The House Republicans seem to think that their best argument in defense of Trump is that the victim of an extortion campaign, who was newly elected as a wartime leader, did not publicly speak out and tell the world that he was being extorted by a much larger country

2:04 p.m. Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) is trying to paint this investigation as based solely on hearsay.

It’s not. Trump released a summary of his call with Zelensky showing the extortion scheme at work—then announced, on the White House lawn, that he wanted Ukraine to investigate his political opponents.

1:39 p.m. Devin Nunes actually just argued that it’s unthinkable that Trump would extort Ukraine because, after all, he doesn’t even like the country.

1:29 p.m. As Trump’s defenders try to convince us his extortion scheme was just a sincere interest in fighting corruption, a reminder that he awarded his own business a multimillion dollar global summit during the investigation and only walked the decision back amid extreme public outcry.

1:28 p.m. The House GOP argument appears to be “other than extorting Ukraine to interfere in our elections, was there anything else that you found concerning?” Not the best argument.

1:26 p.m. House Republicans are out with a new defense of the president. Their counsel is now arguing that a career bureaucrat should have tried to “wrest control” of foreign policy from the president and put a stop to it. That’s too much to ask of our career civil servants.

1:13 p.m. A particularly circular line of argument from the minority counsel: Corruption in Ukraine is endemic. Burisma is an example, as is the fact that Ukrainian authorities weren’t investigating it. Therefore, Trump’s call with Ukraine was a perfectly appropriate request to investigate corruption.

What that ignores, of course, is that the “corruption” Trump wanted investigated was … Biden pushing Ukraine to fire the prosecutor general who wasn’t investigating corruption at Burisma … which Trump’s defenders falsely claim Biden secretly did because that prosecutor general actually was investigating Burisma.

1:11 p.m. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Nunes should take back the microphone.

1:05 p.m. As Nunes and the minority counsel run down debunked conspiracy theories about supposed Ukrainian interference in 2016, it’s worth noting that they’re focusing solely on Taylor, to whom many of the bogus allegations are new, rather than Kent, who directly shot down those same conspiracy theories in his own testimony.

12:51 p.m. This choice by Nunes to speak rather than listen is a good strategy if you think that what the witness will say is damaging to your case.

12:14 p.m. Trump’s bluff is being called—they’re going to read the transcript. Spoiler alert: It shows extortion.

11:51 a.m. “I recall no discussions with any State Department or White House official about Former Vice President Biden or his son, nor do I recall taking part in any effort to encourage an investigation into the Bidens” — Ambassador Sondland, apparently lying in his testimony under oath.

11:48 a.m. Counsel: “Is it in the national interests of the United States?” George Kent: “In my opinion, it is not.”

11:44 a.m. Bill Taylor gives a solid explanation of why this should matter to Americans. We have a national security policy and a national defense policy that identifies Russia as an adversary. Russia is violating these norms and it has consequences for America’s national security.

11:41 a.m. Ambassador Taylor explains just how serious and important  military aid to Ukraine is. People die as a result of playing political games with it, while Russia benefits. This not how foreign policy is conducted—there is no national interest.

11:41 a.m. Pence is therefore a key player in the extortion effort. He delivered the message to Zelensky face to face

11:40 a.m. Sondland, in Warsaw, is also meeting Zelensky aides and gets specific. He tells them “corruption” means investigating “Burisma” and the Bidens.

11:40 a.m. Ambassador Taylor just implicated Pence as part of the bribery scheme. When the September 1 Zelensky-Pence meeting took place in Warsaw, Ukraine knew about the hold. And they knew the hold expired on September 30. Zelensky asks Pence about the security cooperation right away. And Pence says Trump wants the Ukrainians to do more on “corruption.”  But. That. Is. Not. All.

11:35 a.m. Taylor confirms that both Sondland and Pence delivered the extortion message to Ukraine in Warsaw on September 1. Sondland made it clear. Pence said the same thing indirectly, responding to a question about the aid by saying Ukraine needed to do more on “corruption,” which was Trump code for the fake investigations. Trump was trying to tighten the screws on Ukraine to get the election interference he desperately wanted.

11:31 a.m. Bill Taylor just confirms the president’s direct, personal involvement in this scheme, gutting yet another one of the the president’s defenses.

11:30 a.m. Taylor’s narrative does an excellent job of distinguishing the normal, in bounds, foreign policy we all know (and some of us love) from the “highly irregular” shadow foreign policy being orchestrated by the president to advance his own personal interests.

11:12 a.m. “Forcing this man to say ‘three-way What’sApp chat’ alone is an impeachable offense” — Sam Berger

11:11 a.m. As Taylor describes finding out about the funding delay, it’s important to remember that the hold itself was illegal, and the Trump White House needed to alter the normal process to cut out career staff. Read more about what was happening at OMB here.

11:10 a.m. This hearing is everything the Mueller hearing was not. Clear. Direct.

11:05 a.m. Lot of people unhappy to be hearing their names come out of Bill Taylor’s mouth this morning.

11:04 a.m. Ambassador Taylor explains that he returned to Ukraine because Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked him to.

11:04 a.m. “Confusing,” “unusual,” and “highly irregular”—witness Bill Taylor on the Trump administration’s channel of U.S. policymaking.

10:52 a.m. DAS Kent calls Ukraine’s former Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko corrupt. Remember, on the call with Zelensky, Trump said, “Good because I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair.” Lutsenko was going along with Trump and Rudy’s scheme and promised to open an investigation into the Bidens.

10:49 a.m. DAS George Kent’s professionalism has just totally kneecapped the GOPs wild claim that both he and other career officials are driven by a political agenda.

10:34 a.m. Remember: Devin Nunes (R-CA) jumped out of a cab late at night to head to the White House in March 2017. The next morning, he held two press conferences where he said a whistleblower came forward. The whistleblower, it turned out, was from the White House. Nunes had to recuse for nearly a year as HPSCI chair.

10:26 a.m. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) makes an important point: If extorting a foreign country to interfere in our elections does not constitute an impeachable offense, what does? The Founders were clear that this type of behavior was impeachable. As my colleague, Mike Sozan, notes: “The founders not only feared attempts by foreigners to improperly intervene in American affairs—they were just as concerned about a president who may seek out the help of a foreigner for their political or financial self-interest.”