A new week of public hearings in the sediment investigation into US President Donald Trump brings Tuesday for the first time White House employees and former employees in front of the television cameras in the House of Representatives. Follow the developments here.
Hello, welcome to this live blog about the public hearings in the American House of Representatives. My name is Matthijs le Loux. Today I will keep you informed of developments regarding the deposition investigation into President Donald Trump.
There are two hearings scheduled for today. From 3 p.m. we will hear from Colonel Alexander Vindman , the top Ukraine adviser to the National Security Council and Jennifer Williams , a close associate of Vice President Mike Pence. Tonight at 8.30 pm, it is the turn of Kurt Volker , the special envoy for Ukraine, and Timothy Morrison , former top adviser for Europe and Russia in the National Security Council.
- Vindman, Williams and Morrison listened during the controversial telephone conversation between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky on 25 July.
- All witnesses have already told their story behind closed doors.
Friday at 9:28 PM
This brings us to the end of this hearing. More important names are on the agenda for next week, such as Alexander Vindman, the soldier who listened in on the telephone conversation between Trump and Zelensky, EU ambassador Gordon Sondland, who would have assisted Giuliani in his efforts in Ukraine and Fiona Hill, a former member of the National Security Council that also stated about the irregular Ukraine policy that was directed from the White House.
Thank you for your attention and wish you a very nice weekend. I hope to see you again next week for the hearings of the first witnesses who can speak from personal experience about what was happening at the White House.
This live blog is now closed.
Friday at 9:25 PM
"The president praises the corrupt and he condemns the righteous - like you. And then he asks for an investigation into the Bidens," says Schiff about the phone call in question.
The Republicans demand a chance to respond to Schiff's words, but he ignores them and closes the hearing.
Yovanovitch gets a standing ovation from the audience when she walks out of the room.
Friday at 9:23 PM
Schiff thanks Yovanovitch for her testimony. She was the first current government official to appear at a private hearing last month, he notes. She was the first of a dozen witnesses who ignored an order from the White House not to cooperate.
"Some people refer to you as the 'deep state'," he says of Yovanovitch and her colleagues in the civil service, referring to the conspiracy theory that a shadowy conspiracy of officials is opposing the Trump government on all fronts. "But we have seen the true face of the diplomatic corps in recent days. You are what binds this country together."
The chairman of the intelligence committee also responds to the Republican defense that there was no quid pro quo between Trump and Zelensky, because the things Trump asked for were never delivered. "The fact that they did not succeed in this attempt at bribery does not mean that it was a little less about bribery."
Friday at 9:18 PM
Nunes thanks the Democrats in his final statement for this episode of "this show process". He says that the committee members will soon return to the basement to hear from David Holmes. "The ratings for these hearings are certainly going fast," he snarls. "This is embarrassing."
Friday at 9:16 PM
Krishnamoorthi insists on the 'shadow policy' of the White House in Ukraine and the risk of undermining the official policy that this entailed. The names of the partners of Giuliani, Parnas and Fruman, come along again. Is Yovanovitch worried about the undermining? Yes, she says.
Krishnamoorthi also mentions the investigation into possible conflicts of interest regarding the links between those Giuliani and those two (and the energy company they were trying to get off the ground), announced today by federal prosecutor. Yovanovitch can't say anything about that.
Friday at 9:13 PM
Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi is now speaking. He is the last member of the intelligence committee who gets five minutes of speaking time. Then we can expect (short) final statements from Schiff and Nunes.
Friday at 9:05 PM
David Holmes, an employee of the US embassy in Ukraine who will testify behind closed doors later today, has now arrived at the Capitol, US media report.
Friday at 9:04 PM
At a White House press conference on health care, President Trump called himself "the most transparent president in history."
"It is very sad to see that people are not allowed to ask questions," he said about Yovanovitch's hearing. "I think it's considered a joke. It's a shame what happens."
When a journalist asked him if his tweets and comments about Yovanovitch could be considered intimidating, he replied, "I don't think so."
