Impeachment inquiry: Trump denies asking about investigations on call
WASHINGTON -- The latest on the House impeachment inquiry of U.S. President Donald Trump (all times local):
U.S. President Donald Trump is denying he asked a U.S. ambassador about "investigations" in Ukraine a day after his call with that country's president.
The existence of the call was revealed Wednesday by William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine. He testified that one of his staffers overheard Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, speaking on the phone with Trump on July 26.
Sondland used his cellphone to call Trump, and the staff member could hear Trump on the phone asking about "the investigations."
Trump is denying knowledge of the call, saying, "I know nothing about that." He adds, "First time I've heard it."
An official familiar with the matter said the staffer Taylor referred to is David Holmes, the political counsellor at the embassy in Kyiv. Holmes is invited to testify before Congress on Friday.
-- Matthew Lee
President Donald Trump says he wants to find out who is the whistleblower whose complaint about his July phone call with Ukraine's president spurred the impeachment inquiry.
Trump made his comments during a White House news conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He said he did not watch the first day of public hearings of the impeachment inquiry.
Trump said, "I hear it's a joke. I haven't watched for one minute because I've been with the president" of Turkey.
He reiterated his claim that the whistleblower complaint was "much different" from the facts of his call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
The whistleblower expressed alarm that Trump attempted to pressure Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice-President Joe Biden and his son while holding up U.S. military aid.
A motion to issue a congressional subpoena to compel the whistleblower whose complaint led to the House impeachment inquiry to appear behind closed doors has been put off.
House intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff had said earlier Wednesday that the panel would take up the motion after two diplomats completed their public testimony.
As Schiff proposed tabling the motion, Republican Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas, who had raised the motion earlier in the day, said, "I know you're afraid of hearing from the whistleblower."
The committee voted along party lines to table the motion.
The impeachment inquiry was sparked after the whistleblower's complaint about President Donald Trump's July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. The complaint alleged Trump pressured the Ukrainian leader to investigate Joe Biden's family.
Testimony in the House's first public impeachment hearing has ended, with more hearings to come.
State Department officials William Taylor and George Kent testified for more than five hours Wednesday about their concerns with President Donald Trump's requests that Ukraine investigate Democrats as the U.S. withheld military aid to the country.
Democrats are investigating those requests, and whether they were linked, as they move toward an impeachment vote.
Republicans said the witnesses didn't have firsthand knowledge and noted the aid was eventually released. The U.S. government released the money after pressure from senators in early September.
Next up will be former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was ousted in May on Trump's orders. She will testify Friday.
Next week, the House Intelligence Committee will hear from eight more witnesses in the impeachment probe.
A Republican lawmaker in the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump says the whistleblower is the "one witness" who should be brought in front of the American people.
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio says the whistleblower, whose complaint touched off the inquiry, should come before the committee. He says he wants to know the identity of the whistleblower, a CIA officer assigned to the White House.
Jordan earlier complained that the witnesses Wednesday testifying publicly for the first time didn't have firsthand knowledge of the accusations and never spoke directly to President Donald Trump.
The whistleblower has not been asked to testify.
Democratic Rep. Peter Welch of Ohio said he'd be glad to have the person who started it all testify: "President Trump is welcome to sit right there."
The two veteran diplomats testifying in the House impeachment hearing are denying President Donald Trump's accusation that they adamantly oppose him.
Shortly before Wednesday's House Intelligence Committee hearing began, Trump tweeted, "NEVER TRUMPERS!" He mentioned no evidence.
California Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell asked both men if Trump's claim was true.
State Department official George Kent said he's served under three Republican and two Democratic presidents during his 27 years of service. He said he serves "whatever president is duly elected" and carries out their foreign policies. He oversees U.S. policy in Ukraine and other countries in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus.
William Taylor answered, "No sir." Taylor is the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine and was recruited by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to serve there.
Republicans say two State Department witnesses testifying in Democrats' first impeachment hearing can't know if President Donald Trump did anything wrong because they haven't met him.
Ohio Rep. Mike Turner asked diplomats William Taylor and George Kent if either had ever met Trump. Both said they had not.
Democrats are investigating Trump's requests that Ukraine investigate Democrats as military aid was withheld. Taylor and Kent have said they had concerns about the requests and understood one was conditioned on the other.
