Pelosi says Trump committed bribery
Latest updates on the impeachment hearings
- A day after the first open hearings, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says that the president has committed bribery
- The House Intelligence Committee held its first public hearing of the impeachment probe on Wednesday, featuring testimony from two key diplomats.
- Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, testified that he learned a member of his staff overheard President Trump asking about "investigations" the day after the president's July 25 call with the president of Ukraine.
- Read 8 key highlights from the first day of hearings here.
- Download the free CBS News app to stream live coverage of the impeachment hearings.
Washington -- A day after the first open impeachment hearings, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has accused the president of bribery in his dealings with Ukraine.
"The devastating testimony corroborated evidence of bribery," Pelosi said. In an exchange with CBS News' Nancy Cordes, the House speaker said, "I am saying that what the President has admitted to and says 'it's perfect' -- I said it's perfectly wrong. It's bribery."
Pelosi also defined the president's bribe: "The bribe is to grant or withhold military assistance in return for a public statement of a fake investigation into the elections. That's bribery."
Bribery, she noted, is "in the Constitution attached to the impeachment proceeding."
On Wednesday, testimony from a career diplomat at the first public hearings of the impeachment inquiry opened new questions about what the president knew about the campaign to pressure Ukraine and when he knew it.
Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, relayed an account by a member of his staff, who said he overheard the president asking about "the investigations" one day after the now-infamous July 25 call between Mr. Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky, then the newly elected president of Ukraine.
Taylor testified that the staffer recently told him about a phone call he overheard between Mr. Trump and U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland in July, one day after Mr. Trump urged the Ukrainian president to "look into" the Bidens.
Taylor said his staffer heard the president ask Sondland about "the investigations." The staffer then asked Sondland how the president felt about Ukraine. Sondland replied that Mr. Trump "cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for."
The staffer in question is David Holmes, a political officer at the embassy in Kiev, according to three sources familiar with the matter. Holmes will appear behind closed doors on Friday, coinciding with the next public hearing, featuring testimony from former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
White House official plans to testify before committees
7:13 p.m.: A White House budget official plans to testify before the House committees leading the impeachment probe, his attorney said Thursday.
Mark Sandy, a career official and the deputy associate director for national security programs at the Office of Management and Budget, would become the first witness from the budget office to appear under oath. The White House has ordered officials not to cooperate with the probe, but many current administration have decided to appear when subpoenaed.
Barbara Van Gelder, an attorney for Sandy, confirmed he plans to appear, a development that was first reported by The Washington Post. -- Paula Reid
What Republicans hope to accomplish at Friday's hearing
7:07 p.m.: Republicans are going to try to establish three main points during the Yovanovitch hearing on Friday, a senior GOP aide tells CBS News.
First, they will try to demonstrate that the president had every right to recall her from her post and the reasons for him doing so were totally reasonable, arguing that the president had a good faith belief that there were problems with Yovanovitch and the situation in Ukraine. They'll point out that Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, also said he had concerns with Yovanovitch on his July 25 call with Mr. Trump. If the host country doesn't want her there, that in and of itself is a reason to recall her, not that the president needs a reason, this argument goes.
Second, they'll emphasize that Yovanovitch was recalled in May and wasn't involved during the relevant time period over the summer.
Lastly, the Republicans will note Yovanovitch is on the record talking about Ukrainian corruption and talked about it in an Oval Office meeting in 2017. -- Rebecca Kaplan
What Democrats hope to accomplish with Yovanovitch's testimony
5:55 p.m.: While testimony from Bill Taylor and George Kent on Tuesday was meant to provide a full timeline of efforts to pressure Ukraine, Democrats see former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch as their messenger to highlight the consequences of a shadow foreign policy that emerged. Yovanovitch testifies Friday morning.
"She was removed in the spring of this year ... because she was so effective, and of course that cleared the way for the president's allies to take over Ukraine policy, and ultimately press for these political investigations beneficial to the president's 2020 campaign throughout the summer," said a Democratic aide working on the impeachment process. "She's really witness to, and kind of a victim of, the first chapter of the story."
Democrats will draw attention to Mr. Trump's comments about Yovanovitch on the July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which the president called her "bad news" and said she was "going to go through some things." In her closed-door testimony, Yovanovitch said, "I didn't know what it meant. I was very concerned. I still am." She told investigators she felt threatened.
She also said she learned Giuliani wanted her removed from office when she found out he had met with Yuriy Lutsenko, a former Ukrainian prosecutor. "Mr. Lutsenko ... was in communication with Mayor Giuliani and that they had plans, and that they were going to, you know, do things, including to me," she said.
They'll also highlight Yovanovitch's exemplary record, as described by other nonpolitical witnesses in the impeachment inquiry. -- Rebecca Kaplan
Trump meets with Barr and Cipollone at White House before leaving for rally
4:50 p.m.: Before heading to a campaign rally in Louisiana, the president was spotted in the Oval Office speaking with Attorney General William Barr and White House counsel Pat Cipollone.