Friday at 9 p.m.
Democrat Peter Welch directs the interrogation towards the deposition issue. "The question is not how you have been treated, the question is whether the president has the authority to block help approved by Congress to get a promise of investigations that could bring him personal benefit from a foreign leader," says he.
Friday at 8:57 PM
Republican Jim Jordan begins his five minutes by describing how several senior Ukrainian government officials in the run-up to the US presidential election in 2016 criticized candidate Trump and spoke out for his opponent, Hillary Clinton.
"Don't you think it logical that Trump was skeptical about Ukraine and insisted on investigations?" he asks Yovanovitch.
"Excuse me, but did that contain a question?" she says.
What Jordan did not mention, incidentally, was that during his campaign, Trump stated that he would consider recognizing Crimea incorporated by Russia as part of the Russian Federation. That led to a lot of anger in Ukraine at the time, witnesses say.
Friday at 8:45 PM
BBC reporter Ed Haberston writes: "For the scene of such a heated political debate, the room in which the hearing is taking place is remarkably cool. The heating may not work. Republican Jim Jordan is one of the few people present who does not wear a jacket."
This is in contrast to the private hearings, which were held in a secure room under the Capitol. Reportedly it was very hot there and smelled like a dressing room.
As a venue for such a heated political debate, the room where the impeachment inquiry is taking place is remarkably chilly. Maybe the heating isn't working. Rep. Jim Jordan one of the few not wearing a jacket # impeachmentAvatar
Friday at 8:42 PM
Some Republicans (such as Jim Jordan, who was temporarily installed in the intelligence committee because of his reputation as a pit bull) were sometimes offensive to the witnesses at the Taylor and Kent hearing, today it is striking that Yovanovitch is being tackled by everyone with velvet gloves. Her career and personal qualities are extensively praised and her actions receive little criticism.
Friday at 8:39 PM
Just before the break, Yovanovitch told that EU ambassador Gordon Sondland told her that she "had to do something big or go home" if she wanted to play a positive role in the spotlight at Trump. He advised her to write a tweet in which she praised president, "that kind of work."
"My reaction was that I believed he meant well, but it was not advice that I could follow," she said. "It felt like party politics, not something that I thought suited my role as a member of the diplomatic corps."
Friday at 8:36 PM
Schiff announces a five-minute break.
Friday at 8:35 PM
Democrat Denny Heck presents an emotional narrative about different times when Trump allegedly attacked military veterans or their families. He calls the deceased Republican senator John McCain, the relatives of a fallen American soldier, and extends that argument to Yovanovitch.
Friday at 8:33 PM
An exchange between Democrat Joaquin Castro and Yovanovitch.
Castro: "I want to ask you if the president ever told you why he called you back?"
Castro: "Has someone in the White House told you why you were recalled?"
Castro: "Has the President ever consulted you about who the good and the bad were in Ukraine?"
Castro: "Did Minister Pompeo ever tell you why you were recalled?"
Friday at 8:28 PM
"You are hard and extremely smart," Republican Will Hurd told Yovanovitch. "You are a great example of what our ambassadors should be. You are a jewel for your family, for the diplomatic corps and this country, and I thank you for everything you have done and will continue to do for your country."
Friday at 8:25 PM
The public hearings in the United States seem to be followed mainly online. According to the American information group Nielsen, about 13.8 million Americans turned on the television on Wednesday to see the statements of acting ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor and top official George Kent. That is barely 4 percent of the entire population in the US.
The majority of Americans are said to have followed the hearing via social media, but Nielsen was unable to provide figures from interested parties online. The figures for the current hearing are expected in the night from Friday to Saturday.
Friday at 8:13 PM
Democrat Eric Swalwell cites an article in Business Insider , which tells how Trump stated that the whistleblower was guilty of treason. The president then told his audience that people used to know how to treat traitors.
"I want my colleagues to join me and protect the whistleblower's anonymity," he says.