Republicans say there's no case because they are basing their knowledge on secondhand information and because the aid was eventually released. The aid was released following a congressional outcry.
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham tweeted about Turner's exchange and said "This country deserves so much better."
Republican Rep. Jim Jordan has told the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine that he is "wrong" to have said there was a clear understanding that President Donald Trump was withholding military aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigations of Democrats.
Jordan was questioning William Taylor during the first public hearing in the House impeachment inquiry.
Taylor has said his understanding was based on conversations with other diplomats. But Jordan said the president of Ukraine never announced an investigation and the aid was eventually released.
The aid was released in September following an outcry in the U.S. Congress.
Jordan mockingly called Taylor the Democrats' "star witness" and said he's "seen church prayer chains that are easier to understand than this."
Taylor responded that he didn't consider himself a star witness.
A lawyer handling the questioning for Republican lawmakers during the impeachment proceedings is suggesting that the Trump administration's interactions with Ukraine could have been more "outlandish" than they actually were.
Steve Castor asked William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, if the "irregular channel" the administration used for outreach to Ukraine was "not as outlandish as it could be."
Taylor laughed, but then conceded that it was not.
Taylor has described an "irregular channel" in which Ukraine policy was delegated to President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, for the purpose of advancing the president's personal and political interests.
Ukraine is playing a starring role in historic U.S. impeachment hearings -- but Ukrainians themselves seem more worried about a divisive government plan for land reform.
Ukraine's day was wrapping up by the time Wednesday's public hearing started in Washington, and local newscasts focused on a bill that would allow Ukrainians to sell their land for the first time in nearly 20 years. Kyiv residents had strong opinions about that measure, but appeared perplexed by the details of what's happening in the U.S. Congress.
Ukrainian officials have sought to distance themselves from the impeachment inquiry.
Former legislator Serhiy Leshchenko is among the few following the proceedings closely. He fears that Ukraine may have to wait for next year's U.S. election to renew normal relations with Washington.
The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee says President Donald Trump "would have a perfectly good reason for wanting to find out what happened" if there were indications that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 presidential election.
California Rep. Devin Nunes is questioning State Department witnesses in the first public hearing in the Democrats' impeachment probe.
National security officials have told Congress they don't believe Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election.
Democrats opened the investigation after a whistleblower complaint revealed that Trump had requested that Ukraine investigate political rival Joe Biden and his family and Ukraine's role in the 2016 election.
Democrats say the requests for politically motivated investigations are impeachable, but Republicans disagree.
President Donald Trump says he's been "too busy" to watch the first public impeachment hearing.
But he told reporters as he meets with his Turkish counterpart in the Oval Office that he's "sure" he'll "get a report" from staff on the hearing, which he dismisses as a" witch hunt" and a "hoax."
Trump is also criticizing the use of staff lawyers to question witnesses. He's dismissing Daniel Goldman, the investigations chief for Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, and Steve Castor, the chief investigative counsel for Republicans, as "television lawyers."
William Taylor and George Kent are testifying Wednesday in the first public hearing of the House impeachment inquiry.
Investigators are examining whether Trump abused the power of his presidency by pressing Ukraine's leader to investigate his political rivals.
U.S. President Donald Trump is calling the public impeachment hearings that kicked off Wednesday the "single greatest scam in the history of American politics."
Trump is responding to the hearings with a new video directed at his supporters and released by the White House.
Trump says in the video filmed in the White House Rose Garden that Democrats want to take away his viewers' guns, health care, freedom and votes.
He adds that, "They're trying to stop me because I'm fighting for you. And I'll never let that happen."
Trump has spent the morning responding to the hearing on Twitter. He will be holding a press conference alongside his Turkish counterpart later in the day.
The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine is telling impeachment investigators that detailed notes he took about what he saw as irregular policy in Ukraine may be provided to Congress "sooner or later."
William Taylor says the notes "may be coming" even though the State Department has so far defied a subpoena to provide documents related to President Donald Trump's dealings with Ukraine.
Dan Goldman, chief of investigations for the House intelligence panel, responded that they would "welcome" those notes.
Taylor has said that he based his testimony about concerns over the policy on detailed notes, including notepads he kept at his desk and in his pocket. But Trump has directed federal agencies not to co-operate with the impeachment investigation, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said he won't provide the documents.
