🇺🇸Here we go. Chair @AdamSchiff gaveled in. Trump Impeachment Hearings have begun at 10:05 am

Dedicating this thread to @RepCummings who said: "When we're dancing with the angels, the question will be asked: In 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact?"

Schiff begins by mapping out procedure. Chair Schiff will make an opening statement, then Ranking Member Nunes. Before he can finish, Rep. Ratcliffe interrupted. Wants to know how many 45 minute rounds of questioning Schiff and Nunes will each have. Schiff said not clear yet.

Schiff begins his opening statement by reminding us that Russia invaded Ukraine. Did Trump seek to exploit ally's vulnerability to Russia by conditioning official acts on their willingness to assist in investigations to help Trump's re-election campaign.

Facts not seriously contested, says Schiff. Rudy G. sought help in investigating Burisma to hurt Biden promoted debunked conspiracy that it was Ukraine, not Russia that interfered in our election. Also conducted smear campaign against Amb. Marie Yovanovitch.

Schiff says Amb. Taylor "pushed back" when he learned that funding to Ukraine was conditioned on favors to Trump that would undermine our security and integrity of our elections

Schiff describes Bolton (national security advisor to Trump) abruptly ending July 10th meeting when he heard about the shakedown of Ukraine. Refused to participate in the "drug deal" that Mulaney and others were cooking up

Schiff moves on to discuss the fateful July 25th phone all between Trump and Ukraine President Zelensky. "I would like you to do us a favor though." Trump wanted discredited 2016 conspiracy and Burisma (to hurt Biden) to be investigated.

Zelensky understood shakedown because Amb. to EU Sondland and others had be pressing Ukraine for weeks about the investigation into the 2016 election, Burisma and the Bidens.

Schiff describes coverup of moving the "transcript" of that July 25th shakedown bribery solicitation call to a secret server.

Most damning thing here is Schiff describing how Sondland told Taylor that Trump wanted to put Zelensky in a box so that he would publicly commit to the investigation in order to get both a face to face meeting with Trump and the needed aid to defend against Russia

"I have news for everybody, get over it" said Chief of Staff Mulvaney at press conference, Schiff reminds us. (Remember that Mulvaney later tried to walk that back).

Discovering a bribery scheme and withholding of security assistance is "not less odious" because it was not fully carried out. Trump has still denied the White House meeting (even though some aid was released).

Schiff now raises obstruction of Congress as an additional grounds for impeachment. As examples he mentioned Trump's verbal threats and condemnation of the whistleblower

Schiff says, "The issue we confront" is if we find that the President of the united states abused his power and invited foreign interference in our election" or conditioned aid. . Plus obstruction If this is not impeachable conduct, what is?

"Can we keep it?" Our Republic.

Okay. It's Nunes turn. He begins with the hearing on July 24th when Mueller testified. "After the spectacular implosion of their Russia hoax. . . on July 25th they turned on a dime" and are looking at Republican's interaction with Ukraine.

Wow. I did not have "nude pictures of Trump from Russian prankster" on my impeachment bingo card. Did you? But Nunes went there.

"We're supposed to take these people at face value when they trot out new allegations" says Nunes. He calls this a "carefully orchestrated media smear campaign."

LOL. Called depositions a "cult like atmosphere" and secret meetings. What a LIAR. These were bipartisan hearings. He was invited and was present. LOL.

Nope. Nunes said they are trying to impeach the President based on a conversation about Hunter Biden's activities, but won't call Hunter as a witness.

Again Nunes is lying. Schiff never "made up" a new transcript, he made clear at a hearing in September that he was using satire.

This might be a good time to recall that Devin Nunes is suing a imaginary cow on Twitter called @DevinCow

Nunes is now attacking the whistleblower. And, he wants an investigation of the conspiracy of Ukraine interference in 2016 election.

I surprised he did not ask for Obama's birth certificate.

Imagine being a boy and growing up to become a "man" like Devin Nunes. Sad, sad, sad.

Now Nunes is blaming the "previous administration" for providing only blankets to Ukraine. This is a lie.

"Impeachment process in search of crime."

It's Schiff's turn to introduce the first witness, West Point graduate and decorated military hero Ambassador Bill Taylor. He has a long history of government service. Was Amb. to Ukraine (as Bush nominee) through 2009. Then also served under Obama.

Sec. Pompeo invited him back to service in June 2019 to serve as acting chargé d'affaires Ukraine.

Now Schiff introduces George Kent.

Says hearings are open and non-classified

After saying Congress won't tolerate any retaliation against the witnesses, he swears them in.

A Congresswoman asked when she will hear about whether additional witnesses will be called. She also asked about preventing answering questions from Republicans.

