Public hearings in Trump impeachment probe start next week

Clay Curtis
November 8, 2019

In a preview of what is to come, lawmakers leading the probe released testimony that showed the top USA diplomat in Ukraine, William Taylor, believed a White House-led effort to pressure Kiev to investigate Ukrainian energy company Burisma was motivated by a desire to help Trump win re-election next year.

Yovanovitch herself told investigators she was ousted because Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and others wanted her out of the way as they conducted Ukraine policy outside traditional diplomatic channels.

Sondland said he now remembers a conversation in Warsaw with a top aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which he, Sondland, said military aid likely would not be resumed until Kyiv made clear it would investigate Trump's Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son's ties to Ukraine energy firm Burisma.

Democrats have been releasing transcripts of previous closed-door interviews this week, as they prepare for next week, when they will hold the first public hearings in the six-week-long probe.

Sondland told Andriy Yermak, an aide to the Ukrainian president, "that resumption of USA aid would not likely occur until Ukraine provided the anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for weeks", he told investigators.

USA congressional committees conducting an impeachment probe of President Donald Trump met on Thursday (Nov 7) for the first time with an adviser to Vice-President Mike Pence, but former national security adviser John Bolton failed to heed a request to appear.

The three diplomats have sounded the alarm regarding the release of United States security aid to Ukraine allegedly being made contingent on Kyiv publicly announcing it would execute the politically-motivated investigations against rival Joe Biden that Trump had demanded.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff announced Wednesday that three State Department witnesses will appear in two hearings next Wednesday and Friday: Taylor, career department official George Kent and Marie Yovanovitch, the former USA ambassador to Ukraine.

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In testimony to investigators revealed last month, he expressed grave concerns about the Trump administration's "irregular, informal channel of United States policy-making" and its pressure on Ukraine to announce a Burisma investigation.

For example, Taylor said he and others "sat in astonishment" as a White House Office of Management and Budget official said during a July 18 inter-agency call that Trump had ordered a hold on military assistance to Ukraine, according to the transcript.

Former Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker departs following a closed-door deposition led by the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on October 3, 2019.

"What I didn't want to do is have United States assistance to Ukraine blocked or suspended for no good reason that I could see", Taylor said, according to a transcript of his testimony to lawmakers that was released on Wednesday. The claim is at odds with US intelligence findings.

Democrats leading the House committees investigating the US president and his aides over their pressure campaign on Ukraine would like to hear from recently-departed national security adviser John Bolton, but it's not clear if he'll ever appear to give testimony.

They will testify on November 13 and 15, said Adam Schiff, the committee's Democratic chairman who wrote on Twitter that there was "More to come". Democrats have claimed it is evidence of quid pro quo.

Mr Trump, a Republican, has repeatedly insisted his call with Ukraine's leader was "perfect".

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