Back in 1974, I watched nearly all of the televised Watergate hearings on television, even the less interesting witnesses. It was history in the making, and I felt an obligation as a citizen to listen to the evidence.
I feel no less an obligation today. And neither should you. (You have no excuses with all the video recording options and online sources available today). Democrats set stage for Watergate-style TV hearings:
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (Calif.) and fellow Democrats have chosen three current and former State Department officials to go before the cameras first because they view them as credible, nonpartisan witnesses who will be able to walk the public through exactly how Trump and his allies engaged in wrongdoing in their dealings with Ukraine.
The three witnesses — William Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine; George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs; and Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine — are all veteran career foreign service officials who have served in both Democratic and Republican administrations.
“You will see throughout the course of the testimony … the most important facts are largely not contested,” Schiff told reporters Wednesday as he announced the first public hearings of the impeachment inquiry.
“We are getting an increasing appreciation for just what took place during the course of the last year and the degree to which the president enlisted whole departments of government in the illicit aim of trying to get the Ukraine to dig up dirt on a political opponent as well as further a conspiracy theory about the 2016 election that he thought would be beneficial to his campaign,” Schiff added.
Taylor and Kent will testify before the Intelligence Committee in a public hearing on Wednesday. Yovanovitch, the ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, will testify two days later.
Your reading assignment for next week:
- The testimony of Ambassador William Taylor can be found here. Key excerpts from Ambassador Taylor’s testimony can be found here.
- The testimony of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch from October 11, 2019 can be found here. Key excerpts from Yovanovitch’s testimony can be found here.
- The testimony of Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent can be found here. Key excerpts from Deputy Assistant Secretary Kent can be found here.
UPDATE: Future witnesses:
- The testimony of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman can be found here. Key excerpts of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman’s testimony can be found here.
- The testimony of Dr. Fiona Hill can be found here. Key excerpts of Dr. Fiona Hill’s testimony can be found here.
- The testimony of Ambassador Gordon Sondland can be found here, including an addendum he filed on November 4, 2019. Key excerpts from Ambassador Sondland’s testimony can be found here.
- The testimony of Ambassador Kurt Volker can be found here. Key excerpts from Ambassador Volker’s testimony can be found here. In addition, the Committees released all additional Volker text messages received by the Committees, which can be found here.
“You want to have as big of a blockbuster coming out of the gate as possible,” said a senior Democratic aide close to the impeachment probe. “The benefit of these guys is they can tell the totality of events; they can tell the whole story.”
Congressional investigators are expected to wrap up the last of their private depositions by the end of this week, Schiff said. But more closed-door testimony could occur if key witnesses such as former national security adviser John Bolton, Energy Secretary Rick Perry or acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney reverse course and agree to testify in private.
Taylor, the chargé d’affaires for Ukraine, will be up first — and that’s not by coincidence. Early in the probe, text messages between Taylor and other diplomats showed that he sounded the alarm about a possible quid pro quo, warning it was “crazy” for Trump to withhold nearly $400 million in security aid until Ukraine agreed to launch investigations that would be politically beneficial to Trump.
Last month, Taylor testified that he was extremely concerned about the “highly irregular” shadow foreign policy campaign — led by the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and other Trump allies — demanding that Kiev investigate the Bidens and the 2016 election before receiving the military aid and a one-on-one meeting with Trump.
On Wednesday, Democrats released the 324-page transcript of Taylor’s private deposition, which showed that he stated it was his “clear understanding” there had been a quid pro quo.
The televised hearings, Schiff said, will be an opportunity for the public to hear from witnesses firsthand and evaluate their credibility. He described Taylor as a “dedicated public servant.”
“Ambassador Taylor is somebody who graduated from West Point, somebody who served in Vietnam,” Schiff said, “someone who is performing another vital service to the country in relating the facts, the very disturbing facts, that came to his attention.”
Kent, a State Department official since 1992, also testified about the pressure campaign on Ukraine, telling House investigators that he had raised concerns about Giuliani’s contacts with the country as early as March, prompting a supervisor to tell him to lay low. Kent also provided details about the efforts of Trump allies to oust Yovanovitch as ambassador to Ukraine.
Yovanovitch personally experienced those events. She was recalled from Kiev in May after Giuliani and other Trump allies mounted what Democrats have labeled a “smear campaign” against her. Democrats say Trump, Giuliani and others saw Yovanovitch as a major obstacle to the political Ukraine investigations.
“We are bringing forward the people who were direct witnesses and actors in the president’s Ukraine shakedown,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee who has been attending the closed-door hearings, told The Hill on Wednesday. “Ambassador Yovanovitch was a victim of the scheme to extract political favors from the Ukrainian government for the president’s campaign reelection purposes. To me, she is a perfectly logical place to start, and she is a great witness to begin telling the story to America.”
“People will be able to see for themselves what this Ukraine shakedown meant in the lives and work of dedicated public servants,” he added.
The duration of the public hearings depends in large part on how many other witnesses Democrats call.
That may also depend on the status of several lawsuits over subpoenas currently pending before the Courts of Appeal. Democrats have reserved the option of treating the Trump administration’s “total obstruction of Congress” strategy as an article of impeachment for obstruction of Congress, following the precedent set by the Nixon Articles of Impeachment.
By holding public hearings during the two weeks before the Thanksgiving recess, Democrats could be in a position to bring articles of impeachment to the House floor by December.
The must have Christmas present this year!
Expect to see Republicans behaving badly, not taking their oaths of office seriously, and not treating impeachment with the solemnity it deserves. They will bring the circus for FOX News aka Trump TV. They will be performing for an audience of one in the White House. Expect more stupid stunts, distractions, disruptions, delays and obstruction of Congress from Trump’s thugs in Congress.
They should all be kicked out of office next November.