Friday at 8:09 PM
Elise Stefanik crosses the whistleblower. She quickly reads comments from chairman Adam Schiff about the whistleblower in American media. In all those interviews, Schiff said he wanted the whistleblower to testify and was working to get it done.
Schiff later said that the other witnesses had confirmed the whistleblower's complaint, so his testimony was no longer needed. The Democrat also said to be concerned about the safety of the whistleblower. The Republicans were certainly not happy with that and regularly attack Schiff on that decision.
Friday at 8:06 PM
"It's like a [greeting card brand] Hallmark movie: you've ended up at Georgetown, so this is all okay!" jokes Democrat Mike Quigley. With that he refers to the point that a number of Republicans have made today, that Yovanovitch now teaches at that prestigious university and has landed on her feet.
"But this is not how you thought the high point of your professional career would look like, right?" he adds.
Georgetown is a "delightful place," says Yovanovitch - but she would have preferred to have worked at the embassy in Ukraine for a little longer.
"This is after all more a very bad reality program than a Hallmark film brought to you by someone who knows a lot about it." That is a reference to The Apprentice , the old reality show of Trump.
Friday at 8:00 PM
During this session, several Republicans joined the argument that many officials believe that the official policy of the Trump government with regard to Ukraine was well organized. However, the witnesses we have seen so far - Yovanovitch, Taylor and Kent - say that the problem was that official policy was undermined by the "shadow policy" conducted by Giuliani.
Yovanovitch now receives another question from that direction, this time from Republican Chris Stewart. You said there were allegations of corruption against energy company Burisma, he says. Is it so crazy to insist on investigating those accusations?
Friday at 7:52 PM
Former Ukrainian Attorney General Yuriy Lutsenko
Friday at 7:50 PM
The former Ukrainian Attorney General Yuriy Lutsenko, who has been mentioned several times today, has responded to Yovanovitch's testimony. In a response to a Facebook message praising Yovanovitch, he wrote: "She is lying. And I have proof."
Lutsenko has no great reputation. Witnesses and American parliamentarians state that he was a corrupt prosecutor. Earlier this year he made allegations about Yovanovitch and Joe Biden that are not supported by facts. He was therefore one of the drivers of the smear campaign against Yovanovitch.
Friday at 7:46 PM
All in all, Yovanovitch has told a clear story today: she was discarded as an ambassador in an unusual way. We no longer have to expect much new information on this point.
Friday at 7:43 PM
Reader Jaap Hamburger reminds me not to use the Anglicism 'smear campaign' anymore. There is a great Dutch alternative for that, he writes: smear campaign. You are absolutely right, Jaap, my apologies!
Friday at 7:37 PM
Several Republicans, including Elise Stafanik, have today tried to create the impression that there is a hint of corruption about the work of Hunter Biden in Ukraine and the efforts of his father in that country. Those allegations have never been proven.
Friday at 7:33 PM
The former ambassador is asked what effects the issue of her resignation has had on her family. She becomes emotionally emotional and says she prefers to leave that aside. She does say: "In this field we have nothing but our reputation. So this has been a very painful period."
Friday at 7:32 PM
Yovanovitch asks: if the president is free to dismiss an ambassador as he pleases, as the Republicans argue, what would it take for the "smear campaign" to damage her reputation?
Friday at 7:29 PM
White House spokesperson Stephanie Grisham defends the tweet about Yovanovitch that Trump sent out earlier today. "The tweet was not a harassment of a witness, it was simply the opinion of the president to which he is entitled," she told journalists. "This is not a lawsuit, it is a party political process - or, to put it more accurately, a completely illegal joke with a built-in backlog for the president. This hearing is a less fair trial than any comparable event in our history country. It's really a shame. "
Friday at 7:24 PM
Every questioner makes it a point to thank Yovanovitch very much for her long service record, including Republican Mike Conaway.
