The impeachment inquiry of US President Donald Trump entered uncharted territory on Wednesday with the first public hearing of the probe.
William Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, testified in a televised hearing.
The inquiry is centred on a July phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in which the US leader asked his Ukrainian counterpart to open an investigation into former US Vice President Joe Biden, who is also a top Democratic 2020 presidential contender, and his son, Hunter, who had served on a board of a Ukrainian gas company. There has been no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens.
The call came to light due to a whistle-blower complaint. At the time of the call, the US was withholding nearly $400m in military aid from Ukraine, prompting speculation that Trump was using the money as leverage to get the desired investigations. The money was later released.
Trump has denied that any quid pro quo (Latin for “favour for a favour”) took place, describing the call as “perfect”.
As the public phase of the impeachment enquiry gets underway, here are all the latest updates as of Wednesday, November 13: Trump denies asking about investigations on call
President Donald Trump denied he asked a US ambassador about “investigations” in Ukraine a day after his call with that country’s president.
The existence of the call was revealed Wednesday by William Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine. He testified that one of his staffers overheard Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, speaking on the phone with Trump on July 26.
Sondland used his cellphone to call Trump, and the staff member could hear Trump on the phone asking about “the investigations”.
Trump denied knowledge of the call, saying, “I know nothing about that.” He adds, “First time I’ve heard it.”
An official familiar with the matter said the staffer Taylor referred to is David Holmes, the political counsellor at the embassy in Kyiv. Holmes is invited to testify before Congress on Friday.
House intelligence committee votes to table the motion to subpoena whistle-blower. The House intelligence committee has voted 13 to 9 to vote on subpoenaing the whistle-blower at a later date.
Republicans had repeatedly called on House Republicans leading the impeachment probe to call the whistle-blower to testify during the investigations first public hearing on Wednesday.
Representative Mike Conaway, a Republican, had introduced the motion to subpoena the whistle-blower at the beginning of the hearing.
Hearing ends with Schiff reiterating he has never met with whistle-blower. Top State Department official George Kent and US Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor have been dismissed from the first public hearing as part of the House impeachment probe into President Donald Trump.
Taylor Kent testified for more than five hours Wednesday about their concerns with Trump’s requests that Ukraine investigates Democrats as the U.S. withheld military aid to the country.
Next up will be former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was ousted in May on Trump’s orders. She will testify Friday
In his closing statement, Adam Schiff, the Democrat leading the probe, again denied Republican claims that he had met with the whistle-blower, whose complaint over a July 25 phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president sparked the investigation.
“It was false the first time they said it,” he said. “It will be false the last time they said it.”
House Republican says the whistleblower is the ‘one witness’ who should be brought in front of the American people
Jim Jordan, a Republican representative, said the whistle-blower at the heart of the House impeachment inquiry is the “one witness” who should be brought in front of the American people.
Jordan said the whistle-blower, whose complaint touched off the inquiry, should come before the committee.
He said he wanted to know the identity of the whistle-blower, who is a CIA officer assigned to the White House.
Jordan earlier complained that the witnesses Wednesday testifying publicly for the first time didn’t have firsthand knowledge of the accusations and never spoke directly to President Donald Trump.
The whistleblower has not been asked to testify. Representative Peter Welch, a Democrat, said he’d be glad to have the person at the centre of the investigation testify.
“President Trump is welcome to sit right there,” he said.
Kent, Taylor deny they are ‘never Trumpers’
George Kent and William Taylor, the two veteran diplomats testifying in the House impeachment hearing, have denied President Donald Trump’s accusation that they adamantly oppose him.
Shortly before Wednesday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing began, Trump tweeted, “NEVER TRUMPERS!” He offered no evidence.
Representative Eric Swalwell, a Democrat, asked both men if Trump’s claim was true.
State Department official George Kent responded that he’s served under three Republican and two Democratic presidents during his 27 years of service. He said he serves “whatever president is duly elected” and carries out their foreign policies.
William Taylor answered, “No sir”. Taylor is the top US diplomat in Ukraine and was recruited by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to serve there.