Latest updates on the impeachment hearings
- The House Intelligence Committee held its first public hearing of the impeachment probe, featuring testimony from two key diplomats over the course of more than five hours.
- Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, told the committee he recently learned a member of his staff overheard President Trump asking about "investigations" the day after his July 25 call with the president of Ukraine.
- In that call, Mr. Trump urged the Ukrainian leader to investigate a company that had employed Joe Biden's son and events during the 2016 campaign.
- Download the free CBS News app to stream live coverage of the impeachment hearings.
Washington -- The two career diplomats who testified at the first public hearings in the impeachment inquiry told House lawmakers they became increasingly alarmed over an "irregular" effort to pressure Ukraine into announcing investigations that would benefit President Trump politically.
Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, testified before the House Intelligence Committee for more than five and a half hours on Wednesday. The hearing, which was carried live across the major broadcast and cable news networks, gave the American public its first look at impeachment proceedings that have taken place behind closed doors for close to two months.
The two diplomats insisted they are nonpartisan career public servants working to advance U.S. interests and bolster Ukraine's ability to counter Russian aggression, which they said was critical to U.S. national security.
Republican lawmakers mostly avoided casting doubt on the pair's credibility, instead focusing their attacks on committee Chairman Adam Schiff and the anonymous whistleblower whose complaint sparked the impeachment inquiry in the first place.
Taylor and Kent described a monthslong effort led by the president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and other U.S. diplomats that placed those foreign policy objectives in jeopardy. Both said they eventually came to believe the release of crucial military aid worth nearly $400 million was contingent on Ukraine announcing investigations into supposed Ukrainian interference in 2016 and Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company that had employed Hunter Biden, the former vice president's son.
Kent said he came to believe Giuliani was "infecting" the U.S. relationship with Ukraine in pursuit of the president's personal political interests. "To withhold assistance, security to a country fighting Russia for no good policy reason, no good substantive reason -- that is wrong," said Taylor, who described hearing from Ukrainian officials as they became increasingly worried about the delay in the late summer. He said he did not learn about the delay until late August, at which point he sent a cable directly to the secretary of state documenting his concerns.
Most importantly, Taylor revealed a new detail in the narrative of Mr. Trump's involvement in the pressure campaign. He said a member of his staff recently told him about a phone call he overheard between Mr. Trump and U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland in July, shortly 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."
That staffer 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. -- Stefan Becket
Trump says he'll release memo of earlier call with Zelensky on Thursday
5:06 p.m.: In a joint press conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President Trump said the White House would release a transcript of his first call with Zelensky on Thursday. The two leaders first spoke in April, after Zelensky was elected.
Mr. Trump said over the weekend that he was planning on releasing the transcript for the April call on Tuesday.
"But here's the deal. Read the transcript, you'll see the call. Now, I'll give you a second transcript because I actually had two calls with the President of Ukraine so you'll read the second call and you'll tell me if you think there's anything wrong with it," Mr. Trump said on Saturday.
Mr. Trump has called his July 25 call with Zelensky, concerns over which precipitated the impeachment inquiry, "perfect." He has exhorted the public to "read the transcript," referring to the official summary the July 25 call, which is not a word-for-word transcript. -- Grace Segers
Taylor and Kent dismissed as hearing wraps up
3:35 p.m.: Taylor and Kent were dismissed after more than five hours of testimony. The two officials answered questions from 22 members of Congress, as well as staff attorneys for the majority and minority on the committee.
The committee planned to reconvene after a brief recess in order to vote on a Republican motion to subpoena the whistleblower. The motion is expected to fail. -- Grace Segers
Taylor: Withholding aid to Ukraine was "wrong"
2:43 p.m.: 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
2:42 p.m.: 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.
Ratcliffe asks Taylor if Zelensky was lying when he said he felt no pressure
1:56 p.m.: Congressman John Ratcliffe, one of Mr. Trump's most vocal defenders, used his five minutes of questioning to ask Taylor about Zelensky's repeated assertions that he felt no pressure from Mr. Trump to open investigations. Ratcliffe asked if Taylor had any reason to believe that Zelensky was lying.
Taylor said there was no evidence that Zelensky was lying. Ratcliffe repeatedly interrupted and spoke over him.
However, Democrats argue Zelensky could not admit to feeling pressure even if he did, since doing so would put his support from the U.S. at risk. -- Grace Segers
5-minute rounds of member questioning begins
1:29 p.m.: Committee members began five-minute rounds of questioning, starting with Schiff.
Schiff's questions took aim at Republicans' assertions that Mr. Trump cared about general corruption in Ukraine, and specifically corruption related to Burisma. Schiff noted that allegations of corruption against Burisma occurred several years before the call between Mr. Trump and Zelensky, and that Mr. Trump did not bring up the person specifically implicated in the corruption case in the call, only mentioning the 2016 election and the Bidens in his call.