Friday at 7:22 PM
Democrat Jim Himes shows why both his party members and the Republicans have left asking serious questions mainly to staff lawyers. Himes expresses his indignation at the way in which Yovanovitch has been treated and spends most of his speaking time there. The former ambassador gets some rhetorical questions about what is appropriate behavior for an ambassador or another government official. Bribery is not allowed, Himes seems to want to propagate. He suggests that her resignation had something to do with corruption.
Friday at 7:17 PM
Two names that regularly appear today are Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. These are two businessmen who worked together with Trumps lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. They were arrested and charged in September for illegally diverting foreign money to American political campaigns. Both men say they are innocent. Parnas and Fruman are said to have assisted Giuliani in Ukraine in his attempts to get the Ukrainian government to start investigating the Bidens and Democrats.
Parnas, who donated a good deal of money to Trumps campaign, would have used the influence it brought him to push for the resignation of Ambassador Yovanovitch, prosecutors (and Yovanovitch himself) say.
The Wall Street Journal just reported that US prosecutors are investigating whether Giuliani would personally benefit from his ties with a Ukrainian natural gas company that Parnas and Fruman were trying to get off the ground. Striking if true - not least because Giuliani has extensively accused Hunter Biden of corruption due to his links with a Ukrainian energy company.
Friday at 7:08 PM
The block of Nunes (and therefore the time of Castor) is finished. Chairman Schiff himself takes the first five minutes of speaking time. Every member of the committee receives it.
Friday at 7:00 PM
Judge: Former Trump adviser Roger Stone obstructed Russia research
Friday at 6:58 PM
Castor's questions now float on a Republican theory that actors in Ukraine were trying to sabotage Donald Trump's presidential campaign. He asks Yovanovitch if she has noticed anything about it. She says no.
Friday at 6:57 PM
Castor sends the conversation to Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company where Hunter Biden was on the board for some time. The Republicans argue that there were enough reasons to have Burisma investigated for corruption.
That topic was also discussed during the hearing on Wednesday. Acting Ambassador William Taylor then said it was inappropriate for the US to try to get Ukrainians to investigate a specific Ukrainian company, rather than supporting a broader and systematic anti-corruption offensive.
Yovanovitch states that she has never met Hunter Biden and has heard little about his work for Burisma. She says there were ongoing Ukrainian investigations into Burisma, which were started by Viktor Shokin, a Ukrainian prosecutor who was widely seen as corrupt and fired partly at Joe Biden's insistence. Some Democrats say the investigations were stopped after Shokin's resignation, but Yovanovitch contradicts this.
Friday at 6:51 PM
Castor's questions are very factual and quite dry so far. This is in line with the idea that the Republicans want to prevent Yovanovitch from attacking too hard and also seems to ensure that the momentum is taken out of the hearing. Before the break, the Democrats managed to let Yovanovitch tell a good running story - with a beginning, a middle and an end. Now they are mainly concerned with smaller details.
Friday at 6:46 PM
Castor asks Yovanovitch if she opposed the smear campaign that she said was being waged against her. He asks her if she did "enough" to inform her colleagues at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Yovanovitch explains what steps she took, but does not seem to fully understand where Castor wants to go.
Friday at 6:45 PM
Politico reporter Kyle Cheney: "Nunes deliberately violated the rules of the settlement process by having Stefanik speak. They know that this goes against the process established for the settlement procedure, and they acted as if they were shocked when Schiff did not allow it "
The rules in question: the chairman of the committee is given 45 minutes of speaking time, followed by the highest-ranking Republican. Each other member then receives five minutes, with Democrats and Republicans talking alternately. That arrangement was adopted last month during a vote in the House.
NUNES intentionally violates the impeachment inquiry rules by yielding to STEFANIK. They know this violates the process set for the impeachment inquiry and then pretend to be shocked when Schiff plots them down.Avatar
Friday at 6:37 PM
Nunes just complimented Yovanovitch with a sharp edge.
