IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS: WEEK 1 WRAP-UP

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By Miriam Raftery

November 15, 2019 (Washington D.C.) – The House Intelligence Committee held its first open impeachment hearings this week into allegations that President Donald Trump abused his powers by withholding military aide from the Ukraine and potentially committing bribery for personal gain. The President is accused of pressuring Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.

You can view full video coverage and highlights of the impeachment hearings on C-Span at https://www.c-span.org/impeachment/.

Below are summaries and highlights of this week’s testimony, as well as reactions from leading Congressional Democrats and Republicans:

Chairman Adam Schiff opened the impeachment inquiry by noting the strategic importance of the Ukraine to both the U.S. and Russia. “In 2014, Russia invaded a United States ally, Ukraine, to reverse that nation’s embrace of the West and to fulfill Vladimir Putin’s desire to rebuild a Russian empire,” the Democratic Senator stated. Since then, the Ukraine has sought protection from Europe and the U.S. against Russian aggression.

Withholding military aide from the Ukraine to combat Russian separatists benefitted Russia, a hostile power on Ukraine's border, as well as potentially benefitting Trump’s reelection aspirations.

On Wednesday, the committee heard testimony from Bill Taylor, senior U.S. diplomat in the Ukraine, and George Kent, senior State Department official.  View Taylor and Kent’s testimony on C-Span.

The President has attacked the impeachment inquiry as a “sham” and “hoax.” 

He has defended his July 25 call with Ukraine’s president as “perfect.” A rough transcript released by the White House (based on notes and transcription software) confirms Trump asked Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden, son of former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democratic contender in the 2020 presidential election.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday called the call “perfectly wrong,” adding of the President’s actions, “It’s bribery.” The Speaker insisted that offering to grant or withhold military aid in exchange for a public statement harmful to an election rival is bribery.

The rhetoric ratchets up the stakes, since bribery is one of two specific “high crimes or misdemeanors” mentioned in the U.S. Constitution as impeachable offenses (along with treason).

But some Republicans continue to defend Trump, including Senator John Ratcliff of Texas.  “"Where is the impeachable offense in that call?" Ratcliffe asked Taylor.

Taylor’s testimony revealed  a conversation between Trump and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union which Taylor’s aide reportedly overhead in a Kiev restaurant. The call occurred just one day after Trump’s previously disclosed call with Zelenky in which Trump asked Zelensky to investigate Biden at a time when Trump had inexplicably ordered that military aide approved by Congress be withheld.

Taylor testified that there was “no national security reason” and “no good policy reason” to withhold the military aide, contradicting the White House. He added that in his 50 years of public service, he never saw foreign aid contingent on a president’s political or personal interests. In the conversation between Trump and Sondland, the aide told Taylor that Trump asked Sondland for an update on when the Ukranians might announce investigations into Biden.

According to Taylor, Ambassador Sondland later told Taylor’s aide that Trump “cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for” than about the Ukraine.

Associated Press reports that a second U.S. embassy official also overhead the July 26 conversation with Sondland, in which reportedly asked about investigations. Asked about that phone call,  Trump as dismissive, stating. “First I’ve heard of it,” Time Magazine reports.

Kent and Taylor’s testimony also documented finding an “irregular channel” to the Ukraine organized by Giuliani that raised alarm among senior diplomats and national security experts.  They also voiced concern over Trump’s firing of the U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, who has spent many of her 33 years of diplomatic service combatting corruption in the Ukraine.

Giuliani, the President’s personal lawyer involved in pressuring the Ukraine to investigate Biden, is also under federal investigation by the New York Attorney’s office he once led, the New York Times reported today.  He is reportedly being investigation for possibly violating bribery laws involving a foreign government, as well as violations of campaign finance laws and failing to register as a foreign agent.

On Friday, former Ambassador Yovanovitch defied an order from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not to appear. She testified at the impeachment hearing to defend her record. During her testimony, Trump released a volley of Tweets attacking Yovanovitch, claiming that “everywhere” she went matters “turned bad” from Somalia to the Ukraine. She testified she believed she was ousted due to efforts by Giuliani and says she was the target of a smear campaign, receiving a standing ovation from the audience when she finished. (View C-Span video)

She was hosting an event at her Kyiev home honoring an anti-corruption activist killed in an acid attack when she received word of concerns about her security; she was ordered to return to the U.S. and then removed from her post without explanation.

Even Republican Senators seemed flummoxed by her firing and did not attack her credibility during the  hearing.  Some praised Yovanovitch for her years of service. Politico reports, ““You're tough as nails and you're smart as hell,” said Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas)….”You are an honor to the foreign service. You are an honor to your country.”

“I appreciate your years of service and enduring years of moving around the world to dangerous places,” said Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), who sympathized with her abrupt removal by comparing it to his own sudden deployment to Iraq in 2005.

