State Department official George Kent and top Ukraine diplomat Bill Taylor testified publicly on Wednesday before the Democrat-led House Intelligence Committee, which is evaluating the case to impeach President Donald Trump.
The witnesses largely reiterated past closed-door testimony about concerns they had over a stall in U.S. aid to the Ukraine and allegations Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate former-Vice President Joe Biden, New York Times reported.
The impeachment hearings stem from a controversial July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. During the conversation, Zelensky and Trump discussed Ukraine’s Burisma gas company where Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden worked. Biden appeared to suggest in a 2018 interview that he coerced Ukrainian officials to fire a prosecutor investigating Burisma; a point brought up in the controversial July phone call.
Kent testified Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who tried to “gin up politically motivated investigations” relating to Biden, which he said were “infecting U.S. engagement with Ukraine.”
Kent said that beyond allegations the U.S. withheld an aid package to Ukraine to coerce an investigation of Biden, the Trump administration also withheld an invitation for a White House visit desired by Zelensky.
Taylor testified that one of his staffers overheard a phone call between Ambassador Gordon Sondland and Trump in which they claimed to overhear Trump ask about “the investigations.” Taylor testified he understood “investigations” to mean an investigation of the Bidens and the Ukrainian gas company.
In a follow-up exchange with Rep. Adam Schiff, Taylor affirmed claims his staffers heard Sondland say Trump was more concerned about investigating the Bidens than dealing with his Ukrainian foreign policy.
Schiff asks if President Trump cares more about Biden-related investigations than he does about Ukraine
— CBS News (@CBSNews) November 13, 2019
However in an exchange with Rep. Jim Jordan, a Republican re-assigned to the Intelligence committee, Taylor did appear to confirm there was no link between Ukrainian aid and an investigation involving Biden and Burisma. Jordan pointed to three separate meetings between Taylor and Zelensky in which no mention of a link between foreign aid and investigations was made.
“To my knowledge, Ukrainians were not aware of the hold on assistance until the 29th of August,” Taylor said. “The third meeting that you mentioned with the senators… there was discussion of the security assistance… but there was not discussion of linkage.”
— ForAmerica (@ForAmerica) November 13, 2019
Rep. Devin Nunes, the Republican ranking member on the committee asserted that the witnesses in the hearing were diplomats who had adopted the mindset that they, not the President, are in charge of determining foreign policy.
Nunes also suggested the Wednesday hearing is a “televised theatrical performance” organized by the Democrats to carry out a “low-rent Ukrainian sequel,” to allegations Trump colluded with the Russian government to win the 2016 presidential election.
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) November 13, 2019
Nunes decried Democrat-led moves to redact the names of DNC operatives like Alexandra Chalupa, whom he said were involved in a DNC effort to elicit opposition research from Ukraine to use against Trump. He said Democrats have denied Republican requests to call Chalupa and other witnesses to testify during the impeachment hearings.
“They are trying to impeach the President for inquiring about Hunter Biden’s activities, yet they refuse our request to hear from Biden himself,” Nunes said.