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The Other Phone Call: Highlights of the First Public Trump Impeachment Hearing

You can find full footage of the hearing by CBS News here.

Information about the original July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky can be found here.

A guide to the various people and events in the Trump impeachment inquiry is available here

The first public hearing of the House impeachment inquiry took place Tuesday, November 13, and lasted for five and a half hours. The House Intelligence Committee questioned Bill Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, and George Kent, a U.S. diplomat who oversees European affairs, about Trump’s request that the Ukraine government investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden.

Taylor reported that, on July 26, the day after the Trump-Zelensky phone call, one of his staffers was in a restaurant at the Ukrainian capital of Kiev with Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. Sondland made a phone call to President Trump. The staffer apparently overheard Trump ask Sondland about “the investigations” into Joe Biden, and Sondland said that “the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.”

The staffer later asked Sondland about Trump’s thoughts on Ukraine, to which he responded, according to Taylor, that “President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for.” When asked by Chairman Schiff, Taylor confirmed that it was his understanding that President Trump cared more about investigating the Bidens than he did about foreign policy in Ukraine.

The staffer, whose name is reportedly David Holmes, will give a closed-door deposition to the committee on Friday.

Taylor also testified that foreign policy between the U.S. and Ukraine was split into two channels: one “regular” and one “highly irregular”. The “regular” channel was the formal provision of U.S. military aid to Ukraine. Taylor described the irregular channel as being “unaccountable to Congress” and said that it included Sondland, special envoy Kurt Volker, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

Taylor added that “official foreign policy of the United States was undercut by the irregular efforts led by Mr. Giuliani.”

Besides the knowledge of the phone call, another notable breakthrough of the hearing was when Kent testified about a smear campaign run by Giuliani against former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch earlier this year before she was eventually recalled. Yovanovitch will testify in a public hearing on Friday.

Though there were relatively few dramatic moments, it is worth noting that committee Democrats and Republicans have radically different perspectives on the same impeachment hearing. Democrats, led by Chairman Adam Schiff, focused on Trump’s conduct as reported by Taylor and Kent. Republicans, especially Representative Devin Nunes, called into question the validity of evidence from “hearsay”. Rep. Mark Meadows, a Republican, notably said that “everybody has their impression of what truth is.”

Next week, the committee will fit five hearings into three days, in which Sondland and Volker will testify.

Image screenshotted from CBS coverage of the hearing.

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