In Ukraine, leaders struggle to keep their heads down amid U.S. impeachment circus

KYIV, Ukraine — With Washington consumed by a frenzied political circus fueled by impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, the Ukrainian government thrust into the middle of the scandal has a single, plaintive request: Please leave us out of it.

In the Ukrainian capital, the impeachment saga has emerged as a sword of Damocles for new President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, with each new wrinkle and disclosure before Congress threatening to pull his government further into the morass. For Ukrainian leaders, there is no upside but plenty of downside to becoming the latest cudgel in Washington’s deeply polarized political battleground.

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What's coming up in the presidential impeachment inquiry

We're watching for a press conference by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., which is scheduled for 10:45 a.m. on Thursday. It will be followed by one by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., at 11:30 a.m. 

We’re also on the lookout for the testimony transcripts of career diplomat Phillip Reeker, President Donald Trump's top adviser for Russian and European affairs, Tim Morrison, and David Hale, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, among others. It is not clear which, if any, will be released  today.

DOD watchdog will not investigate aid to Ukraine, cites impeachment inquiry overlap

The inspector general's office for the Department of Defense is declining to open an investigation into the department's delay in providing military assistance funds to Ukraine, but will leave the door open to beginning one in the future.

The department's lead inspector announced the decision in a letter sent to Sen. Dick Durbin Tuesday night, on the eve of the first day of public impeachment hearings.

Durban and a group of senators first requested that the inspector general open an investigation into the delay in September, then again earlier this month. In his two page letter, Acting Inspector General Glenn Fine noted that the same topic is one of the key issues in the impeachment inquiry currently underway in the House of Representatives.

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Watch highlights from first public impeachment hearing: Kent and Taylor

Schiff, Jordan react after first public impeachment hearing

Trump said he heard public testimony was 'a joke'

Trump said that although he didn't watch the first open hearing in the House impeachment inquiry Wednesday, he heard it was "a joke" and said he still wanted to learn the identity of the intelligence community whistleblower whose complaint sparked the impeachment investigation.

"I hear it's a joke. I haven't watched, I haven't watched for one minute because I've been with the president which is much more important as far as I am concerned," Trump said, speaking to reporters at the White House alongside Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "This is a sham, and it shouldn't be allowed."

"I want to find out who is the whistleblower, and because the whistleblower gave a lot of very incorrect information, including my call with the president of Ukraine, which was a perfect call and highly appropriate," Trump added.

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5 things we learned from George Kent and Bill Taylor's impeachment testimony

Bill Taylor and George Kent, the first two witnesses in the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump's dealings in Ukraine, testified for more than five hours Wednesday in a public hearing that saw both men share new — and sometimes shocking — pieces of information.

Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, and Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state who worked on Ukraine and five other countries, had previously testified last month, for hours, in a closed-door setting before the three committees leading the inquiry.

Here are five things we learned from their public appearance on Wednesday.

When was military aid for Ukraine released?

The whistleblower complaint, made by a still-anonymous member of the intelligence community about Trump's dealings with Ukraine, made its way to the White House by Sept. 9, Schiff said in his closing remarks. The existence of the complaint also became known to the House Intelligence Committee on that date,  which the White House also learned, Schiff added.  

Military aid for Ukraine was released "less than 48 hours later."

Democrats vote to table motion to subpoena the whistleblower

Bill Taylor departs after giving testimony

Bill Taylor, top diplomat to Ukraine, leaves after giving testimony at an impeachment hearing on Nov. 13, 2019.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters