Sunday Reading: Get Ready for Impeachment Hearings

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The biggest political moment of this generation has arrived. The public impeachment hearings of President Donald J. Trump begin on Wednesday.

I’ve been focused much more on this past week’s election but once that was over, I turned my attention to the latest news happening with impeachment. The House has been releasing the transcripts of the witnesses who have been testifying in closed door hearings for the past few weeks, and I thought it would be instructive to look at what we’ve learned so far.

It’s all here. The bribery (quid pro quo) scheme, the top administration officials who helped coordinate the scheme for Trump, and the many efforts to cover it up.

Here are the testimonies of the witnesses that have been released so far, and I’ve included one of the key moments from each deposition for some context. (None of the following articles are behind paywalls.) Note that the first three listed here–Taylor, Yovanovitch, and Kent–are the first three witnesses who will be speaking during the publicized impeachment hearings this week. Pay special attention to them.

William Taylor’s Testimony

Likely to be Star Witness #1, Bill Taylor is a career foreign policy specialist in the State Department, and runs the U.S. diplomatic mission in the Ukrainian capital.

KEY: “At the heart of the entire impeachment drama is this question: Did the Trump administration withhold military aid to Ukraine in exchange for that country opening an investigation into the Bidens? In his testimony, Taylor says yes. ‘That was my clear understanding, security assistance money would not come until the President [of Ukraine] committed to pursue the investigation.’”

Marie Yovanovitch’s Testimony

Marie Yovanovitch is the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, having been pushed out of her post by the Trump administration.

KEY: Yovanovitch testified that she first learned that Giuliani had an interest in Ukraine toward the end of last year — in November or December. And what she heard was alarming. “Basically, it was people in the Ukrainian Government who said that Mr. Lutsenko, the former prosecutor general, was in communication with Mayor Giuliani, and that they had plans. They were going to, you know, do things, including to me.”

George Kent’s Testimony

George Kent is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.

KEY: “Kent makes clear in his testimony that he was alarmed by the role the president’s personal lawyer [Rudy Giuliani] was playing in trying to shape Ukraine policy — especially his efforts to work with a Ukrainian prosecutor to smear the U.S. ambassador in Kyiv, Marie Yovanovitch.”

Fiona Hill’s Testimony

Fiona Hill served as the top Russia policy specialist on the National Security Council.

KEY: “[National Security Advisor John Bolton’s] reaction was pained. And he basically said — in fact, he directly said: Rudy Giuliani is a hand grenade that is going to blow everybody up. He did make it clear that he didn’t feel that there was anything that he could personally do about this.”

Alexander Vindman’s Testimony

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman is a top specialist on Ukraine on the National Security Council.

KEY: “In the colonel’s testimony, he recounted how Gordon D. Sondland, the American ambassador to the European Union, had asked Ukrainians for assistance with political investigations. The colonel was then asked how Mr. Sondland “came to believe that this deliverable was necessary?” He replied that he had heard Mr. Sondland say it had been coordinated with the acting White House chief of staff, Mr. Mulvaney.”

Gordon Sondland’s Testimony

Gordon Sondland is a Trump inauguration donor and now U.S. ambassador to the European Union.

KEY: Right after Bill Taylor’s transcript was released to the public, Sondland amended his testimony to Congress, citing that his “memory had been refreshed.” In his amendment, he confirmed the bribery/quid pro quo scheme.

Kurt Volker’s Testimony

Kurt Volker is the former U.S. envoy to Ukraine.

KEY: “Volker noted in his testimony that former Ukrainian prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, in an attempt to curry favor with Trump, peddled false allegations about the 2016 election and the Bidens’ connections to Ukraine. Volker testified that he thought Trump did believe Lutsenko’s allegations, which partially led to Yovanovitch’s recall.”

Michael McKinley’s Testimony

Michael McKinley was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s aide until he stepped down out of protest for how the administration was handling its relationship with Ukraine.

KEY: “McKinley said Kent also had raised concerns that a letter from Pompeo responding to the House committees’ initial request for documents and testimony contained ‘inaccuracies’ about protecting or providing legal support to State employees who might speak with Congress. … McKinley testified it was clear that Kent ‘felt that he was being bullied’ and that he took very seriously the fact that Kent submitted a memo saying as much to the State Department file.”

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