On Wednesday, Nov. 13, William Taylor, the top-ranking U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, a senior State Department official were the first to publicly testify in the House's impeachment investigation, according to CBS News.
Taylor testified that one of his aides overheard a phone call between President Trump and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the E.U., according to the New York Times.
"Ambassador Sondland called President Trump and told him of his meetings in Kyiv. 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," said Taylor, according to CBS News.
One of Sondland's attorneys told CBS News that they would respond to Taylor's statements when he testifies next week.
Kent stated that Rudolph Giuliani, Trump's attorney, made efforts to pressure President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate Trump’s opponents and “were now infecting U.S. engagement with Ukraine, leveraging President Zelensky’s desire for a White House meeting,” according to the New York Times.
Republicans argued that the evidence presented at the hearings is not as solid as the Democrats may think because it is all based on second-hand information. They emphasized that neither Kent nor Taylor spoke directly to Trump, according to CNN.
"The transcript speaks for itself. There was no conditionality or quid pro quo in the transcript," said Rep. Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio contributing to the Intelligence Committee for the impeachment hearings, according to CNN.
Adam Schiff, the Intelligence Committee chairman, opened the Wednesday hearing with a list of information already presented in the impeachment inquiry asking “If this is not impeachable conduct, what is?” Schiff went on to point out one of the most recent developments, Mick Mulvaney's, the White House chief of staff, statement on Nov. 5 where he told journalists that military aid was held back from Ukraine in part to prod Ukraine to investigate Democrats. He later took back this statement, according to the New York Times.
Jordan also criticized Taylor's statement that military aid for Ukraine was withheld and conditioned on Ukraine launching the investigations that President Trump wanted, saying that military aid was eventually given to Ukraine, according to the New York Times.
Democrats argued back to these complaints, stating that officials with first-hand information, like Mick Mulvaney and former National Security Adviser John Bolton, were blocked from testifying by the White House, according to CNN.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi accused President Trump of bribery on Thursday, Nov. 14, stating "I am saying that what the President has admitted to and says 'it's perfect' — I said it's perfectly wrong. It's bribery," according to CBS.
Former U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is set to testify Friday, Nov. 15. Yovanovitch was the U.S. ambassador in Kyiv from August 2016 to May 2019, when she was removed from office and ordered to return to Washington, according to NPR.
Yovanovitch has previously stated in a private testimony that she was told she was removed from office because "the president had lost confidence in me, and no longer wished me to serve as an ambassador ... that there had been a concerted campaign against me, and that the department had been under pressure from the president to remove me since the summer of 2018," according to NPR.