The House is kicking off its public phase of the impeachment inquiryÂ into President Donald Trump with the hearingÂ of State Department official George Kent and Ambassador Bill Taylor, the current top diplomat in Ukraine.
The two gave testimony behind closed doors last month about their knowledge of Trump’s efforts to have Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky open investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden andÂ his son, Hunter, and the 2016 election.
But now, Kent and TaylorÂ will face another round of questioning while being broadcast live to the American public. Ousted Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch is also scheduled to testify publicly on Friday.
Here’s what Kent and Taylor haveÂ already said in their previous depositions:
George Kent: Leveraging investigationsÂ ‘injurious to the rule of law’
Kent shared with lawmakers that he does “not believe the U.S. should ask other countries to engage in politically associated investigations and prosecutions.â€Â
Kent said it was clear to him what Trump wanted from Ukraine:Â â€œnothing less than President Zelensky to go to microphone and say investigations, Biden, and Clinton.â€
This, he said, he understood from his conversations with other officials who conveyed to him that Trump was pushing for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and the claim that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential elections.
Though Kent said he was not aware of a direct leveraging involving U.S. military aid, he said there was a link between a much-desired visit by Zelensky to the White House and the investigations.
“It strikes me that the association was a meeting with the White House, at the White House, not related to the security assistance. But again, that’s just my personal opinion, other people may have different opinions,” Kent said.
Kent saidÂ he thought the idea of using the desired investigations as leverage was â€œinjurious to the rule of law.â€
He testified that â€œour engagement with Ukraine shifted into, shall we say, unusual channels.â€ He was just one of several officials who described an unofficial diplomatic channel that at times did not align with standard policy with Ukraine.
Kent laid out that Giuliani was extensively involved in pushing a narrative surrounding Ukraine and Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company where former vice president Joe Biden’s son sat on the board,Â as well as the recalling of YovanovitchÂ from her position.
Bill Taylor: ‘Irregular channel’ affecting Ukraine policy
Taylor, too, detailed a second channel of nontraditional foreign affairs actors. He recalled sensing something odd when working with Sondland to set up a phone call with Zelensky where he said Sondland suggested leaving “most of the regular interagency participants” off ofÂ the call and “requested that the call not be transcribed.”
“This suggested to me that the normal channel, of people who were working, again, toward a goal which I supported, which was having a meeting to further U.S.-Ukrainian relations, I supported, but that irregular channel didn’t have a respect for or an interest in having the normal staff participate in this call with the head of state,” Taylor said.
He added that afterÂ security assistance was held up,Â “The irregular policy channel was running contrary to the goals of longstanding U.S. policy.”
Taylor told lawmakers that he had heard from a Ukraine official that Zelensky “did not want to be used as a pawn in the U.S. re-election campaign.”
When asked why Zelensky expressed concerns about his role, Taylor said: “I think it was becoming clear to the Ukrainians that, in order to get this meeting that they wanted, they would have to commit to pursuing these investigations.”
Taylor became one of a few witnessesÂ to recount a July meeting between U.S. and Ukrainian officials, including former National Security Adviser John Bolton, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Fiona Hill, former National Security Council official.
â€œWhat I heard from Vindman and Hill was that the first part of that meeting went well. Substantive discussions: security, national security, both sides, energy security,â€ Taylor said. â€œAnd, in their description, when Ambassador Sondland raised investigations in the meeting, that triggered Ambassador Boltonâ€™s antenna, political antenna, and he said, we donâ€™t do politics here.â€
In released text messages, Taylor had also threatened to quit his job if the aid continued to be withheld even if ZelenskyÂ publicly committed to the investigations Trump wanted.
â€œSo the Russians are loving, would love, the humiliation of Zelensky at the hand of the Americans, and would give the Russians a freer hand, and I would quit,” Taylor addedÂ in his testimony.
Taylor also reaffirmed U.S. support for Ukraine in an opinion piece ahead of his public hearing.
Contributing: Savannah Behrmann,Â Nicholas Wu, Christal Hayes, Bart Jansen and Courtney Subramanian, USA TODAY
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