Diplomats testify in first public impeachment inquiry hearing against President Donald Trump

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WASHINGTON (CBS Newspath) — The Democrat-led House held its first public impeachment inquiry hearing against President Donald Trump.

Two career diplomats testified Wednesday about the president’s actions with Ukraine as the impeachment inquiry played out before the cameras.

Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, said it was his understanding President Trump froze military assistance to Ukraine to pressure the country’s new leader to launch politically motivated investigations. Taylor revealed new information about a phone call his staffer overheard  between Trump and European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland.

“Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine.  Mr. Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden,” Taylor said.

Democrats, led by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, said the goal of the inquiry is to see if President Trump’s actions amount to an abuse of power.

“Is this what Americans should now expect from their president? If this is not impeachable conduct what is?” Schiff asked.

“When a defense does emerge, it looks a little like this.  Ukraine is a corrupt country and the president was just acting in a long, a long tradition of actually trying to address corruption in Ukraine,” said Rep. Jim Himes, D-Connecticut.

But Republicans called the hearing a theatrical performance by Democrats. They challenged Taylor’s testimony, saying Ukraine never felt pressured.

“This is a carefully orchestrated media smear campaign,” said Rep. Devin Nunes, R-California.

“No matter how many witnesses they bring here, the facts will not change, have not changed, will never change,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. “The call shows no linkage between dollars and the investigation into Biden.  President Trump and President Zelensky have both said on the call there was no linkage, no pressure no pushing.”

During the hearing, President Trump mounted a vigorous defense from the White House and dismissed the proceedings

“I’m too busy to watch it. It’s a witch hunt. It’s a hoax.  I am sure I will get a report,” he said.

The other witness, diplomat George Kent, testified about the involvement of Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney

“It became clear to me that Giuliani’s efforts to gin up politically motivated investigations were now infecting U.S. engagement with Ukraine,” Kent said.

Kent accused Giuliani of spreading lies about former u.s. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch to get her removed from her post. She is scheduled to testify Friday.

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