A Department of Justice spokesman said Barr is at the White House for "meetings" but did not disclose the topic.
The president was scheduled to leave the White House at 4:10 p.m. for the rally in Bossier City, Louisiana, which is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. ET. -- Stefan Becket and Paula Reid
Pelosi says Trump committed bribery
11:15 a.m.: In her weekly press conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the testimony by Taylor and Kent on Wednesday "corroborated evidence of bribery" by the president.
"The devastating testimony corroborated evidence of bribery," Pelosi said. In an exchange with CBS News' Nancy Cordes, the House speaker said, "I am saying that what the President has admitted to and says 'it's perfect'-- I said it's perfectly wrong. It's bribery."
Pelosi also defined the president's bribe thus: "The bribe is to grant or withhold military assistance in return for a public statement of a fake investigation into the elections. That's bribery."
Bribery, she noted is "in the Constitution attached to the impeachment proceeding."
However, she pushed back against questions that the House was going to vote to impeach Mr. Trump, saying that the inquiry was a "fact-finding" investigation. She added that Mr. Trump should make any "exculpatory" evidence known to the House.
"This is very prayerful. Because impeachment is a divisive thing in our country," Pelosi said.
She condemned Mr. Trump's actions, however, saying: "The cover-up makes what Nixon did look almost small. Almost small."
Graham says he won't allow for Senate trial without hearing from whistleblower
10:35 a.m.: Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill, Sen. Lindsey Graham said he won't allow any Senate impeachment proceedings to move forward with his vote unless Congress first hears from the whistleblower.
Some Republicans have insisted witnesses who have appeared aren't credible enough because not all of their testimony is firsthand, while insisting the whistleblower, with secondhand information, must appear.
"I will not allow trial to go forward with my vote unless the whistleblower comes forward," Graham responded when asked about how long he'd like a Senate trial to last. The South Carolina Republican reiterated that he didn't watch the hearings Wednesday.
Trump says Wednesday's witnesses couldn't say if what he did was impeachable
6:54 a.m.: Mr. Trump seized on Taylor and Kent not saying whether what he said on the phone with Ukraine's president was impeachable, even though suggesting whether something is impeachable or not wasn't their place as diplomats.
"@RepRatcliffe asked the two 'star' witnesses, 'where is the impeachable event in that call?' Both stared straight ahead with a blank look on their face, remained silent, & were unable to answer the question. That would be the end of a case run by normal people! - but not Shifty!" the president tweeted.
Taylor: Withholding aid to Ukraine was "wrong"
Wednesday: Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell asked Taylor whether he would agree that withholding aid to Ukraine was not just "crazy," as Taylor had testified, but also "wrong." After a pause, Taylor replied: "Yes."
"To withhold assistance, security to a country fighting Russia for no good policy reason, no good substantive reason, that is wrong," Taylor said.
Swalwell also asked Kent and Taylor if they were "Never Trumpers," as Mr. Trump has alleged. Both denied that they opposed the president. -- Grace Segers
Staffer referenced by Taylor to appear behind closed doors Friday
Wednesday: The diplomatic official who allegedly overheard Mr. Trump ask about the status of "investigations" soon after his July phone call with the Ukrainian president is expected to appear before House lawmakers for a closed-door hearing on Friday.
David Holmes is the staffer referenced by diplomat Bill Taylor in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, three sources familiar with the matter tell CBS News. Holmes is a counselor for political affairs at the U.S. embassy in Kiev, according to the embassy's website.
William Burns, a career diplomat and former deputy secretary of state, described Holmes as "a very sharp, honest, experienced" foreign service officer, telling CBS News he was "one of the best I ever served with." Holmes served as Burns' special assistant on South and Central Asia from 2010 to 2011, before being detailed to the National Security Council as a director for Afghanistan during the Obama administration.
Read more here.
Taylor says he has never seen aid withheld for personal political gain
Wednesday: Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman asked Taylor if, in his decades of service in the military and as a public servant, he had ever seen another example of withholding aid conditioned on the "personal or political interests of the president of the United States."
"No, Mr. Goldman, I have not," Taylor replied simply, an indication of how unusual Mr. Trump's request was. -- Grace Segers
Taylor says aide overheard Trump ask Sondland about "the investigations" one day after Ukraine call
Wednesday: In his opening statement, Taylor revealed new details about the events immediately following the president's July 25 call with the president of Ukraine.
Taylor said a member of his staff told him last week about a phone call he overheard between U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland and Mr. Trump on July 26.
"Ambassador Sondland called President Trump and told him of his meetings in Kiev. The member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone, asking Ambassador Sondland about 'the investigations.' Ambassador Sondland told President Trump that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward," Taylor said.
"Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for," he added.
Taylor said he did not know about the conversation when he first testified in a closed hearing on October 22, but reported it to the State Department counsel and to the majority and minority counsel on the House Intelligence Committee once he learned of it.
An attorney for Sondland told CBS News that he will respond to Taylor's statement when he testifies in an open hearing next week.
