Trump-Ukraine House impeachment inquiry to start ‘open hearings’ Nov. 13, Schiff says

The House Intelligence Committee will hold its first open hearings next week as part of the formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump, featuring current and former officials with knowledge of the Ukraine controversy.

“Next week, the House Intelligence Committee will hold its first open hearings as part of the impeachment inquiry,” Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., tweeted Wednesday.

“On Wednesday, November 13, 2019, we will hear from William Taylor and George Kent,” Schiff continued. “On Friday, November 15, 2019, we will hear from Marie Yovanovitch.”

“More to come,” he added.

The first public hearing will feature Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, who already testified behind closed doors before congressional investigators that the president pushed Ukraine to investigate election interference, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, and their Ukrainian dealings — and that he was told U.S. military aid and a White House meeting were used as leverage to get a public announcement from Kiev that the probes were underway.

Kent, the deputy assistant Secretary of State, also will appear with Taylor. Kent testified behind closed doors last month, and told the committees that he had concerns about Hunter Biden’s role on the board of Ukrainian natural gas firm, Burisma Holdings, in 2015, but was rebuffed by the former vice president’s staff, which said the office was preoccupied with Beau Biden’s cancer battle.

Meanwhile, next Friday, Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, will appear in a public setting. She testified last month behind closed doors as well, telling lawmakers that Ukraine told her about Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s campaign to oust her from her post in the administration. Yovanovitch was pushed out of her job in May on Trump’s orders.

Yovanovitch said she learned from Ukrainian officials last November or December that Giuliani was in touch with Ukraine’s former top prosecutor, Yuri Lutsenko, “and that they had plans, and that they were going to, you know, do things, including to me.”

“Basically, it was people in the Ukrainian government who said that Mr. Lutsenko, the former prosecutor general, was in communication with Mayor Giuliani,” she testified.

In her testimony, Yovanovitch also told investigators that she was not disloyal to the president.

“I have heard the allegation in the media that I supposedly told our embassy team to ignore the president’s orders since he was going to be impeached,” she said. “That allegation is false. I have never said such a thing to my embassy colleagues or anyone eIse.”

“We move forward with the open phase,” Schiff told reporters on the Hill on Wednesday, adding that the committee still has “remaining depositions,” which they “will be conducting over the next couple of days.”

The impeachment inquiry was opened after a whistleblower complaint alleged that Trump, during a July phone call, pushed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter as military aid to the country was being withheld.

A transcript released by the White House shows Trump making that request, but he and his allies deny that military aid was clearly linked to the request or that there was any quid pro quo. Some witnesses coming before House committees as part of the impeachment proceedings have challenged that assertion.

The White House, though, has maintained the president did nothing wrong.

The House of Representatives, last week, passed a measure largely along party lines, formalizing the process and setting “ground rules” for the impeachment inquiry, including for public witness testimony.

While Republicans opposed the resolution and complained the rules were unfair, they still gave minority Republicans the ability to subpoena witnesses, with the concurrence of Democratic committee chairs. If the chair does not consent, the minority can appeal to the full committee.

“We’re glad to see that Chairman Schiff has decided to move his impeachment proceedings out of his top-secret bunker and into the public eye,” a GOP aide told Fox News Wednesday. “We’re confident that the American people will see that there was no quid pro quo and no pressure on the Ukrainian government — for anything.”

The GOP aide added: “Unlike Chairman Schiff, we have never had anything to hide and look forward to the opportunity to present the facts of the case.”

Meanwhile, U.S. diplomat David Hale appeared before the committees leading the impeachment inquiry on Wednesday behind closed doors. Hale is expected to tell lawmakers that political considerations were behind the State Department’s decision to withhold U.S. military aid from Ukraine.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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