First public hearings in Trump impeachment inquiry to begin next week

A House resolution formalizing procedures for the probe as it entered a new phase passed last week, largely along party lines.

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By Rebecca Shabad and Dartunorro Clark

WASHINGTON — Public hearings in Congress will begin next Wednesday in the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Wednesday.

The first open hearing, to be held Nov. 13, is slated to feature testimony from career diplomat William Taylor and State Department official George Kent. The second hearing, scheduled for Nov. 15, is expected to include testimony from former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

Schiff said that there would be additional announcements of witnesses expected to testify publicly.

“These will be the first of the public hearings,” he told reporters in a brief statement outside the secure room in the basement of the Capitol where David Hale was testifying Wednesday in his closed-door deposition.

According to the House Intelligence Committee’s website, both hearings are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. ET on both days. The House is currently on recess until next week.

Schiff said that he thought the public would see that the “most important facts are largely not contested” in the Ukraine case, which involves Trump enlisting his administration to participate in the “illicit” effort to get Ukraine to dig up dirt about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

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It will be an “opportunity for the American people to evaluate the witnesses themselves,” Schiff said.

He added that while Democrats are moving forward with the “open phase” of the impeachment inquiry, they are still in the process of gathering depositions.

Taylor currently serves as the chargé d'affaires for Ukraine, and Kent serves as the deputy assistant secretary in the State Department’s European and Eurasian bureau. Taylor testified before the three congressional committees conducting the depositions last month that Trump directed officials to tie foreign aid to Ukraine to demands that the country open an investigation into the Biden family and the 2016 election.

Taylor told lawmakers that "it was becoming clear" to him as early as July that almost $400 million of U.S. military aid to Ukraine was being withheld on the condition that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy commit to investigating the Burisma energy company, as well as a conspiracy theory about alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.

Kent testified a few days earlier that he was told to “lay low” by a superior when he raised concerns about Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, who played a key role in pressuring Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and the 2016 conspiracy theory.

Yovanovitch, who served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from August 2016 until May 2019, testified before the committee last month. According to the transcript released this week of her deposition, she told lawmakers that the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, told her she should tweet out support or praise for Trump if she wanted to save her job. Yovanovitch, however, was removed from her diplomatic post in May.

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Schiff’s announcement comes after the House passed a resolution last week largely along party lines outlining procedures for the probe as it entered a new, public phase.

The eight-page resolution specified that the Intelligence Committee would handle the public hearings of witnesses in the Ukraine case and laid out the general format, which specifically permits Democratic and Republican staff counsels to question witnesses for periods of up to 45 minutes per side.

The resolution also gives the minority party the same rights to question witnesses that the majority has, "as has been true at every step of the inquiry," Democrats said in a fact sheet about the measure.

In addition, the measure would allow the president or his counsel to participate in the impeachment proceedings held by the House Judiciary Committee, which has the authority to advance articles of impeachment against the president. The resolution explicitly states that the Judiciary panel will decide whether articles of impeachment should be reported to the full House.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said last week that Democrats have not yet decided whether they will actually impeach the president, and according to Bloomberg, she didn’t rule out the possibility that the inquiry would spill into 2020, a major presidential election year.

“I don’t know what the timetable will be — the truth will set us free,” she said at a roundtable hosted by Bloomberg News. “We have not made any decisions on if the president will be impeached.”