Taylor said that Tim Morrison, a National Security Council official who will testify before the committee next week, told him Mr. Trump "doesn't want to provide any assistance at all" to Ukraine.
Taylor said he urged Sondland to push back against Mr. Trump's desire for Zelensky to publicly announce investigations.
"I told Ambassador Sondland that President Trump should have more respect for another head of state and that what he described was not in the interest of either President Trump or President Zelensky," Taylor said, echoing his closed-door testimony.
Taylor also emphasized his nonpartisan views earlier in his testimony.
"I am not here to take one side or the other, or to advocate for any particular outcome of these proceedings," Taylor said. "My sole purpose to provide facts as I know them."
Like Kent, Taylor stressed the importance of U.S. security assistance to Ukraine, saying Ukraine was also a critical partner to the United States. He said it was "clearly in our national interest to deter further Russian interference" in Ukraine, and reiterated his belief that withholding assistance to Ukraine "would be crazy."
"This security assistance demonstrates our commitment to resist aggression and defend freedom," Taylor said. He added that it was a difficult decision for him to return to Ukraine after Yovanovitch was ousted due to smears spread by Rudy Giuliani.
Taylor said he "worried about the role" of Giuliani in formulating Ukraine policy. He said that when he arrived in Ukraine, he witnessed "encouraging, confusing, and ultimately alarming circumstances."
"There appeared to be two channels of U.S. policy making and implementation: one regular, and one highly irregular," Taylor said. He added that he was included occasionally in the irregular channel, which consisted of Kurt Volker, Gordon Sondland, Rick Perry, Mick Mulvaney and Giuliani. -- Grace Segers
George Kent's opening statement: Giuliani efforts were "infecting" Ukraine policy
Wednesday: In his prepared opening statement, Kent describes at length his credentials and commitment to advancing U.S. interests and freedom in Ukraine. He then detailed what he saw as an attempt to contradict or undermine the national interest, and specifically to undermine then-Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
"Over the course of 2018-2019, I became increasingly aware of an effort by Rudy Giuliani and others, including his associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, to run a campaign to smear Ambassador Yovanovitch and other officials at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv," Kent said in his remarks.
"In mid-August, it became clear to me that Giuliani's efforts to gin up politically motivated investigations were now infecting U.S. engagement with Ukraine, leveraging President Zelensky's desire for a White House meeting," Kent continued.
Kent also briefly addressed his concerns about Burisma, the Ukrainian gas firm that had employed Hunter Biden. Mr. Trump has claimed that Joe Biden, as vice president, pushed for the removal of a prosecutor general because he was investigating Burisma, when in fact the prosecutor was widely seen as corrupt by the West.
Kent said he raised concerns about Hunter Biden's service on the board of Burisma but "did not witness any efforts by any U.S. official to shield Burisma from scrutiny."
Kent concluded his opening remarks by praising first-generation Americans who have testified before the committee in closed hearings, including Yovanovitch, Alexander Vindman and Fiona Hill. Yovanovitch is testifying in an open hearing on Friday, while Vindman and Hill will appear next week. -- Kathryn Watson and Grace Segers
Schiff lays out case against Trump in opening statement
Wednesday: In his opening remarks, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff emphasized the gravity of the hearing, saying the ongoing impeachment inquiry "will affect not only this presidency, but the future of the presidency itself."
"The questions presented by this impeachment inquiry are whether President Trump sought to exploit that ally's vulnerability and invite Ukraine's interference in our elections," Schiff said. "Whether President Trump sought to condition official acts, such as a White House meeting or U.S. military assistance, on Ukraine's willingness to assist with two political investigations that would help his reelection campaign. And if President Trump did either, whether such an abuse of his power is compatible with the office of the presidency."
Schiff said the facts at hand "are not seriously contested."
"Beginning in January of this year, the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, pressed Ukrainian authorities to investigate Burisma, the country's largest natural gas producer, and the Bidens, since Vice President Joe Biden was seen as a strong potential challenger to Trump," Schiff said. "Giuliani also promoted a debunked conspiracy that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that hacked the 2016 election."
He connected that effort with the administration delaying military aid to Ukraine, and the president's request to the Ukrainian president to open investigations.
Schiff tried to preempt a Republican argument in defense of the president, which is that military aid to Ukraine was eventually released without Ukraine opening investigations into the Bidens or the 2016 election.
"Some have argued in the president's defense that the aid was ultimately released. That is true. But only after Congress began an investigation; only after the president's lawyers learned of a whistleblower complaint; and only after members of Congress began asking uncomfortable questions about quid pro quos," Schiff said.
Schiff concluded his statement by comparing these impeachment hearings to the ones investigating President Nixon.
"These actions will force Congress to consider, as it did with President Nixon, whether Trump's obstruction of the constitutional duties of Congress constitute additional grounds for impeachment," Schiff said. "If the president can simply refuse all oversight, particularly in the context of an impeachment proceeding, the balance of power between our two branches of government will be irrevocably altered." -- Grace Segers