Yovanovitch told Chairman Schiff that the President’s attacks while she was testifying were “very intimidating,” prompting Schiff to respond, Some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously.”

Those remarks came on the same day that Trump ally Roger Stone was found guilty on seven federal counts of lying to Congress to protect Trump and witness tampering, including a written death threat texted to a witness during the Congressional hearing on the Mueller report of alleged Trump-Russia ties.  Stone could face up to 50 years in federal prison.

Republicans in Congress have shifted their strategy on impeachment. First, leaders demanded an open impeachment proceeding, criticizing Democrats for holding initial stages behind closed doors (as Republicans did during the early stages of President Bll Clinton’s proceedings.)

Later they argued there was no evidence of a quid pro quo.  Then evidence mounted that there was, with at least four witnesses in closed door hearings confirming allegations made first by an anonymous whistleblower,  reportedly a CIA agent working in the White House.

During the public hearings, Republican Senators challenged testimony as “hearsay” though later speakers scheduled to appear, including Sondland, did have direct access to Trump and may corroborate or refute testimony given thus far. Others reported to have direct knowledge have defied subpoenas and refused to testify, on the Trump administration orders, including White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who confirmed a quid pro quo during a news conference last week but later backtracked on his statement.

It is not yet clear how long the committee proceedings will take. While Republicans are allowed to call witnesses, such request must be approved by the Democrats, a point that Republicans have objected to as unfair.

If the full House votes to impeach, the Constitution mandates that a trial must be conducted by the Senate. There, the advantage shifts to Republicans, who have the majority and can set the rules for the trial.

No president has ever been removed from office, though two underwent impeachment trials: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998.  Johnson was accused of defying a federal law by firing his Secretary of War without Congressional approval. Clinton was approved of lying under oath about an affair with a White House intern.  Both acts of wrongdoing were found not serious enough to be “high crimes or misdemeanors” as the Constitution dictates should be the standard for impeachment.

Richard Nixon resigned, however, in 1974 after members of his own party in Congress warned that he would be impeached if he did not step down. Evidence indicated Nixon covered up knowledge of a break in at Democratic party headquarters in the Watergate hotel for political gain during Nixon’s reelection campaign.

To remove Trump from office would require a two-thirds vote of all Senators present during the vote – a high bar that would require some Republican votes. The outcome may hinge on public opinion in closely divided districts represented by Republicans.

Sources:

https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/13/politics/impeachment-path-forward/index.html

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-50419668

https://thehill.com/homenews/house/470650-schiff-suggests-trump-tweets-amount-to-witness-intimidation

https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/470636-yovanovitch-responds-to-trump-tweets-at-hearing-says-hes-trying-to

https://www.npr.org/2019/11/15/778497217/the-white-house-just-released-a-log-of-trumps-first-call-with-zelenskiy

https://consortiumnews.com/2019/11/14/ray-mcgovern-ukraine-for-dummies/

https://time.com/5728943/pelosi-trump-impeachment-bribery/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/roger-stone-jury-weighs-evidence-and-a-defense-move-to-make-case-about-mueller/2019/11/15/554fff5a-06ff-11ea-8292-c46ee8cb3dce_story.html

 

 

Comments

The truth about the fake whistleblower.

Here's some facts regarding your whistleblower Eric Ciaramella:
  1. He was sent by John Brennan to the White House
  2. He worked for Susan Rice
  3. He advised Joe Biden on "Ukraine policy"
  4. He invited DNC operative Alexandra Chalup to the NSC
  5. He Coordinated illegally with Adam Schiff as a fake whistleblower
Complete BS, and the only dolts buying it are fooling no one but themselves.

Good grief, Gene.

Thanks for another useless anti-conservative post that has nothing to do with the current conversation. Give yourself a pat on the back, feel better.

It's relevant in showing how propaganda

Can prevent truth from getting out at some (not all) media outlets.  To fire a radio host for pointing out corruption is exactly the opposite of what journalism is all about.  Since this thread is about the President's actions and this host was fired for talking about that very subject, it is on point.

I respectfully disagree

We're talking about elected officials and appointed government employees and you're comparing a citizen working in the private sector, this is apples and oranges. You've both also swallowed the assumption that this individual was fired for expressing his political viewpoint and while that may to true, I'm skeptical. While I admittedly know nothing about this man, or the network he's employed by, I do know they're well within their rights to terminate his employment if he's failed to do the job he was hired to do. Simple research would indicate that this was a staged event, designed to gain some spotlight while transitioning to his next gig. Here's a direct quote from one of his coworkers Steffan Tubs "Craig - you are better than this. You know today had NOTHING to do with what you said. That false narrative damages the industry. Why not let everyone know where you'll be on air next week and everyone can move on. This was planned for days... by YOU. And a few select others..." Sounds to me like there's another side to this story, imagine that.