Taylor is testifying Wednesday in the first public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry.
As the House opens public hearings in its impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, it also is continuing the closed-door sessions.
Two more witnesses are expected this week. David Holmes a State Department official, was invited to appear Friday. And Mark Sandy, the associate director for national security programs at the White House Office of Management and Budget, was invited for Saturday.
That's according to an official working on the impeachment inquiry who was not authorized to divulge details of the closed-door hearings.
It's not clear they will appear. Some witnesses have, others have not.
House members have heard from several witnesses on whether Trump withheld security aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigations into Joe Biden's son's role on the board of a Ukrainian gas company and possible interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.
-- By Mary Clare Jalonick
William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, says that a cellphone conversation his aide overheard between another diplomat and President Donald Trump in July shows that the president cares more about investigations into Democrat Joe Biden than he does about Ukraine.
In Democrats' first public impeachment hearing, Taylor said "yes, sir" when House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff asked him if the importance of that overheard conversation was that Trump cared more about the politically motivated probes he was requesting from Ukraine than he did about the East European ally itself.
Taylor told lawmakers that the unnamed aide had told him about the cellphone conversation he overheard between European Union Ambassador Gordan Sondland and Trump on July 26.
He said he didn't know about that call when he first testified behind closed doors Oct. 22.
The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine says he thought it was "crazy" and "illogical" for the Trump administration to make military aid contingent on Ukraine announcing investigations into political rival Joe Biden.
William Taylor made the statements in response to questioning from Daniel Goldman, the investigations chief for Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Taylor said the security assistance was important not only to Ukraine but to America's own military interests. He said "it made no sense" to withhold that money and was "counterproductive to all of what we had been trying to do."
Goldman showed Taylor text messages he sent to other diplomats explaining his belief that it was "crazy" to withhold the military aid for political gain.
President Donald Trump isn't watching the public House impeachment hearings against him.
That's according to Stephanie Grisham, the president's chief spokeswoman. Grisham tells reporters by email that Trump is participating in meetings in the Oval Office.
She writes: "Not watching. He's working."
Trump is scheduled around noon to receive Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (REH'-jehp TY'-ihp UR'-doh-wahn) for meetings, including a separate gathering with senators invited by the White House. Trump and Erdogan are also slated to hold a joint news conference at the White House.
Trump opened Wednesday by lashing out on Twitter at the inquiry and the two career U.S. diplomats who are testifying.
The inquiry focuses on a July telephone call in which Trump sought to get the leader of Ukraine to investigate Trump's political rivals.
Trump denies wrongdoing and has described the conversation as "perfect."
The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine says two other envoys invoked President Donald Trump's history as a businessman in trying to explain the U.S. relationship with Ukraine.
William Taylor described for lawmakers a September phone call in which Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told him that Trump is a businessman and that businessmen ask people who owe something to pay up before they write out a check.
He says Kurt Volker used the same language several days later while they were together at the Yalta European Strategy Conference in Ukraine.
Taylor says he told both that the explanation made no sense and that the Ukrainians did not owe Trump anything and that holding up security assistance for domestic political gain was "crazy."
Taylor is testifying Wednesday in the first public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry.
The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine says he was told that military aid to Ukraine and a White House visit for the new leader were contingent on a public announcement of investigations.
William Taylor told a House committee investigating impeachment against President Donald Trump that another diplomat, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, said "everything" was dependent on whether Ukraine's president publicly announced investigations into Joe Biden's son and potential interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Taylor says he was told Trump wanted the Ukrainian leader "in a public box" by making the statement.
But no statement was ever released.
The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine says his staff recently told him they overheard President Donald Trump speaking on the phone to another diplomat about investigations.
William Taylor made the statement Wednesday in the first public hearing in the House impeachment inquiry.
Taylor says some of his staff were at a restaurant with Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland on the day after the July 25 call between Trump and new leader of Ukraine.
Taylor told the committee that Sondland called Trump from the restaurant and the staff could hear Trump on the phone asking about "the investigations."
Sondland told the president that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.
The House is looking into allegations that Trump asked Ukraine to dig up dirt on the son of his Democratic rival Joe Biden and potential interference in the 2016 presidential elections.
Trump has said he did nothing wrong.
11: 03 a.m.