Schiff made clear that the only times he intervened is when the Republicans tried out the whistleblower.

Rep. Conway asked to be heard so they can have a closed-door hearing with the whistleblower. Motion suspended until after the witnesses testimony.

Now Rep. Jim Jordan (credibly accused of coverup sexual assault of college athletes) asks about the whistleblower.

Schiff has this under control. Calm authority.

George Kent, Deputy Assistant Sec. of State for Ukraine Policy goes first. Third generation of family to have career in public service. Took oath of office as did father and several uncles. Going through list of honorable military service. (Note contrast to Trump family).

Kent discusses goal for Ukraine as "birth of a country free from Russia dominion." Principled US interests brought personal attacks from Russians, proxies and corrupt Ukrainians. That showed "our efforts were hitting their marks."

Personal note. I am mesmerized. This is an excellent witness. "Ukraine's success is very much in our national interest" as defined since WWII

Discussing our "global strategic challenge" today. Said Ukraine has been on front lines not just since invasion by Russia in 2014. Mentions corrupt leadership that fled to Moscow. (Note that's Manafort's pal Pres. Yanukovych)

More than 12,000 Ukrainians have fought on their own soil to defend to seek their freedom and autonomy. Likens our support to Lafayette's support to revolutionaries in American in late 18th Century here.

Five years after 2014 "revolution of dignity," Zelensky and other new leaders have been elected. Said promoting rule of law and institutional integrity is so important. "Acting inconsistently with rule of law . . comes at great peril."

Kent now explains the importance of State Department aid to Ukraine to support Ukraine government and civil society there. Ties it again to the national interest of the US.

He spoke for 10 hours at deposition, and summarizes the key points here. Some highlights include how important it is to create and follow the rule of law. "I do not believe the United States should" request selective investigation of corruption. Now he goes into Burisma

Kent raised his concern with Joe Biden that Hunter's status on the board of Burisma could raise a conflict of interest. However, said he was not interfered with in US govt.

Kent said that in 2018 - 2019 Lev Parnas, and Rudy were working with corrupt Ukrainian prosecutors. Peddling false information to get back at those who had exposed their corruption. They were engaging in a smear campaign against Amb. Marie Yovanovitch

Kent said we always place conditions on funding and security assistance. Now he describes some limits on testimony. Did not bring documents. Also, cannot discuss matters that he may deem to be classified information. (He sought but was not given guidance from State dept)

Kent concludes his remarks by supporting his fellow public servants. Masha (Maria) Yovanovitch, Fiona Hill, and Alex Vindman. Their families fled Nazi and Communist oppression.

He also mentioned that he studied under Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Amb. Bill Taylor begins. "I am not here to take one side or another." He added, "My sole purpose is to provide facts as I know them. . .and strategic importance of Ukraine to the United States."

Bill Taylor added, "I am non-partisan and have been appointed to my positions by every president from President Reagan to President Trump."

"Even as we sit here today the Russians are attacking Ukrainian soldiers in their own country."

"It is clearly in our national iterest to deter further Russian aggression."

Withholding assistance in exchange for aid for Trump in the election "would be crazy."

As Bill Taylor speaks, following George Kent, it becomes clear that Putin is very much at the center of these impeachment hearings. As much as Nunes (and Trump) wish to say they "won" the Mueller investigation, all roads here still lead to Russia.

Taylor is describing Russian aggression after the 2014 invasion. Russia kicked out of the G-8. We and NATO began providing assistance to Ukraine.

The corrupt pro-Putin Ukrainian president (that Manafort helped get elected) allowed military to grow week. But then US helped.

Taylor is provided details of the assistance US provided to Ukraine as defense and "to secure freedom."

Now he's talking about how he was there when "lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine" was discussed.

Note Javelins are defensive weapons against Russian tanks.

Like Kent, Taylor praises Masha Yovanovitch who was pushed out as ambassador to Ukraine, and he was asked then by Pompeo to step in

His wife didn't want him to be acting Amb

Mentor said, "if your country asks you to do something" you should if you can be effective.

Taylor arrived in Kiev and so some good and some alarming things. Was glad to see President Zelensky pursuing snap elections and anti-corruption efforts.

Yet, saw confusing policy arrangement. Saw two channels. One regular, formal process. One though was irregular.

The irregular channel included Kurt Volker, Gordon Sondland, Sec. Rick Perry, Mick Mulvaney, and Rudy Guiliani. Also Senator Ron Johnson. Operated outside of official state department channels.

By August, "I became increasingly concerned" as channels began to diverge.

