Impeachment Inquiry: No Firsthand Information?

by Daveda Gruber:

On Wednesday, Democrats released a transcript of testimony from U.S. diplomat Bill Taylor in conjunction with the Democrats releasing the transcripts of closed-door sessions.

According to the document in question, Taylor told congressional lawmakers who are conducting the impeachment inquiry that President Trump was willing to hold up aid of a military nature to Ukraine to insure investigations that could help him politically.

Taylor, a top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine said, “That was my clear understanding, security assistance money would not come until the President [of Ukraine] committed to pursue the investigation.”

Also, in the transcript Taylor says that other officials told him that the White House was willing to hold up military aid and a prospective White House meeting to obtain a public announcement from Ukraine that would solidify that probes were in progress that related to election interference and a company, Burisma, linked to former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.

Burisma Holdings is the Ukrainian natural gas company where Hunter Biden was employed in a high end role and made an exorbitant amount of money despite not having any knowledge of business practices.

Republicans contend that Taylor didn’t have first hand information and his recollection was that of what others around him were saying.

Taylor was asked by GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin  if he had any “firsthand knowledge” of Trump making it a condition that an investigation into the 2016 election and the Bidens would bear upon military aid.

Taylor made it clear that he did not speak to the president or have any communication with the president on this matter.

He did say that he was basing his testimony on what former United States Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, Kurt Volker, and E.U. ambassador Gordon Sondland had told him.

Taylor said, “What I know is what Ambassador Sondland was able to tell me about those investigations and Ambassador Volker. I don’t know what was in the President’s mind.”

Taylor was adamant that he didn’t have “firsthand” communication with the president or the president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

Beyond not communicating directly with President Trump or Giuliani, he testified that a July 28 conversation with National Security Council aide Tim Morrison told him of a conversation between Sondland and top Ukraine aide Andriy Yermak that security assistance money would not come until Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy committed to pursue the Burisma investigation.

Taylor said in his testimony, “I was alarmed by what Mr. Morrison told me about the Sondland-Yermak conversation. This was the first time I had heard that the security assistance not just the White House meeting — was conditioned on the investigations.”

Taylor said that Sondland asked him to call after Taylor texted a message asking if security assistance and a White House meeting “are conditioned on investigations.”

Those text messages have been released but the details of the phone call were not spelled out.

Taylor testified, “During that phone call, Ambassador Sondland told me that President Trump had told him that he wants President Zelenskyy to state publicly that Ukrain will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.”

On Tuesday, it was revealed in a released document that Sondland revised his prior testimony to say that he told a top Ukrainian official that U.S. aid would likely not resume until the country issues a corruption statement. To the Democrats that was proof of the quid pro quo they have been alleging took place.

In September Sondland had texted Taylor that there was no quid pro quo. The supplemental declaration says that “by the beginning of September 2019, and in the absence of any credible explanation for the suspension of aid, I presumed that the aid suspension had become linked to the proposed anti-corruption statement.”

Sondland agreed that he told one of Zelensky’s advisers that “resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks.”

It has been alleged that claims from Sondland are an assumption and are not based on fact.

Sondland is adamant that he did not know and still doesn’t know who or why the aid was suspended.

Open hearing will begin next week.

McCarthy Calls on Pelosi to End Impeachment Inquiry

by Daveda Gruber:

On Thursday House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy R-Calif., sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calling on her to suspend the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

Citing the need for “transparent and equitable rules and procedures” to be established, McCarthy criticized Pelosi about the “swiftness and recklessness” which House committee chairs have proceeded with the impeachment inquiry.

McCarthy also brought up the need for Republican participation in the proceedings.

McCarthy said in his letter, “Unfortunately, you have given no clear indication as to how your impeachment inquiry will proceed – including whether key historical precedents or basic standards of due process will be observed. In addition, the swiftness and recklessness with which you have proceeded has already resulted in committee chairs attempting to limit minority participation in scheduled interviews, calling into question the integrity of such an inquiry.”

The Minority leader took to Twitter and tweeted:

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., was alleged to have been leaning to limiting Republicans’ ability to ask questions during Thursday’s testimony by former U.S. envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker.

Quite a few questions were posed to Pelosi by McCarthy in the letter. He asks Pelosi if she has plans to hold a full House vote on authorizing the impeachment inquiry.

McCarthy, in the letter, also asks the speaker whether or not she plans to grant subpoena powers to both the committee chairs and the ranking members. It also asks Pelosi whether she’ll allow trump’s lawyers to attend the hearings.

Generally, it appears that McCarthy was asking Pelosi for a fair shake in the questioning of former American diplomat Kurt Volker.

There are representatives from the Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committees, but only the Intelligence Committee can ask questions.

Republicans who have been in the closed door session are already commenting.

Jim Jordan R-OH., came out of the non-televised session during a break and spoke to reporters.

Here is what he had to say:

According to Jordan, Volker, who resigned from his post as the U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine until his resignation on September 27, 2019, voluntarily answered questions and gave responses that were not to the detriment of the president.

This impeachment investigation started over a phone call in which Trump allegedly asked Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s family’s dealings in the Ukraine.

It is alleged that Trump threatened to withhold $400 million in military aid unless the Ukraine investigated Biden and his son Hunter Biden’s dealing with that country.