Taylor also testified that Zelensky's "staff was making plans" for an interview between Zelensky and CNN about opening investigations before the aid was released. -- Grace Segers
Republican counsel questions Kent and Taylor on Burisma
1:13 p.m.: Castor, the counsel for the Republicans, questioned Kent and Taylor on the appointment of Hunter Biden to the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas firm, while his father was vice president. Both Kent and Taylor said they had no knowledge about Hunter Biden's experience or why he was named to the board.
Kent discussed how he reported his concern about Hunter Biden's connection to Burisma to the office of the vice president. He said he was worried about "the perception of a conflict of interest," but not necessarily a conflict of interest itself.
The Republican counsel also asked Taylor about the "irregular" channel of Ukrainian policy-making, which included Rudy Giuliani, Gordon Sondland, Kurt Volker and Rick Perry.
When asked if the irregular channel was as "outlandish as it could be," Taylor agreed that it was not. -- Grace Segers
Republicans begin questioning of Taylor and Kent
12:42 p.m.: Republican Ranking Member Devin Nunes began his 45 minutes of time questioning Taylor and Kent by saying that both Mr. Trump and Zelensky have said there was no pressure by Mr. Trump during the July 25 call.
Nunes also reiterated Republican arguments about the assistance eventually being released to Ukraine in September, without Ukraine opening an investigation into the 2016 elections or the Bidens. He also repeated the idea that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, a claim which both Taylor and Kent said had no basis in fact.
Taylor noted that Mr. Trump had said, as a candidate in 2016, that Crimea could be returned to Russia -- a statement that could have been seen as inflammatory by Ukrainian officials who opposed his candidacy. -- Grace Segers
Trump says he's "too busy" to watch impeachment hearing
12:30 p.m.: Mr. Trump told reporters he's "too busy" to watch the impeachment proceedings.
"I'm too busy to watch it. I have not been briefed," Mr. Trump said. He also said Democrats are "using lawyers that are television lawyers."
"I'm not surprised to see it, because Schiff can't do his own questions," Mr. Trump said. The Republican counsel is also expected to ask questions of Taylor and Kent.
Mr. Trump is welcoming Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House, where the two leaders will hold a joint press conference later this afternoon. -- Grace Segers
Kent: "No factual basis" for allegations Ukraine interfered in 2016 election
12:19 p.m.: Questioned by Democratic counsel, Kent testified there is "no factual basis" for allegations that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, something that has been floated by Trump allies. The U.S. intelligence community concluded it was Russia that interfered in the election. -- Kathryn Watson
Taylor: Trump felt "wronged" by Ukrainians and felt they "owed" him
12:01 p.m.: Taylor testified Mr. Trump felt "wronged" by Ukrainians over the 2016 election, and that they "owed" him investigations into the Bidens and Burisma. Taylor said he came to believe this following a discussion with the U.S. delegation to Zelensky's inauguration in May.
Taylor said investigations into the Bidens and Burisma "would have been to fix the wrong, exactly."
Ukrainians didn't owe the U.S. anything but gratitude, the diplomat acknowledged.
Taylor also testified he received several questions from Ukrainian officials who learned, through Sondland, that military aid wouldn't be released until investigations were announced. It was clear, Taylor said, the aid was very important to the Ukrainians. -- Kathryn Watson
Taylor says he has never seen aid withheld for personal political gain
11:45 p.m.: 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
Schiff begins opening round of questioning
11:37 a.m.: After Taylor completed his lengthy opening statement, Schiff began his allotted 45 minutes of questioning. He dove right into the new information regarding the call Taylor said his aide overheard.
Taylor agreed that Sondland's remarks were meant to mean that the president cared more about Zelensky pursuing investigations regarding the Bidens and Burisma than he cared about U.S. policy toward Ukraine.
Taylor said it's "hard to draw any direct lines" to determine whether lives were lost because of the delayed aid to Ukraine, but insisted it's undeniable that the aid is necessary to counter Russian attacks. Ukrainians lose their lives "every week," Taylor testified.
Schiff yielded the floor to the lead investigator on the committee staff to continue questioning. -- Kathryn Watson
Taylor says aide overheard Trump ask Sondland about "the investigations" one day after Ukraine call
11:13 a.m.: 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
10:36 a.m.: 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
Republicans stall to ask for subpoena for whistleblower
10:35 a.m.: Republicans on the committee stalled the impeachment hearing by asking for the committee to vote on a subpoena for the whistleblower. Schiff said that there could be a vote after the hearing with Taylor and Kent. He also denied Republican allegations that he knows the identity of the whistleblower. -- Grace Segers
Nunes calls inquiry a "carefully orchestrated media smear campaign"
10:29 a.m.: Nunes started out by referencing former special counsel Robert Mueller's public testimony. After a "spectacular implosion" of the "Russian hoax," Nunes said, Democrats are making another attempt to undo the results of the 2016 presidential election.
"And yet now, here we are. We're supposed to take these people at face value when they trot out a new batch of allegations," Nunes said.
The impeachment inquiry, Nunes said, is a "carefully orchestrated media smear campaign."
Nunes hit on how closed-door depositions were leaked only in parts, even though transcripts of those closed-door depositions are now available for anyone to read. He also blasted Schiff for not granting Republicans' request to allow former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, to testify in public. Nunes also criticized Schiff for his office's failure to disclose that the whistleblower came into contact with the office this summer.