Whistleblower ID

has not been confirmed by anyone. There's speculation only.

Whistleblower identities are protected under federal law. It is the job of an investigative body (in this case Congress) to determine if there is enough independent corroboration of a whistleblower's claims through on-record witnesses and documents. In this case so far,  many witnesses have confirmed the accuracy of what the whistleblower claimed and not a single one who has testified has refuted any of it, though some have dodged showing up.  So even if the whistleblower turned out to be someone who might have a perception of bias (which has not been shown) the independent verification is substantial, from at least a half dozen different sources under oath as well as documentation. The president's own words and actions are not helping his cause. Dems could easily add tampering with a witness to their list of impeachable offenses after the president sent intimidating messages during the former Ukrainian ambassador's testimony. 

This was a pre-planned event, plain and simple.

Prior to the current “whistleblower complaint” the Intelligence Community Inspector General did not accept whistle-blower claims without first hand knowledge. However, the ICIG revised the protocol in August 2019 right after the presidents July 25th phone call with the Ukrainian president, allowing for the EXACT type of complaint now registered from the CIA whistleblower. The timing here is far too coincidental. This was a set-up, plain and simple and if you refuse to accept that fact, you're only fooling yourself. Those previous requirements of firsthand knowledge were in place for this very reason, to keep political operatives from making shit up just to suit their narrative, or trigger an investigation in order to influence public perception. That's all this is, a show. The Dems know full well that if by chance it made it to the Senate, it would be their (GOP) turn to subpoena witnesses, and time for retaliation, and they (DEMS) don't want that as it would be a disaster for them. This is nothing but a distraction, which will go nowhere, and they knew that from the start. And regarding Biden, he's crooked as hell, even Obama knew that and was worried. Do you think it's a mystery why Obama has refused to endorse his on Vice President? No mystery there, its because he knows about his family dealings and the Bidens are toxic to Obama's legacy. Eric Ciaramella IS the whistleblower, and Adam Schiff lied this week when he claimed to not know his identity too. Just wait until the IG report drops in the coming weeks, and the Barr/Durham report after that....then we'll really have some things to talk about. Real crimes followed by real indictments, get your popcorn ready.

Not true.

In fact, whistleblower complaints have never required first-hand knowledge from the whistleblower—this isn’t a requirement in the statute. What was on an older version of the whistleblower report form was a notice that the office of the ISIG would need to verify any wrongdoing with firsthand accounts before taking action. In this case, the ISIG was able to verify the information in the report by talking to people with firsthand knowledge. Congress never changed the whistleblower statute, and the only thing that changed on the form was the notice to potential whistleblowers.

Agreed, sort of....

I understand that the law was not changed, but the form was and I think that's telling.

I believe I already know what the truth is

I think you've missed the bigger picture as to what this show is all about, but that's okay, we have different viewpoints. I guess we'll just have to wait and see where this goes, but considering your Party's track record, (Russian Collusion, The Mueller Report, Obstruction of Justice etc.) I like my chances.

I know what the Truth is

Donald will never, in a million years, testify in person before Congress. He can only show his Apostles that he is who he claims to be if he keeps tight control over the narrative/fantasies.

What an absolute clown show.

If you're a Democrat watching Republicans like Stefanik dismantle Schiff's clown show even in a rigged House show trial, you've got to be scared to death about what happens if the show moves to the Senate. This is as good as it gets for you, Democrats. Two days into the most favorable venue you'll ever have, with rules written 100% in your favor, you're reduced to calling "witnesses" who didn't witness anything and sobbing about your hurt feelings as your asses get handed to you. The only witness with any first hand knowledge (Sondland) they refused to call this week and do you know why? Because he repeatedly testified under oath that President Trump told him there was no quid pro quo. He won't help their case when he testifies next week either. You're running secret polls to find out what bullshit charges you need to whip up to get anyone except your media pals interested in the proceedings. You don't even remember what the hearings were supposed to be about. You're trying to convince people tweets are impeachable. This is two days into the show you scripted and produced yourselves, with the biggest media publicity push you were ever going to get, and you're reduced to telling the American people that firing bureaucrats is a crime and investigating corruption is an outrage. The good news for us is that it's not working. The media has lost all credibility with the American people, the Democrats chose an insane, lying, bug eyed freak to be the face of this disaster, and the Republicans came prepared to fight back. People see right through this stuff. What happens when this moves to the Senate and the Democrat Party isn't running the show any more? What happens when cretins like Adam Schiff get called under oath? You know what happens, and if you aren't scared to death, you're not thinking straight.