Fifty days after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, the investigation went public. The hearings are important, regardless of whether or not people think it will succeed. Going public allows Americans to directly hear from witnesses about President Trump’s actions concerning Ukraine.
The Nov. 13 hearings took the impeachment inquiry to a new level. Two witnesses testified in front of the House Intelligence Committee: George Kent and William Taylor. Kent is a senior State Department official responsible for Ukraine. Taylor, currently our top Ukraine diplomat, served as ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009.
Marie Yovanovitch will testify on Friday. She was ambassador to Ukraine from 2016 until this past May, when Trump ousted her. In a closed hearing, Yovanovitch reportedly said that a senior Ukrainian official told her to, “watch [her] back,” after rumors that two of Rudy Giuliani’s associates wanted a new ambassador.
Witnesses Testify On Personal Observations
Kent and Taylor testified on decisions they witnessed the Trump administration and Trump’s personal team making regarding Ukraine. As two top officials involved in our relationship with the nation, it makes sense that they were the first to testify publicly. Both men clarified that they were there to provide facts, not advocate for impeachment.
Taylor said he was astonished to learn that the executive branch’s Office of Management and Budget had frozen the security funding. The financial aid assured Ukraine of the United States’ continued support in their fight against Russia.
In one of the most shocking parts of the testimonies, Taylor spoke about a phone call one of his staffers overheard. Current U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, Taylor said, called Trump, meaning to talk about his meetings in Kyiv.
The staff member, who overheard Trump ask about investigations, questioned the ambassador about Trump’s thoughts on Ukraine. “Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for,” Taylor said.
Taylor also brought up Russia’s role regarding Ukraine, particularly the invasion of Crimea in 2014. “The Russians are violating all of the rules, treaties, understandings that they committed to, that actually kept the peace in Europe for nearly 70 years,” he said.
Russia’s Relationship With The Investigation
If Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) opening statement is any indication, House Republicans will use these hearings as an opportunity to continue criticizing their Democratic peers. The ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee once again brought up the Mueller report. “The main performance—the Russia hoax—has ended, and you’ve been cast in the low-rent Ukrainian sequel,” he told Kent and Taylor.
However, the Mueller Report proves the “Russian Hoax” was real. “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in a sweeping and systematic fashion,” page nine of the report says. What it did not find is definite proof that Trump knowingly colluded with Russians for his own political benefit.
Russia is entangled in the investigation, but not because it is a “sequel” to Mueller’s investigation. In early 2014, Russian troops invaded and annexed Crimea, a peninsula in Ukraine. The aid Trump froze was meant in part to assist Ukraine’s military in their fight against Russian-backed separatists.
Trump’s unique relationship with Vladimir Putin should not be forgotten throughout this impeachment process. Russia has loomed over his entire presidency and evidence suggests they helped put him in the White House in the first place.
House Republicans Reveal Their Game Plan
A memo was sent Nov. 12 to Republicans on House Intelligence Committee, as well as the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Oversight and Reform. It outlined the Republican plan to question the legitimacy of the Democrats’ impeachment argument, particularly the claim of a quid pro quo.
The supposed quid pro quo is at the center of the inquiry. In other words, Democrats believe Trump asked Ukrainian President Zelensky to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son in exchange for unfreezing funds.
The memo questions whether Trump’s phrase, “I would like you to do us a favor,” is actually about the frozen aid. In the call’s transcript, this statement precedes Trump asking Zelensky to look into Crowdstrike, a cybersecurity firm that worked for the Democratic National Committee in 2016.
Everything boils down to whether Trump meant to use the aid to push Ukraine to investigate his political rival. The memo ultimately argues that there is no proof of a quid pro quo, saying, “Ukraine received what it wanted without doing anything in return.”
While this statement is true, it ignores the broader issue. No president should use their power for their own personal gain. The Republicans’ plan is to dismiss the idea Trump acted wrongly. It would be more beneficial to America for them to question each witness carefully. Turning the investigation into political farce, either by Democrats or Republicans, ultimately hurts a nation that simply wants to understand what exactly happened.