The top Republican on the committee said no hearings should take place at all until three questions are answered: What is the Democrats' coordination with the whistleblower? What is the full extent of Ukraine's election meddling against the Trump campaign? And why did Burisma hire Hunter Biden to serve on their board?
Wednesday's hearing, Nunes reiterated, will simply be a televised spectacle.
"The main performance, the Russia hoax has ended, and you've been cast in the low-rent Ukrainian sequel," Nunes told Taylor and Kent. -- Kathryn Watson
Schiff lays out case against Trump in opening statement
10:20 a.m.: 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
Posters preview Republican arguments
9:50 a.m.: Republican lawmakers have printed three posters they're displaying on the dais in the hearing room, offering a preview of the arguments they plan to make.
One quotes a Democratic lawmaker urging impeachment, with another criticizing Schiff for his staff's earlier interactions with the whistleblower. A third shows a tweet from 2017 from the whistleblower's attorney, Mark Zaid, in which he said "#coup has started." -- Stefan Becket
Kent arrives for testimony
9:26 a.m.: George Kent has also arrived for his testimony. He and Taylor are waiting in a holding room before the hearing starts at 10 a.m.
An official working on the inquiry says both are appearing under subpoenas that were issued this morning. -- Rebecca Kaplan and Olivia Gazis
Taylor arrives ahead of hearing
9:15 a.m.: Taylor arrived on Capitol Hill ahead of his testimony as the hearing room began to fill up. -- Rebecca Kaplan
Staff lawyers to lead first rounds of questioning
9:15 a.m.: Schiff and Nunes will both designate staff attorneys to conduct the first 45-minute rounds of questioning.
Schiff will designate Daniel Goldman, senior adviser and director of investigations on the committee, to ask questions, according to a committee official.
Nunes will tap Steve Castor, the general counsel for the Republican minority on the House Oversight Committee. -- Rebecca Kaplan
How the Trump inquiry compares to Clinton's impeachment
9:00 a.m.: The hearings on Wednesday mark the fourth time in history that Congress has considered removing a president from office. The last time was 1998 when the House of Representatives impeached President Bill Clinton.
Clinton lied under oath about his affair with a White House intern, triggering an impeachment inquiry in the Republican-led House.
"I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky," Clinton said on January 26, 1998.
Then, like now, the parties were split over whether the president's actions represented what the Constitution refers to as "high crimes and misdemeanors." Just like today, the minority argued the opposing party had been looking for a way to take down the president for years.
Read more here.
How the first impeachment hearing will play out
8:00 a.m.: The hearing will get underway at 10 a.m. in the House Ways and Means Committee room and follow procedures laid out in a resolution adopted by the House last month.
After opening statements by Democratic Chairman Adam Schiff and ranking member Devin Nunes, witnesses Bill Taylor and George Kent will be sworn in and allowed to read their own statements.
The questioning portion of the hearing will differ from typical congressional hearings in two important ways. First, the initial round will consist of 45-minute sessions controlled by the chairman and ranking member for questions after opening statements. Secondly, Schiff and Nunes can both cede that time to designated committee staff members to conduct the questioning, meaning lawyers steeped in the investigation can pursue lengthy lines of questioning. Schiff can add additional rounds for himself and Nunes at his discretion.
Following the first round, the proceedings will move into a more traditional format, with members given five minutes to ask questions, alternating between parties. Schiff can decide the order of questioning. The witnesses can also request breaks over the course of the hearing.
Those parameters mean the proceedings will continue until the early afternoon and possibly into the early evening. -- Stefan Becket and Rebecca Kaplan
Who is Bill Taylor?
7:15 a.m.: William Taylor is the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, the chargé d'affaires. A West Point graduate and former U.S. Army officer, he earned a Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam, and has been a public servant for more than 50 years.
He has served in a variety of diplomatic roles under presidents of both parties, including a stint as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009.
In his closed-door testimony in October, he said U.S. aid to Ukraine had been explicitly tied to Ukraine's willingness to investigate Mr. Trump's political rivals. He also spoke of an "irregular channel" of policymaking including Giuliani, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland and Kurt Volker, special envoy to Ukraine.
According to Taylor, there was a concerted effort by what he referred to as this "irregular, informal channel of U.S. policy-making" to pressure Ukraine to commit to opening investigations into unproven allegations of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, as well as into the gas company Burisma. -- Stefan Becket
Who is George Kent?
6:30 a.m.: George Kent is the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, overseeing State Department policy toward a number of countries, including Ukraine.
A longtime diplomat, Kent served as deputy chief of mission in the U.S. embassy in Kiev from 2015 to 2018, according to his State Department biography. He previously worked on anti-corruption State Department initiatives in Europe.
Kent provided closed-door testimony echoing Taylor's statements to Congress. He said three officials had declared themselves in charge of Ukraine policy in May: Gordon Sondland, Kurt Volker and Rick Perry.
Kent also said Giuliani had engaged in a "campaign of slander" with no basis in fact against U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.