- During President Donald Trump’s first impeachment hearing, members from both sides of the aisle thought their side won. The take-homes are interesting as to leave you with who won when as you read through.
The House Intelligence Committee wrapped up the hearing after over five hours of testimony from State Department official George Kent and Ambassador Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine.
On Wednesday’s hearing, Democrats and Republicans presented consistent arguments and lines of questioning.
Republican’s line of questioning maintains the consistent themes of attempting to defend Trump and undermine the Democrats evidence that Trump committed an impeachable offence.
Republicans argue that the assistance aid allegedly held up as leverage for politically-motivated investigations was delivered to Ukraine without any investigations and that the Ukrainian government was unaware of the stall in aid at the time of the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukraine’s leader. That call, they say, shows there was “something for something.” At issue is whether Trump should be impeached for withholding $391 million in aid money (the quid) in order to compel Ukraine to investigate the business dealings of Joe Biden’s son (the quo).
Republicans have argued that Hunter Biden was completely unqualified to be a highly paid board member at a Ukrainian gas company. They submitted such argument because Former Vice President Joe Biden’s role in pressuring Ukraine to oust a top prosecutor and his son Hunter Biden’s seat on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma is a key focus for Republicans, who have requested to subpoena the younger Biden.
It was quite surprising that George Kent and William Taylor can’t name a single qualification Hunter Biden had to be on the board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma.
Republicans further argued that witnesses who claim their information was first hand never spoken directly to Trump or his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who is argued to have orchestrated negative narratives about Ukraine that drove an “irregular” channel of foreign policy.
However, House Democratic lawmakers set out to display evidence to the public that Trump asking Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son was not only wrong but also a crime.
Democrats sought to use this hearing to lay the groundwork for the upcoming hearing by displaying how Ukraine policy works from the experience of these two-lifetime public officials and explaining why a good relationship with Ukraine is important for the U.S.
Democrats countered all that republicans tried to undermine on the witness through-line of questionings.
They asked Kent and Taylor whether they thought the plan to withhold the security aid to Ukraine in exchange for these investigations was wrong, to which Taylor simply answered, “Yes.”
Rep. Swalwell, D-Calif., asked, “Just about an hour before the two of you sat down to testify today, the president tweeted multiple times about this hearing and he put in all caps, ‘NEVER TRUMPERS.’ Mr Kent, are you a ‘never Trumper?”
Kent responded that he is a career public servant “who serves whatever president is duly elected and carries out the foreign policies of that president in the United States, and I’ve done that for 27 years for three Republican presidents and two Democrat presidents.”
In an identical line of questioning, Taylor responded simply, “No, sir.”
Congressional Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif asked Taylor whether he understood if Sondland’s response meant Trump cares more about the Biden investigations than Ukraine.
To that, Taylor responded, “Yes, sir.”
Democrats also focused on debunking some of the theories that Republicans have been pushing as a means to poke holes in the legitimacy of the inquiry itself.
Kent testified that “there is no factual basis” to the allegation that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election after being asked by the majority’s counsel Daniel Goldman.
When questioned about the factual basis that Biden stopped the prosecution into Burisma to benefit his son, Kent stated there was, “None whatsoever” and that Biden acted “in accordance with official U.S. policy” by firing the prosecutor.
Democrats sought to strengthen their defence against Republican claims that they aren’t relying on witnesses with firsthand evidence by reminding them that Trump’s White House has sought to block a majority of the witnesses who do have firsthand knowledge of the events from testifying, including Trump’s chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney.
Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill, asked Kent and Taylor to confirm that both had been asked by the State Department not to appear before the committee. Both said they appeared because they had a legal obligation to do so.
Quigley then addressed Republican committee members regarding other potential witnesses who might have firsthand knowledge of the information but whom he said had been blocked from appearing.
“We were not able to hear testimony by Chief of Staff Mulvaney, John Eisenberg, Michael Ellis, John Bolton, more than a dozen witnesses. So I suspect if you have a problem with hearsay, you’d have a lot more direct testimony and direct evidence if you weren’t blocking that ability. You’d have a lot more documents, documents that you referred to with my colleagues’ questions, that had not yet been turned over by the state or any other agency.”