Takeaways so far from House public impeachment hearings

In several hours of testimony, punctuated by occasional bickering among lawmakers, some memorable moments emerged.

Posted: Nov 13, 2019 8:10 AM
Updated: Nov 13, 2019 2:59 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Wednesday’s start of public impeachment hearings unfolding in Congress marked the first time that the American public could watch and listen to the witnesses whose testimony is at the center of the Democrats’ investigation.

In several hours of testimony, punctuated by occasional bickering among lawmakers, some memorable moments emerged.

Some key takeaways from the first public witnesses: George Kent and William Taylor.

TRUMP PUSHED FOR BIDEN INVESTIGATION

Hearings like this one can be scripted affairs. But there was an early surprise.

Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, revealed for the first time that his staff members overheard President Donald Trump speaking on the phone to another diplomat about investigations.

Taylor said some of his staff members were at a restaurant with Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, the day after the July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine's newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Sondland used his cellphone to call Trump from the restaurant and the staff members could hear Trump on the phone asking about “the investigations.” Taylor took that to mean investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter and the Burisma Group, the Ukrainian firm that had hired Hunter Biden as a director in 2014, he told lawmakers.

“Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for,” Taylor said in his opening statement.

“I take it the import of that is that he cares more about that than he does about Ukraine?” the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, asked Taylor.

“Yes, sir,” Taylor responded.

Taylor said he only learned about the call last Friday and didn’t know about it when he appeared for a closed-door deposition with House investigators conducting the impeachment inquiry.

___

IS IT BRIBERY OR A QUID PRO QUO?

The impeachment inquiry in many respects is about controlling the narrative. On Wednesday, Democrats seemed to begin to pivot, framing the actions of Trump as possible “bribery” and “extortion” rather than emphasizing a “quid pro quo.”

Schiff introduced the notion of bribery into the debate when he criticized the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, for saying that people concerned about Trump’s requests that Ukraine do political investigations should “get over it,” and that there is political influence in all foreign policy.

If the investigation finds that Trump “sought to condition, coerce, extort, or bribe an ally into conducting investigations to aid his reelection campaign and did so by withholding official acts — a White House meeting or hundreds of millions of dollars of needed military aid — must we simply get over it?’’ Schiff asked.

A Democratic staff lawyer, Daniel Goldman, also talked of possible “extortion and bribery” — a gradual change in wording that could preview Democrats’ approach going forward.

Later, Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, questioned the witnesses about the idea of bribery and noted that merely attempting the act could be considered a crime.

___

SPLIT-SCREEN QUESTIONING

Names familiar during special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, but not particularly relevant to the impeachment inquiry, received attention during questioning from some GOP lawmakers and the lawyer who was representing their interests.

There was a reference by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., to the “Steele dossier” — a compilation of opposition research against candidate Trump compiled by a former British spy during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Also invoked were discredited allegations that Ukraine interfered in the most recent presidential election. Paul Manafort, the president’s former campaign chairman who did lucrative political consulting work in Ukraine, was cited, too.

___

HEARSAY

Republicans dismissed the testimony of the witnesses as mere “hearsay.” Republican said the witnesses didn’t provide firsthand knowledge of suspected back-door dealings on Ukraine and did not speak directly with Trump.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, suggested the Taylor’s understanding was basically a bad game of telephone.

"We’ve got six people having four conversations in one sentence, and this is where you told me you got your clear understanding,” Jordan said.

Taylor and Kent believed their understanding of the issues were sound, gathered from their own knowledge and conversations with trusted staff.

But Democrats had another argument for Republicans: Trump could clear up the ambiguity by allowing those with firsthand knowledge to testify, such as Mulvaney, Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and former national security adviser John Bolton.

Taylor and Kent stood by their understanding of the phone calls, the security aid and the push to get the president of Ukraine to commit to a public statement that he was investigating the issues.

___

LOFTY LANGUAGE

Taylor is a Vietnam War veteran and West Point graduate. Kent is a career foreign service officer whose family has served the country for generations.

Their words laid bare the stakes of the proceedings even as some Republicans sought to minimize them. Their references to serving under presidents of both parties were aimed at preempting Republican attacks on them as political partisans. That didn’t stop Nunes from deriding the witnesses as being part of a smear campaign, “star chamber” from within the civil service.

Taylor capped his opening statement with an ode to how Americans feel in their best moments about their country: "less concerned about what language we speak, what religion if any we practice, where our parents and grandparents came from; more concerned about building a new country."

Kent singled out by first name and even nickname the impeachment witnesses who were born abroad, likening them to 20th century national security policy: Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, both immigrants.