The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine tells House lawmakers investigating impeachment that he noticed there were two policy channels operating with Ukraine, a "regular" and an "irregular" one.
William Taylor says the president's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was guiding requests through the irregular channel, which was unaccountable to Congress.
Taylor says it slowly became clear to him that conditions were placed on Ukraine's new president.
He had to order investigations into possible Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, and also look into Joe Biden's son Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.
Taylor is testifying Wednesday in the first public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry.
President Donald Trump's reelection campaign is trying to turn public impeachment hearings into a fundraising boon.
The campaign has emailed and texted supporters urging them to give.
And they're setting a fundraising goal of $3 million over the next 24 hours.
Trump and his campaign have been trying to turn the inquiry into a rallying cry for supporters by making the case that it is an attempt by Democrats to invalidate the results of the 2016 election and harm Trump's chances in 2020.
They're calling the hearings "fake" and a "TOTAL SCAM."
One email reads that, "It's time to make a statement" and "do something so EPIC that even the FAKE NEWS media won't be able to ignore us while these baseless Witch Hunt Trials go on."
A top State Department official says he never saw any effort by U.S. officials to shield from scrutiny a Ukrainian natural gas company where Hunter Biden sat on the board.
George Kent is testifying Wednesday in the House impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump.
Investigators are looking into allegations that Trump asked the new Ukrainian president to dig up dirt on the son of Joe Biden, a Democratic political rival.
Hunter Biden sat on the board of the Ukrainian gas company called Burisma. Kent said he raised concerns in 2015 that his status could create the perception of a conflict of interest.
But Kent said he never saw any attempt to shield Burisma from scrutiny because of Biden's connection to the company.
There was an early clash at the first public impeachment hearing over the identity of the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the inquiry.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said he would do everything necessary to protect the whistleblower's identity. Schiff said he would "not permit the outing of the whistleblower."
Republican Rep. Mike Conaway asked Schiff to subpoena the whistleblower to appear behind closed doors. Schiff said he would consider the request after two diplomats appearing before the committee on Wednesday conclude their public testimony.
The impeachment inquiry was sparked after the whistleblower's complaint about President Donald Trump's July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy alleged that Trump pressured the Ukrainian leader to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden's family.
Schiff said he does not know the whistleblower's identity.
A top State Department official tells a House committee investigating whether President Donald Trump should be impeached that he does not believe the U.S. should ask other countries to engage in "selective, politically associated investigations."
George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state, is testifying Wednesday in the first public hearing. He has already testified in a closed session.
Kent says such "selective actions" undermine the rule of law regardless of the country.
House investigators are looking into allegations that Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine unless the new leadership agreed to investigate the son of Democratic political rival Joe Biden.
Biden's son sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.
The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee says Democrats' impeachment inquiry is "a carefully orchestrated media smear campaign."
In his opening statement in the first public House impeachment hearing, California Rep. Devin Nunes says Democrats "turned on a dime" after the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and then focused on Ukraine.
He told the hearing's two witnesses that he would like to welcome them, but said that Americans' trust in government has been damaged as "elements of the civil service have decided that they, not the president, are really in charge."
State Department officials George Kent and William Taylor have told lawmakers they had concerns about Trump's Ukraine policy.
Nunes said the hearings are "an impeachment process in search of a crime."
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff says "there are still missing pieces" in the impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump.
He notes that the Trump administration has withheld many documents and several witnesses did not appear at Trump's direction.
Schiff says that will force Congress to consider "whether Trump's obstruction of the constitutional duties of Congress constitute additional grounds for impeachment."
He says "this is not what our founders intended."
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff says the impeachment inquiry is a test of "what kind of conduct or misconduct" Americans will expect of their president.
As the first public hearings begin, Schiff is seeking to frame the impeachment inquiry as a choice of what sort of presidential behaviour will be tolerated.
Schiff asks if the House finds that Trump abused his power, invited foreign election interference or tried to coerce an ally to investigate a political rival, "must we simply get over it?"
That had been the message of White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney in a press conference last month, when he said it was normal for the U.S. to place conditions on foreign aid.
Schiff adds: "Is that what Americans should now expect from their president?"
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff says the questions at the heart of the impeachment inquiry are simple but also "terrible" to consider.