Voker & Sondland said Trump "wanted to hear from Zelensky" before scheduling the meeting in the Oval Office. Sondland said on June 28 that he did not want to include regular channel (interagency) people on a call. Sondland wanted no one transcribing or monitoring

Taylor Volker told him that Trump wanted "cooperation on investigation to get to the bottom of things".

By mid-July he understand that the meeting was conditioned on investigating the fake conspiracy re Ukraine supposed interference in 2016 election and Burisma/Biden

Taylor said someone on the call from OMB (who was offscreen) said that US support was being withheld. The directive had come from the President to the Chief of Staff to OMB. (Note Mulaney was in both roles then, I think.)

Taylor said Defense Department was asked to assess and said the support was effective and funding should resume.

Hold lasted well into September.

Fiona Hill and Alexander Vindman tried to assure Taylor that they were not aware of a change in policy toward Ukraine, but that the hold came from Chief of Staff Mulvaney who was skeptical of Ukraine.

Said that Ambassador Bolton was so upset by a July 10th meeting in Washington with Ukrainians that he told Hill to brief the lawyers. Bolton afterward told here it was a "drug deal."

On July 20 he had phone convo with Sondland. He said he had advised Zelensky to use the phrase "I will leave no stone unturned" when he spoke with Trump.

Taylor had a phone all with President Zelensky's assistant who said he did not want to be a pawn in a political election

Taylor met with President Zelensky directly and went to the front lines. Commander thanked them for the assistance, but Taylor was aware it was on hold

Said first summary of the July 25 Zelensky-Trump phone all was from Morrison (who replaced Hill) on July 28th. Not until September 25th (when it was publicly released) did see call summary.

Taylor learned of a formal request by US to Ukrainians to investigate violations of their own law. This concerned him.

By August, he was beginning to fear the long-term US policy to support for Ukraine was shifting.

He asked Morrison whether the policy of strong support to Ukraine was shifting.

Morrison said "It remains to be seen." He also added that President Trump wanted to provide no support at all to Ukraine.

Ukrainians not aware of hold until Aug. 29th

Taylor met with Bolton his concern of reducing US support for Ukraine. Bolton said to said a cable to Pompeo. He did so on August 29th.

Wrote: "Russians would love to see the humiliation of Zelensky at the hands of the Americans."

Politico story broke about aid being withheld.
Taylor till did not know (until Sept. 1st) that the withholding aid was related to the investigations of Biden etc. But funds would expire by September 30 (that's end of budget year for Congress).

Taylor said VP Pence said Trump wanted Europeans to do more to support Ukraine and wanted Ukrainians to do more to fight corruption

Taylor learned from Sondland for the first time that the security assistance, not just the White House meeting was conditioned on the investigations (including of Biden). Taylor sent message to Sondland who said to call.

On the phone call told Taylor that he had mistakenly told Ukraine that only the meeting in WH was conditioned on the announcement of investigation. But now Sondland said he knew that "everything" was conditioned on it and that Trump wanted Zelensky "in a box."

Taylor asked Sondland to push back, suggested perhaps not Zelensky would announce, but prosecutor.

Then Morrison said it was troubling not to know what to say to Ukrainians about withheld assistance

Morrison said "he had a sinking feeling" after hearing about the phone call between Sonldand and Trump.

Said Trump said not a quid-pro-quo, but wanted Zelensky to go to a microphone and announce the investigation of Burisma/Biden.

On phone call on Sept. 8 Sondland said Zelensky needed to clear things up. Told him that Zelensky was going on CNN to make announcements.

Taylor messaged Sondland saying that what if Zelensky gives announcement and then still withhold

"The Russians love it and I quit."

Metaphor that Sondland used on two different occasions was that Trump was a business man and Ukrainians owed the president and so he needs something before he writes the check.

But Taylor said it was a bad analogy because Ukraine did not owe us

Taylor asked assistant of Zelensky to confirm (in mid September after the funds were released) that he would not be going on CNN.

When (who?) learned of funds being released, they were livid.

NEW! Taylor said Friday a staffer told him about event in July. Sondland called Trump to tell him about meetings in Kiev. Staffer heardTrump ask about investigations. Sondland told Trump "the Ukrainians were ready to move forward."

NEW! After the July call, Taylor's staffer asked Ambasssador Sondland what Trump thought of Ukraine. Sondland responded, "President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden."

Taylor closes, circling back to Russian aggression. Ends on an optimistic note about the young hopeful Ukrainians proud of their independence from Russia, eager to join Western institutions.

Schiff begins his 45 minutes of questions. Looks like he is beginning. He's now zeroing in on this NEW information from July 26th in Kiev when his staffer was with Sondland as he was on a cellphone call with the president. Staffer overhead Trump ask about the investigations.