"Masha, Alex, and Fiona were born abroad before their families or they themselves personally chose to immigrate to the United States. They all made the professional choice to serve the United States as public officials, helping shape our national security policy, towards Russia in particular. And we and our national security are the better for it," Kent said.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 446380

Reported Deaths: 5995
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin927471474
Ramsey39820736
Dakota32876338
Anoka30877363
Washington20066227
Stearns17813187
St. Louis13609241
Scott1191796
Wright11570104
Olmsted1041375
Sherburne818965
Carver692436
Clay650280
Rice604168
Kandiyohi553471
Blue Earth538933
Crow Wing481374
Otter Tail454466
Chisago450832
Benton418685
Winona387246
Douglas373466
Nobles368746
Mower363329
Goodhue345358
Polk327956
McLeod324245
Morrison311144
Beltrami309447
Lyon300636
Becker284139
Itasca284043
Isanti281641
Carlton278543
Steele27229
Pine266013
Freeborn243420
Todd231630
Nicollet223836
Brown214534
Mille Lacs213646
Le Sueur208815
Cass207323
Meeker199233
Waseca188916
Wabasha16953
Martin169326
Roseau165416
Hubbard149238
Redwood139527
Renville137139
Houston135613
Dodge13384
Chippewa130932
Cottonwood126818
Fillmore12245
Wadena119616
Rock109712
Sibley10837
Aitkin107633
Watonwan10638
Faribault104616
Pennington98815
Kanabec97418
Pipestone93923
Yellow Medicine93514
Murray8785
Jackson85210
Swift83118
Pope7375
Marshall70315
Stevens6978
Clearwater68514
Lac qui Parle65716
Lake63215
Wilkin6229
Koochiching59310
Lincoln4821
Big Stone4553
Unassigned43668
Grant4298
Norman4238
Mahnomen4107
Kittson37219
Red Lake3164
Traverse2503
Lake of the Woods1901
Cook1140

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 303464

Reported Deaths: 4269
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk45396448
Linn17695274
Scott15387163
Black Hawk13659236
Woodbury12953175
Johnson1204749
Dubuque11312150
Pottawattamie8942112
Dallas882171
Story863834
Webster467571
Cerro Gordo463568
Sioux453756
Clinton448861
Warren438838
Marshall425761
Buena Vista391929
Muscatine386777
Des Moines380941
Plymouth348968
Wapello341698
Jasper320458
Lee314430
Marion302152
Jones270449
Henry263430
Carroll253434
Bremer242248
Crawford228522
Boone216417
Washington214531
Benton208844
Jackson191131
Mahaska190736
Tama185857
Dickinson184226
Delaware172336
Kossuth171343
Clay166019
Wright163024
Fayette160022
Buchanan158323
Hamilton157929
Winneshiek155119
Harrison154762
Hardin154229
Cedar151819
Clayton150748
Butler146824
Page143715
Cherokee138227
Floyd138036
Mills136016
Lyon133832
Poweshiek132424
Hancock129024
Allamakee126927
Iowa123922
Calhoun12209
Grundy120226
Jefferson119524
Madison11899
Winnebago118529
Mitchell115734
Louisa114330
Cass112641
Chickasaw110612
Sac110615
Emmet110331
Appanoose109838
Union108122
Humboldt104219
Guthrie102424
Franklin101618
Shelby101426
Unassigned9160
Palo Alto9019
Keokuk84325
Montgomery84022
Howard82819
Monroe80818
Clarke7847
Pocahontas77211
Ida74030
Davis68921
Greene6887
Adair68620
Lucas6488
Osceola6349
Monona63316
Worth5993
Taylor5919
Fremont5046
Van Buren49412
Decatur4804
Ringgold4269
Wayne41421
Audubon4118
Adams2953
Rochester/St. Mary'S
Cloudy
23° wxIcon
Hi: 24° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 14°
Mason City
Partly Cloudy
22° wxIcon
Hi: 24° Lo: 19°
Feels Like: 10°
Albert Lea
Partly Cloudy
19° wxIcon
Hi: 22° Lo: 18°
Feels Like: 10°
Austin
Cloudy
21° wxIcon
Hi: 22° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 9°
Charles City
Cloudy
21° wxIcon
Hi: 25° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 10°
A big temperature swing is on the way
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Saturday's local highlights and scores

Image

John Marshall ready for 2021

Image

Is the City of Rochester paying men and women equally?

Image

LWVMN asks for "truth and consequences" for state lawmakers

Image

Sports Overtime Part 2

Image

Sports Overtime Part 1

Image

Plans for polar plunge

Image

Equal work and equal pay.

Image

Aaron's Friday Night Forecast

Image

Mega Millions jackpot soars to $750 million

Community Events