The vote followed weeks of testimony related to the president's efforts to press Ukraine for investigations into Democratic rivals and hours of fiery debate over the process.
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The man questioning Taylor is Daniel Goldman, the Democrats’ lead impeachment hearing lawyer and the point man for grilling witnesses about Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine. Goldman will have up to 45 minutes to question the witnesses. He cut his teeth prosecuting mobsters and also was an assistant U.S. attorney in Manhattan. Goldman was previously an analyst for MSNBC. The GOP has tapped Stephen Castor, general counsel for the House Oversight Committee, to be its lead.
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70d ago / 5:43 PM UTC
New impeachment depositions announced for this week
Midway through the hearing, Democrats added two more impeachment depositions to their docket.
Per two officials working on the impeachment inquiry:
David Holmes is expected to testify in closed session on Friday, Nov. 15.
Mark Sandy is expected to testify in a closed session on Saturday, Nov. 16.
As the counselor for political affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, Holmes works directly with Taylor. Taylor testified earlier in Wednesday's hearing that an unnamed staffer overheard Trump on a phone call asking Sondland about the "investigations."
Sandy is an OMB official.
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71d ago / 4:51 PM UTC
About that phone call...
Sondland calling Trump on a cellphone from Kyiv is extraordinary for all sorts of reasons. Normally EU Ambos don’t call presidents. They never do so to discuss Ukraine policy. Doing so on a cellphone from Kyiv means whole world was listening in.
That lawyer, Mark S. Zaid, in 2017 tweeted that he believed a “coup” was beginning when Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates was fired for refusing to defend an executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.
There’s no evidence Zaid called for, encouraged, or incited any kind of action against the president. In a statement to Fox News, Zaid said “the coup comment referred to those working inside the Administration who were already, just a week into office, standing up to him to enforce recognized rules of law.”
Trump’s video also included a call to action: read the transcript of the July 25 call with the president of Ukraine that in part inspired the whistleblower's complaint. There is no transcript — there is a White House memo detailing the contents of call. It is not a complete transcript, according to the White House's own description.
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71d ago / 4:55 PM UTC
Schiff presses Taylor on overheard call between Trump and Sondland
Following Taylor’s opening statement, Schiff pressed him for details and clarity on his revelation that one of his staffers had overheard a July 26 conversation between Sondland and Trump in which the president asked about “the investigations.”
Schiff asked Taylor if “the investigations” referred to desired probes into the Bidens and a conspiracy related to the 2016 election.
"Has the President committed offenses, and planned, and directed, and acquiesced in a course of conduct which the Constitution will not tolerate? That's the question. We know that. We know the question. We should now forthwith proceed to answer the question."—Barbara Jordan, 1974 pic.twitter.com/4h1L7yq3Ol
Taylor shared several new pieces of information in his opening statement Wednesday, including his belief that White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was an integral part of an “irregular” communication channel between Washington and Kyiv and that the Ukrainians were “ready to move forward” with the probes desired by the White House.
Taylor, however, also reiterated his belief that he felt it was “clear” that a proposed White House meeting between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was tied to launching investigations into the Bidens and a conspiracy theory about alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election — information he shared in his closed-door testimony in October.
“By mid-July it was becoming clear to me that the meeting President Zelenskiy wanted was conditioned on the investigations of Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. It was also clear that this condition was driven by the irregular policy channel I had come to understand was guided by Mr. Giuliani,” Taylor testified Wednesday.
That “irregular” channel also included Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine; Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland; Energy Secretary Rick Perry — and Mulvaney.
Revealing new information, Taylor also testified that one of his staffers heard Sondland on the phone on July 26 with Trump and could hear Trump ask about “the investigations.” Sondland told Trump in the overheard conversation that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward with the desired investigations.
The staffer then asked Sondland what Trump thought about Ukraine and Sondland said that “Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden.”
Earlier in his opening statement, Taylor reiterated that “withholding security assistance in exchange for help with a domestic political campaign in the U.S. would be crazy.”
Fighting Putin: Taylor explains why U.S. aide to Ukraine really matters
Bill Taylor provided something few others have for the American public: an easy-to-understand explanation of the importance of U.S. aid to Ukraine.
It wasn't quite as simple as "Vlad is bad," but it was close. "It is clearly in our national interest to deter further Russian aggression," Taylor said in his opening statement.
He explained how a corrupt pro-Russian Ukrainian president allowed the military to atrophy and then fled to Russia in 2014 just before Vladimir Putin annexed parts of Ukraine and pushed his forces into others. But the Ukrainian people, with the support of the West, have fought back.
"In response to the Russian invasion, the new Ukrainian authorities — with an amazing outpouring of support from regular Ukrainian people — rebuilt the army, nearly from scratch, spending more than 5 percent of Ukrainian GDP on defense since the war started," Taylor said.
"The whole Ukrainian nation fiercely responded to the Russian attack. The nation united like never before. A rag-tag army developed into a strong fighting force. And the United States played a vital role."
Taylor testified that it would be "crazy" to withhold security assistance to Ukraine to serve a domestic political end.
The attacks are ongoing, he said, noting that he had been on the front line last week, and he pointed out that the aid is a signal that "we are Ukraine’s reliable strategic partner." By withholding aid, he said, the U.S. would undermine and humiliate the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, which would benefit and please Russia.
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Allan Smith and Josh Lederman
71d ago / 5:32 PM UTC
Taylor reveals call between Sondland and Trump discussing Biden probe
Taylor made new revelations about Trump’s Ukraine conduct in his opening statement Wednesday, detailing a phone call between the president and Sondland where they discussed the Biden "investigations."
Taylor said he only recently learned of these comments, which occurred on July 26. Taylor said a member of his staff who accompanied Sondland to a meeting with a top Ukrainian diplomat told him of the remarks last Friday.
“Following that meeting, in the presence of my staff at a restaurant, Ambassador Sondland called President Trump and told him of his meetings in Kyiv,” Taylor said. “The member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone, asking Ambassador Sondland about ‘the investigations.’ Ambassador Sondland told President Trump that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.”
“Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine,” Taylor continued. “Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for. At the time I gave my deposition on Oct. 22, I was not aware of this information. I am including it here for completeness.”
Trump had asked Zelenskiy in their July 25 call to investigate a debunked conspiracy theory about Democrats and the 2016 election as well as former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.