By then, as Taylor confirmed, "the investigations" was code for looking into the bogus conspiracy about the Ukrainians and server, plus investigation of Burisma and Bidens.

Schiff had Taylor repeat what his staffer heard directly from Sondland. That the president cares more about the investigations of Biden than he does about Ukraine.

Schiff is asking Taylor about role of assistance in saving lives on the battlefield.

"We keep very careful track of the casualties."

Schiff asked about Russia watching closely to gauge US support for Ukraine.

Taylor said Ukrainians are eager to end this war with Russia leaving their territory. They would like to be negotiating from a position of more strength.

Taylor says if we withdraw or suspend it's a message to the Russians "who are looking for any sign of weakness"

Taking a moment to re-heat my coffee in the hallway kitchen, back to this in a moment.

"This affects the kind of world we want to see abroad. . .Ukraine is on the front line"

Yes! Attorney Dan Goldman is beginning his questioning of Taylor. Refers to text from September 9th to Sondland. Taylor reads from the text which is displayed on the screen in the hearing room."

Text said in part "I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign."

Goldman asks in all of his years in government service have you every seen our government assistance made contingent on help on a political campaign?

Taylor said he had not.

Now Goldman is asking Kent about the importance of a face-to-face meeting with Trump in White House. Said it would help new President Zelensky negotiate with Putin for a withdrawal.

Kent says helping Ukraine have the rule of law with strong institutions is the purpose of our foreign policy.

Taylor said that would include getting them to refrain from selective political prosecution and persecution of their opponents.

Goldman brings Taylor back to September 1, when he began to realize about the conditionality.

Text from Taylor to Sondland says: "Are we now saying security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?"

Goldman asked Taylor to explain what he had learned before sending that text. Taylor said he had learned of meeting between VP Pence and Zelensky in Warsaw, Poland. Based on learning about this, was alarmed to learn that security assistance was being withheld

Taylor was alarmed because he saw a distinction between leveraging a meeting and leveraging security assistance. "Much more alarming."

Goldman asks about note-taking. Taylor took notes about "all of" the conversations he included in his written (and spoken) opening statement. For the words he placed in quotation marks, it meant that those were verbatim from those conversations.

That's how Taylor during July call Sondland was on a train from Paris to London. Goldman said that the State Department has not provided Taylor's notes to Committee.

Taylor: "I understand that they may be coming sooner or later.

Goldman" "we would welcome that"

Taylor agreed that Sondland had a direct line (meaning contact with) the President.

After the text Sondland texted back saying to call him. Then Taylor called back.

Goldman is having Taylor again talk about what Sondland said on that call. "Everything" meaning both white house meeting and security assistance was contingent on the public announcement of the investigations.

Taylor's notes included Sondland saying that President Trump wanted to put Zelensky "in a box." It would not be sufficient to do this in private, it needed to be a public statement.

Goldman asked do you get sense Ukraine felt pressured to initiate investigations.

Taylor: "Here's what I know. I got several questions . . from Ukrainians asking about the security assistance. . . very important to the Ukrainians. . . They began to hear" from Sondland about conditions to releasing the aid.

Taylor said that what Sondland said "If President Zelensky did not clear things up, there would be a stalemate" even though he said the words "this is not a quid pro quo."

Goldman asked what did Sondland mean by "pay up before signing the check mean"?

Taylor said that Sondland was describing Trump's thought process. He used that analogy to indicate that this would require something. "He wanted to get whatever he was owed paid back to him."

Taylor said that Ukraine did not owe anything to the United States other than appreciation.

"There was a feeling by President Trump and this came out in the discussion with the inaugural delegation on May 23 that he had a feeling of being wronged by the Ukrainians."

He heard directly from Sondland that aid and WH meeting were "conditioned on pursuing these investigations." Heard same thing from Morrison

Taylor said "the Ukrainians were very concerned about the security assistance and I know that they were preparing to make a public statement with a CNN interview" the implication was to announce the investigations into server and Burisma/Biden

"I don't know what National Securit Adviser Bolton had in mind" when he referred to as a "drug deal" the convo the Ukrainian national security advisor had with Bolton. It was after Sondland spoke that he cut the meeting short, told his staff to report it to lawyers.

Goldman asks Taylor what he meant when Zelensky's national security adviser told Taylor that Zelensky did not want to be an "instrument in Washington re-election politics"?

Now Goldman is showing a text from July 25 from Volker to Yermak. Sent less than an hour before the call.

