White House looks both to be in the impeachment fray — and appear above it
WASHINGTON — White House aides and advisers said they believed that the first day of public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry on Wednesday weren't enough to change the minds of the public — or that of any Republicans in the Senate — as President Donald Trump tried to portray himself as someone mostly, at least for the moment, above the fray.
One White House aide called the day a "nothing-burger.” Others close to the White House said they doubted the testimony would alter anyone's opinion — even as they acknowledged that acting Ukrainian Ambassador Bill Taylor came across as a credible witness.
“Not one Senate vote was changed today,” said one person close to the White House.
Trump largely stuck to his scheduled counter-programming schedule of White House events, as the first public impeachment hearings unfolded on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. In between morning and afternoon tweetstorms quoting his favorite defenders, the president claimed he was “too busy” to watch the proceedings, spending much of the day in meetings with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, followed by a brief news conference.
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Far from the spotlight, how presidential candidates spent the impeachment hearing
Elizabeth Warren was campaigning in New Hampshire, Joe Biden was meeting with union members in Washington, and Andrew Yang appeared on a popular radio show in New York — but their candidacies were caught in the shadow of the public impeachment hearing.
Warren was in Concord on Wednesday, where she filed to officially get on the ballot in New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary. "I'm officially in!" she exclaimed, before answering reporters' questions about what was happening almost 500 miles away in Washington, where diplomats Bill Taylor and George Kent were testifying in the impeachment probe of President Donald Trump.
The split-screen day — 2020 candidates on the campaign trail, nationally televised impeachment proceedings back at the Capitol — gave the presidential contenders their first good look at the news tsunami they will be contending with for weeks and potentially months, even as voting in the early states draws near. And it shows how the large field of White House hopefuls will be forced to compete for attention as the effort to remove the president picks up steam.
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ANALYSIS: Plenty of substance but little drama on first day of impeachment hearings
WASHINGTON — It was substantive, but it wasn't dramatic.
In the reserved manner of veteran diplomats with Harvard degrees, Bill Taylor and George Kent opened the public phase of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Wednesday by bearing witness to a scheme they described as not only wildly unorthodox but also in direct contravention of U.S. interests.
"It is clearly in our national interest to deter further Russian aggression," Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and a decorated Vietnam War veteran, said in explaining why Trump's decision to withhold congressionally appropriated aid to the most immediate target of Russian expansionism didn't align with U.S. policy.
But at a time when Democrats are simultaneously eager to influence public opinion in favor of ousting the president and quietly apprehensive that their hearings could stall or backfire, the first round felt more like the dress rehearsal for a serious one-act play than the opening night of a hit Broadway musical. During five and a half hours of testimony, the two men delivered a wide-ranging discourse on America's interests in Eastern Europe, diplomatic protocol and democratic norms — and how they believe Trump subverted all of them in service of political goals.
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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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