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First public Trump impeachment hearing begins

Associated Press • Nov 13, 2019 at 10:14 AM

WASHINGTON — The Latest on the House impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump (all times local):

10:05 a.m.

The House has opened the first public hearing in the impeachment inquiry of 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 misdemeanors.”

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.

9:56 a.m.

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.

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9:25 a.m.

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 centers 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!”

8:40 a.m.

The Kremlin has drawn a parallel between the impeachment proceedings against 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.”

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.”

12:10 a.m.

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 cooperating 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.

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