Here's a screenshot for your reference. Also, link here for a cache of the related texts etc. https://foreignaffairs.house.gov/_cache/files/a/4/a4a91fab-99cd-4eb9-9c6c-ec1c586494b9/621801458E982E9903839ABC7404A917.chairmen-letter-on-state-departmnent-texts-10-03-19.pdf

Nice. Goldman brings the shade. "I'm going to spend some timing reading the transcript as we have been encouraged to do."

Obviously a reference to Trump's frantic stress-tweeting of "READ THE TRANSCRIPT."

Goldman focused on this passage when asking Kent questions.

Kent said there were no factual allegations to support the Ukraine/server conspiracy theory or to support Biden corruption allegations.

Goldman referenced this passage as well

Majority questioning has ended. Five minute recess at 12:20 pm. Next up Minority questioning.

This has been a very long "five minutes." Witnesses are returning to hearing room

Head's up. I have to leave to teach class at 1 ish. But will be back by 3.

Gaveled in at 12:42. It's Nunes talking. Sounds like a lecture. Calls the call "routine nature of call."

Complaining Democrats did not read the actual transcript. But Goldman did.

Nunes is obsessed with something Schiff said over a month ago.

I may break sooner to get some lunch if Nunes fails to ask any questions.

Okay. Dunes' voice is a grating monotone and he's talking about the discredited conspiracy and the origins of Trump-Russia investigation.

Gotta go get ready for class. Back at 3.

OK, I’m back. What did I miss? LOL

Apparently, this is the big takeaway from the Republican questioning https://twitter.com/arifleischer/status/1194677007558283265?s=21

Also, this brilliant comment from @AshaRangappa_ captures the banality of Jim Jordan


Rep. Maloney (D-NY) is asking questions now about Sept. 1 meeting between VP Pence and Zelensky. Zelensky asked about the security assistance. Pence told Zelensky he would call Trump. Kent or Taylor said Pence was in favor of support.

Now @kenvogel's piece on Ukraine from Politico was entered into the record.

Rep. Val Demings is speaking about the shadow diplomacy. Taylor confirms names of members of this irregular channel. Demings asked whether Rudy G. was promoting U.S. interests

Taylor: "I don't think so ma'am."

Kent: "No he was not."

Both Kent and Taylor agree that Rudy G. was serving the president's personal interests in digging up dirt about a political campaign opponent.

Also Hatch Act violation was raised.

Kent turned over records to State Department as they are federal not personal records.

Rep. Krishnamoorthi asking questions now. Reminds Taylor of deposition where he said the Ukrainians become "desperate" after they realized aid was being withheld. Taylor agreed that this discussion happened in September.

Krishnamoorthi said Republican colleagues claim that Zelensky did not feel pressured, but yet he planned a CNN appearance (but dropped it after funds were released).

Kent agreed that aid released only a couple of days after the Congressional investigation into the Trump-Zelensky quid pro quo was opened.

Krisnamoorthi asked Taylor whether these irregular channels were being used in other countries.

While Taylor could not rule it out, he was not aware

Krisnamoorthi, You don't believe the call was perfect, do you?

Kent: "Some of the language in the call gave cause for concern."

Taylor: "I agree." (He referred to the discussion of Ambassador Yovanovitch.)

We are now moving to closing remarks.

Then some motion by Rep. Conway. I missed what the motion was

Nunes is closing with three points. Wants no hearings until we know
(1) All contacts between whistleblower and democrats
(2) Supposed Ukrainian meddling in the election
(3) Hunter Biden's role at Burisma

Also, as part 1, he wants to subpoena the whistleblower to appear before the committee

Chair Schiff closes first by thanking the witnesses. Talks about the smear campaign against Amb. Yovanovitch, and once she was pushed out of the way, this group including Rudy G. were taken actions contrary to US interests.

Suspending the approximately $400 million in aid to Ukraine was not in the US interest or Ukraine's interest. Release of that funding and a meeting with president at WH was conditioned on Zelensky announcing an investigation into Biden, etc.

Funding to Ukraine was released because Trump and team got caught. It was less than 48 hours after Congress was first told that a whistleblower complaint was being unlawfully withheld from them that the aid was released.

We will have to decide whether we are okay with a president inviting a foreign country to intervene in our affairs.

He has not met with the whistleblower. The Republicans keep saying that but the claim is false.

Now, brief recess at 3:36 to take up Rep. Conway's motion.

Republican Rep. Conaway earlier made a motion to subpoena whistleblower. A majority of the committee voted to table that motion.

Now Chair Schiff announced we are adjourned. It's 3:52 pm. That's history my friends. First day of the Trump Impeachment hearings completed.

You can follow @jentaub.
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