The fast-moving impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, stemming from the president's dealings with Ukraine, involves numerous hearings, depositions and subpoenas of present and former top administration officials and other figures, more than a few presidential tweets — and now articles of impeachment.
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President Donald Trump said Wednesday afternoon he hadn't had time to watch the first public impeachment hearings.
"I'm too busy to watch it," he told reporters in the Oval Office during a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, less than three hours after the session began on Capitol Hill. "It's a witch hunt, it's a hoax. I'm too busy to watch it, so I'm sure I'll get a report."
Despite his claim that he hadn't been able to watch the proceedings, the president did take a jab at the Democratic staffer questioning witnesses.
"I see that they are using lawyers that are television lawyers ...they took some guys off television," said Trump. "You know, I'm not surprised to see it, because Schiff can't do his own questions."
Castor has served as counsel for Oversight for 14 years, and helped question witnesses during its probes of the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi and into allegations the IRS was focusing on political targets during the Obama administration.
He earned his law degree from George Washington University, and previously worked doing commercial litigation in Philadelphia and Washington, according to a biography on the Federalist Society website. Castor is listed as a contributor to the conservative group.
Transcripts from the closed-door depositions in the impeachment inquiry to date show Castor repeatedly trying to get witnesses to give identifying information about the whistleblower who raised a red flag about President Donald Trump’s July 25 phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart. That's led to some tense exchanges, including during the testimony from Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on National Security Council.
At one point, Castor asked Vindman to whom he had expressed his concerns about the July 25 call, a question Vindman’s lawyer objected to, believing it was an effort to get Vindman to name the whistleblower.
"If you want to keep going down this road, we're going to just keep objecting, OK?" Vindman's lawyer said.
"There's a little bit of a disconnect, because in your statement you say you don't know who the whistleblower is," Castor replied.
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Josh Lederman and Garrett Haake
27d ago / 6:14 PM UTC
State Dept. official testifying Friday is staffer who overheard Trump-Sondland call
Two sources familiar with the matter tells NBC News that David Holmes, the State Department official just added to the calendar to testify in closed session next week, is the staffer for Bill Taylor who overheard E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s phone call in which President Trump asked about "the investigations."
Holmes is a new character in the Ukraine saga. He is the counselor for political affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine. As today’s hearing was getting underway, two officials working on the impeachment inquiry told NBC News that Holmes is expected to testify in closed session next Friday, Nov. 15.
At the same time, Taylor was revealing that one of his own staffers had informed him just last Friday about a phone call on July 26, in which the staffer was with Sondland and overheard a call between Sondland and Trump.
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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27d ago / 5:41 PM UTC
Kent: 'No factual basis' behind CrowdStrike conspiracy theory
Kent, responding to questions from Goldman, said he "had not heard of CrowdStrike until l read the transcript" of the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy.
Taylor said Trump felt "wronged" by Ukraine over the 2016 election and "this was something he felt they owed him to fix," meaning opening the investigations.
However, when Fiona Hill, the deputy assistant to the president who served on the National Security Council, testified during her closed-door hearing last month, she said top advisers had briefed Trump that the evidence did not support the theory that Ukraine meddled in the election.
Hill said that Tom Bossert, then Homeland Security adviser, and others had briefed the president during his first year in office on the interference in the 2016 election and debunked the conspiracy theory that Ukraine had interfered in the election.
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27d ago / 5:22 PM UTC
Hoyer: Trump has created 'a cesspool of corruption, chaos and crisis'
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer held his weekly off-camera briefing with reporters today and was asked about a variety of topics including impeachment hearings, timeline of the inquiry, government funding and the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.
He said he has asked members not to schedule anything for the week of Dec. 16. He was asked several questions on the public perception of impeachment.
"This is not about polls," he said. "This is about each member deciding whether or not they believe the conduct clearly corroborated by many, many witnesses rises to high crimes and misdemeanors."
Hoyer also said: "The president said he was going to get rid of the swamp. What he has created is a cesspool of corruption, chaos and crisis."
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27d ago / 5:41 PM UTC
The point when Taylor says it was ‘clear' release of aid was conditioned on probes
While Taylor learned on July 18 from the Office of Management and Budget that security assistance was being held up for an unspecified reason, he said Wednesday that he didn’t understand until early September that the release of the money was conditioned on Ukraine investigating the Bidens and a 2016 election conspiracy theory.
Goldman had asked Taylor about the moment in September after Vice President Mike Pence met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Warsaw.
Taylor replied that he learned that after that meeting, Sondland had meetings in Warsaw and described to Andriy Yermak, assistant to Zelenskiy, that the U.S. security assistance was also held up “pending announcement” by Zelenskiy in public of these investigations.
Taylor said that before that point, he only understood that a possible Trump-Zelenskiy meeting at the White House was conditioned on pursuing those investigations. But it was after the Sept. 1 meeting between Pence and Zelenskiy that it became "clear" to him that both the military aid and the possible face-to-face meeting was dependent on the announcement of those probes.
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Tim Fitzsimons and Alexander Kacala
27d ago / 5:15 PM UTC
Drag queen sashays into Trump impeachment hearings
Spotted towering over the gray and blue suits packed into the first day of President Donald Trump’s impeachment hearing was an enormous blond wig — that of Pissi Myles, a drag performer from Asbury Park, New Jersey.
“It’s a crazy day in Washington! I’m flipping my wig over the high-energy proceedings today," Myles told NBC News. "Tensions are high, and the bar for who’s allowed in the Longworth House is very, very low.”
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27d ago / 5:10 PM UTC
Taylor gives several instances where Sondland says there was no quid pro quo then goes on to describe a quid pro quo where security assistance was continent on Biden, 2016 investigations
Taylor explains what Sondland meant by "stalemate"
Goldman pressed Taylor by what he felt the word "stalemate" meant when Sondland used it during a Sept. 8 phone call with Taylor.
"Ambassador Sondland also said that he had talked to President Zelenskiy and Mr. Yermak and had told them that, although this was not a quid pro quo, if President Zelenskiy did not 'clear things up in public, we would be at a stalemate,'" Taylor had said in his opening statement. Andriy Yermak is a top adviser to the Ukrainian president.
"What I understood, in that meeting, the meaning of stalemate is that the security assistance would not come," Taylor said in response to Goldman’s question.