Ex-Trump aide to tell Congress she objected to Ukrainian ambassador's removal

Clay Curtis
October 15, 2019

Congress returns Tuesday to an impeachment inquiry moving into high gear and a rapidly unfolding foreign policy disaster in Syria that's undermining President Donald Trump's standing in his own party.

Trump's European Union ambassador, Gordon Sondland, is set to appear Thursday.

Democrats as part of the impeachment inquiry are looking at the State Department as they investigate Trump's suggestion that Ukraine investigate the business dealings of Joe Biden's family. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she wants the committees to move "expeditiously". The Senate is led by Trump's fellow Republicans, who have shown little inclination to remove him. And the GOP base remains solidly behind Trump, as do Republican lawmakers.

That's according to a new poll released Monday by data company Optimus and the Republican firm Firehouse Strategies.

By the time the call took place, Hill had left the National Security Council.

In one he demanded that a whistleblower whose warning about the USA president's call with Ukraine triggered the impeachment inquiry be identified and testify before Congress.

Ms Hill served in the National Security Council but left the administration shortly before Mr Trump's July 25 call with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky. Text messages released by former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Kurt Volker also buttress the Democrats' case.

US President Donald Trump's former Russian Federation adviser testified on Monday (Oct 14) behind closed doors as the latest witness summoned in the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry against Mr Trump over his request that Ukraine investigate a domestic political rival.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss the details of the closed-door deposition.

"It's clear we have plenty when it comes to the president's admission of a crime".

Republican congressman Matt Gaetz, an outspoken defender of Trump, was asked to leave the closed session about an hour into Hill's testimony. "We have to proceed at a pace that helps the public understand why we feel a sense of urgency". Her appearance comes despite a White House vow to halt any and all cooperation with what it termed the "illegitimate" impeachment probe. "You literally are changing the course of an election", said one senior GOP lawmaker.

Sondland also appeared to be coordinating his efforts with acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Hill testified on Monday. Democrats say Congress is well within its power as the legislative branch to conduct oversight of the president and it is Republicans, having grown tired of Trump's actions, who may be in the greater political bind over a vote.

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"In a grand jury trial, you don't come out and leak anything that you heard that's favourable to try to have a story spun as positively as you can", Zeldin said.

According to the Washington Post, Mr Sondland intends to tell Congress that his text to a fellow diplomat denying such a trade-off was relayed directly to him by Mr Trump.

Sondland responded, after speaking with Trump, there were "no quid pro quo's of any kind".

The impeachment inquiry is testing the Constitution's system of checks and balances as the House presses forward with the probe and the White House dismisses it as "illegitimate" because there has been no formal vote of the House to open impeachment proceedings.

Another pressing issue for Democrats is securing testimony from the whistleblower who brought the entire Ukraine episode to light.

"We have the best evidence of that, ' Schiff said on Sunday on CBS" 'Face the Nation'. "We have the best evidence of that". Lawmakers have grown deeply concerned about protecting the person from Trump's threats and may not wish to risk exposing the whistleblower's identity.

Democrats may also be tempted to expand the scope of their investigation as new revelations continue to pop up. Sondland appears in the whistleblower complaint alongside Kurt Volker, the US special representative for Ukraine.

The Turkish military attack on Kurdish forces in northern Syria is another crisis for Trump. Zelenskiy agreed to investigate and Trump eventually allowed the aid. The House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees are conducting the impeachment inquiry into Trump.

"Most Democratic voters think Donald Trump belongs in prison, not the Oval Office", said Firehouse Strategies in a summary of the poll results. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) are pushing a similar bill in the Senate. The White House Hill's testimony. "I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey's economy if Turkish leaders continue down this risky and destructive path".

Hill is known to have worked closely with Yovanovitch and was expected to express concerns about the abrupt removal of the Ukrainian ambassador, which both the whistleblower, who had originally submitted a complaint over the phone call, and later Yovanovitch herself said had political grounds. To exclude Members of Congress from hearings confirms the American people's suspicions: this is not a legitimate "impeachment inquiry"-it is a charade", Gaetz wrote on Twitter".

Heather Caygle and Andrew Desiderio contributed.

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