"Ambassador, I want to congratulate you - you have been in the secret declaration rooms, where you have passed and you have also succeeded in your implementation today." Nunes then pointed his arrows at the Democrats, who "will return to the basement of the Capitol to collect more of these secret statements". That seems to be a reference to the interrogation of David Holmes.
Friday at 6:30 PM
Nunes tries to give the floor to the Republican delegate Elisa Stefanik. President Schiff puts a stop to this. Nunes gives it a try, but then resides in the decision and gives the floor to lawyer Steve Castor, who starts by thanking Yovanovitch for her services rendered to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Friday at 6:29 PM
We have started again. Devin Nunes asks Yovanovitch questions to clarify which aspects of the case that the Democrats are trying to build against Trump were personally involved with Yovanovitch. Did she speak to President Trump in 2019? "No". With acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney? "No."
"I don't understand what the ambassador is doing here today," says Nunes. He believes that Yovanovitch can better express her grievances about her dismissal at HR.
Friday at 6:20 PM
Although Yovanovitch is the only witness to be heard publicly today, she is not the only witness. Another career official, David Holmes, appears behind closed doors on Friday afternoon (American time). He works at the American embassy in Ukraine.
Acting Ambassador William Taylor revealed on Wednesday that one of his staff could listen in on a conversation between EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland and President Trump after the former met with Ukrainian President Zelensky. Trump would have asked Sondland if "the investigations" had been mentioned, to which the EU ambassador would have said that "the Ukrainians are ready to take the next step". The employee would then have asked Sondland what Trump thought of Ukraine. He would have said that Trump only cared about the investigations into his political opponents, not Ukraine.
That element of Taylor's statement was a sensational revelation, mainly because of an argument that is widely heard on the Republican side: that none of the witnesses heard so far can prove a direct link with Trump.
According to American media, David Holmes is the employee who Taylor spoke about.
Friday at 6:10 PM
Cornelis asks: Why is Rudy Giuliani not being questioned?
Answer: He refuses to appear. This also applies to other possible witnesses, such as Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo and the White House acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney.
Then the question immediately arises: is that just possible if Congress has summoned you? The Democrats could challenge that in court, but that would probably take months. In theory Congress can also have witnesses taken hostage (by locking them up), but that has not been shown since the 1920s and would entail a lot of political fuss.
Friday at 6:02 PM
While we await the resumption of the hearing, other Trump-related news comes in. A court found his former adviser Roger Stone, with whom he had been friends for more than thirty years, guilty of seven charges. Stone obstructed congressional investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, lied to the House, tried to influence another witness, and hid evidence from the investigators. I recently discussed the case against him with presenter Carné van den Brink in our daily podcast This will be the news.
Friday at 5:54 PM
It will not surprise viewers / readers who were also present last Wednesday that the break now takes longer than predicted.
If we continue later, Republican Devin Nunes will get a 45-minute block to interrogate Yovanovitch. He will probably give the floor to lawyer Steve Castor, just as Adam Schiff handed over the reins to lawyer Dan Goldman. The lawyers of the intelligence committee are used because they usually stick to asking specific questions and do not use their speaking time - as many delegates have been entrusted - mainly to make political statements.
Friday at 5:41 PM
Trump's tweet is also not received with enthusiasm on the Republican side. Deputy Elise Stefanik, who was seen as moderate but turned out to be a fierce defender of the president during this and the previous hearing, told CNN reporter Haley Bird: "I don't agree with the tweet. I think ambassador Yovanovitch serves the public interest, as do many of our officials in the diplomatic corps. "
Another fiery defender of Trump, Jim Jordan, is defending the tweet. "Look, the president has been frustrated by this relentless attack on him by the Democrats, which started before he became president. I think Americans understand that frustration."
Friday at 4:59 PM
Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris responds on Twitter to the tweet about Yovanovitch that Trump sent out during the hearing. "Harassment of witnesses is a crime," said the California prosecutor.
Witness intimidation is a crime.Avatar