November 13, 2019 / 3:33 PM / 23 days ago

'You're their star witness': Quotes from the Trump impeachment hearing

(Reuters) - Below are quotations from the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee impeachment hearing on Wednesday into allegations about President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

DEMOCRATIC REP. JIM HIMES COMMENTS ON HIS REPUBLICAN COLLEAGUES’ STRATEGY DURING THE HEARING:

“Faced with very serious allegations of presidential misconduct, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle don’t engage or defend that conduct. Rather, they spin theories about black ledgers and Steele dossiers and startling revelations that Ukrainians might have been upset when a presidential candidate suggested that perhaps he would let the Russians keep Crimea.”

REPUBLICAN REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN ASKING WITNESS WILLIAM TAYLOR QUESTIONS ABOUT HIS TESTIMONY ON TRUMP’S ACTIONS REGARDING UKRAINE:

“You weren’t on the call were you? You didn’t listen to President Trump’s call and President (Volodymyr) Zelenskiy’s call?” Jordan said.

“I did not,” Taylor replied.

“You’ve never talked with Chief of Staff Mulvaney?” Jordan asked.

“I never did,” Taylor said.

“You’ve never met the president?” Jordan asked.

“That’s correct,” Taylor said.

“This is what I can’t believe. And you’re their star witness. You’re their first witness. You’re the guy, you’re the guy. Based on this, based on this. I’ve seen church prayer chains that are easier to understand than this,” Jordan said.

“I don’t consider myself a star witness for anything,” Taylor said.

REPUBLICAN LAWYER STEPHEN CASTOR QUESTIONING WITNESSES: Speaking of Hunter Biden’s qualifications to serve on the board of the Ukrainian energy firm: “He’s getting paid $50,000 a month but we don’t know if he had any experience, spoke the language or moved to Ukraine.”

HEARING WITNESS TAYLOR’S STATEMENT PROVIDING NEW INFORMATION ABOUT A SONDLAND-TRUMP PHONE CALL:

“Last Friday, a member of my staff told me of events that occurred on July 26. While Ambassador Volker and I visited the front, this member of my staff accompanied Ambassador Sondland. Ambassador Sondland met with Mr. Yermak.

“Following that meeting, in the presence of my staff at a restaurant, Ambassador Sondland called President Trump and told him of his meetings in Kyiv. The member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone, asking Ambassador Sondland about ‘the investigations.’ Ambassador Sondland told President Trump that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.

“Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which (Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy) Giuliani was pressing for. At the time I gave my deposition on October 22, I was not aware of this information. I am including it here for completeness.”

HEARING WITNESS GEORGE KENT, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EUROPEAN AND EURASIAN AFFAIRS, OPENING STATEMENT:

“I do not believe the United States should ask other countries to engage in selective, politically associated investigations or prosecutions against opponents of those in power, because such selective actions undermine the rule of law regardless of the country.”

HEARING WITNESS TAYLOR, ACTING U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE, OPENING STATEMENT:

“I found a confusing and unusual arrangement for making U.S. policy toward Ukraine. There appeared to be two channels of U.S. policymaking and implementation, one regular and one highly irregular.”

HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN ADAM SCHIFF:

Schiff, a Democrat, opened the impeachment hearing attempting to explain in simple terms what the investigation revolves around.

Schiff noted that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy “was a newcomer to politics and immediately sought to establish a relationship with Ukraine’s most powerful patron, the United States.”

“The questions presented by this impeachment inquiry are whether President Trump sought to exploit that ally’s vulnerability and invite Ukraine’s interference in our elections; whether President Trump sought to condition official acts, such as a White House meeting or U.S. military assistance, on Ukraine’s willingness to assist on two political investigations that would help his re-election campaign. And if President Trump did either, whether such an abuse of his power is compatible with the office of the presidency.”

“If we find that the president of the United States abused his power and invited foreign interference in our elections or if he sought to condition, coerce, extort or bribe an ally into conducting investigations to aid his re-election campaign and did so by withholding official acts, a White House meeting or hundreds of millions of dollars of needed military aid, must we simply ‘get over it?’, Schiff said, referring to a statement Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney made in remarks to reporters.

“If this is not impeachable conduct, what is?”

HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE SENIOR REPUBLICAN DEVIN NUNES:

Chairman Adam Schiff (C), Democrat of California, gives an opening statement during the first public hearings held by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence as part of the impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump, with witnesses Ukrainian Ambassador William Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent testifying, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S., November 13, 2019. Saul Loeb/Pool via REUTERS

In opening remarks, Nunes dismissed the impeachment inquiry’s first public hearings as “a televised theatrical performance staged by the Democrats” and a “low-rent Ukrainian sequel” to (Special Prosecutor Robert) Mueller’s Russian investigation.

Nunes said no hearings should be held until three questions are answered - “what is the full extent of the Democrats’ prior coordination with the whistleblower; what is the full extent of Ukraine’s election meddling against the Trump campaign; and, third, why did Burisma hire Hunter Biden, what did he do for them, and did his work affect the Obama administration?”

The impeachment inquiry began following the submission by an unnamed “whistleblower” of a detailed report that raised concerns about Trump’s contacts with Ukraine.

Reporting by Richard Cowan; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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