He says the matter boils down to whether President Donald Trump sought to condition a White House visit or military aid on Ukraine's willingness to open an investigation into Democratic rival Joe Biden. And if he did, is that "abuse of power" incompatible with the office of the presidency.
Schiff says the answers to those questions will affect not only the future of the Trump administration but also of the presidency itself, and what kind of behaviour the American public can expect from the commander in chief.
Schiff spoke Wednesday in opening the first public hearing in the impeachment inquiry.
The House has opened the first public hearing in the impeachment inquiry of U.S. President Donald Trump.
Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff opened the live, televised session Wednesday on Capitol Hill.
It's a remarkable moment for Trump, facing a rare impeachment proceeding over his actions toward Ukraine. Trump insists he did nothing wrong.
Democrats are leading the inquiry into Trump's July phone call with Ukraine's president to see if the actions rise to "high crimes and misdemeanours."
Trump asked the Ukrainian leader to investigate the Democrats in the 2016 election and potential 2020 rival Joe Biden's family, all while withholding military aid to an ally facing Russian aggression.
The panel will hear from two State Department witnesses who defied White House instructions not to appear.
Two seasoned diplomats have arrived for their testimony at the first public hearing in the House impeachment inquiry.
William Taylor and George Kent were both issued subpoenas Wednesday morning by the House Intelligence panel for their testimony, according to an official granted anonymity to discuss the matter.
Taylor is the charge d'affaires in Ukraine and Kent is the deputy assistant secretary at the State Department.
The House intelligence committee's hearing is the first public congressional hearing exploring Trump's pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden's family. It follows several weeks of closed-door depositions.
The inquiry was sparked after a whistleblower's complaint about Trump's July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Democrats have argued the call shows Trump used his office to pressure a foreign leader to help him politically. Trump has said the call was "perfect."
-- By Mary Clare Jalonick
President Donald Trump is lashing out at a pair of witnesses who are set to testify as the House impeachment inquiry goes public.
Trump tweeted "NEVER TRUMPERS!" before Wednesday's hearing opened on Capitol Hill with testimony from William Taylor, the charge d'affaires in Ukraine, and George Kent, a career diplomat. Trump sought to undermine Kent and Taylor with the tweet suggesting they are among members of the foreign policy establishment that never supported him.
Taylor and Kent worked for Republican and Democratic administrations. There's no evidence they engaged in partisan activity opposing Trump.
The impeachment inquiry centres around a July 25 telephone call Trump had with Ukraine's leader and Trump's attempt to pressure the government to investigate his political rivals.
Trump maintains that the telephone conversation was "perfect" and that he did nothing wrong in his relations with Ukraine.
The Republican president also tweeted Wednesday: "READ THE TRANSCRIPT!"
The Kremlin has drawn a parallel between the impeachment proceedings against U.S. President Donald Trump and accusations of Russia's interference in his election.
Asked about the hearings opening Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded that "there are a lot of things far-fetched."
- LIVE @ 9:30 a.m. ET: U.S. House Intelligence Committee holds public hearings as impeachment inquiry into President Trump continues
Peskov compared the proceedings to the U.S. claims of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, which he described as having "little relation to reality."
The Kremlin has shrugged off special counsel Robert Mueller's exposure of Russian interference in the vote.
Mueller found there wasn't enough evidence to establish a conspiracy between Trump's campaign and Russia. But Mueller charged 12 Russian military intelligence officers with breaking into Democratic Party computers and the email accounts of officials with Hillary Clinton's campaign.
Democrats are looking into Trump's pressure on Ukraine to investigate his rival Joe Biden's family. Trump calls the impeachment proceedings a "scam."
Americans who haven't had time to "read the transcript" as encouraged by President Donald Trump can start tuning in to hear first-hand from witnesses in the House impeachment inquiry.
The first public hearing begins Wednesday morning with a seasoned U.S. diplomat, William Taylor, who has told House investigators that the administration withheld aid to Ukraine over political investigations.
Trump contends the transcript of his call with Ukraine's president was "perfect." He has dismissed the inquiry as a "witch hunt" and blocked several aides and other administration personnel from co-operating with the Democratic-led investigation.
Three witnesses are scheduled for this week and eight more are set to testify in public next week.
Republicans are expected to argue that none of the witnesses has first-hand knowledge of the president's actions.
Washington contributed to this report