Day 4 of Trump Public Impeachment Hearings

November 20, 2019 - 4:12 am

Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, is testifying Wednesday morning.

The public impeachment hearings continue Wednesday, starting off with a couple more days of testimony.

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He revised his closed-door testimony from October earlier this month. He reportedly told an aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that the aid the US was offering was tied to investigating the former Vice President and his son.

“Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president of the United States, and we knew that these investigations were important to the president,” Sondland said in his testimony Wednesday morning, saying President Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani was pushing a "quid pro quo" with Ukraine.

He said he had kept all the top officials, including Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the loop, raising concerns with Pence.

He also told investigators he hasn't had access to any State Department documents, calendars or phone records so his testimony has "not been perfect."

Sondland also denied participating in "some kind of rogue diplomacy."

Three witnesses are scheduled to testify Wednesday.

Laura Cooper, a deputy assistant secretary at the Defense Department, and David Hale, the undersecretary of state for political affairs at the State Department, will testify Wednesday afternoon.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who sits on the National Security Council (NSC) and is the director for European affairs at the NSC, testified Tuesday along with Jennifer Williams, Kurt Volker and Tim Morrison.

Vindman listened in on the July 25 phone call between President Donald Trump and the Ukrainian president. Vindman said it was "improper" for Trump to demand a foreign government investigative a U.S. citizen and political opponent.

The hearing got heated at one point Tuesday when Rep. Devin Nunes appeared to be asking Vindman about the "whistleblower."

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff intervened in Nunes' questioning.

Also, testifying in Tuesday morning was Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence. 

“I found the July 25th phone call unusual because, in contrast to other presidential calls I had observed, it involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter,” Williams said, in her opening remarks.

Meanwhile, Kurt Volker, who testified Tuesday afternoon, said he now understands that President Trump was using aid to get Ukraine to investigate the former Vice President and his son. Volker is former special envoy to Ukraine. Tim Morrison, a former National Security Council aide, who also heard the July 25 phone call, also testified Tuesday. Morrison said his resignation from the Trump administration was voluntary and he was stating his own recollections and memories in this process.

During a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, President Donald Trump slammed the hearings, calling them a “disgrace” and “kangaroo court." 

There have been developments since last week's first live hearings with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi inviting President Donald Trump to testify in front of House investigators.

Monday, President Donald Trump indicated he may consider written testimony in the impeachment inquiry. 

The hearings come after Trump asked the new Ukrainian President to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, in a July phone call and also asked the new leader to investigate any role Ukraine may have played in the 2016 presidential election.

There will be more public hearings held on Thursday. 

Last week former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testified for about five hours, telling Congress about a smear campaign against her from Trump allies. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff paused the testimony to bring up live tweets from President Trump who was critisizing the former ambassador on Twitter.

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Bill Taylor, the US's chief envoy in Ukraine, and George Kent, a senior State Department official, have validated Yovanovitch's claims.

Congress and the White House have been in a standoff in recent weeks after numerous top White House officials have refused the summons of a House subpoena including Charles Kupperman, a deputy to former national security adviser John Bolton, according to an AP story.

Republicans remained poised to defend the president amid this probe from the House Democrats, saying there weren't first-hand accounts of anything related to Trump and Ukraine nor did they speak directly to the president himself.

Bill Taylor, a top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, who was second to testify, told House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff that during a lunch with  Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, his staff members overheard a conversation between Trump and another Sondland by phone, saying it sounded like the president cared more about the investigation into Joe Biden than Ukraine.

He also said it was "crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign" and it made "no sense" to withhold aid from Ukraine based on helping with a political campaign.

Schiff is leading the impeachment investigation and stressed he would protect the identity of the whistleblower.

Associated Press contributed to this story.