Impeachment Update: Bill Taylor’s ‘Explosive’ Testimony, GOP Storms Hearing
The drama continued in the Trump impeachment proceedings with more potentially damaging testimony and a dramatic ‘storming of the gates’ by Republicans.
A day after acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor gave a testimony that many consider to be the most damning development in the impeachment inquiry against President Trump yet, a group of over two dozen Congressional Republicans stormed a secure room in the U.S. Capital Building in protest of the closed-door depositions, delaying the scheduled testimony of Pentagon official Laura Cooper for over five hours.
The demonstration represents the latest effort of Trump’s congressional allies to depict the inquiry into whether Trump sought to use Ukraine aid as leverage to force the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to open a public investigation for his political benefit as a secretive and illegitimate bid to force the president from office.
Republicans Storm Impeachment Proceedings
Critics noted that multiple Republicans sit on the three committees – the Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs panels – conducting the closed-door depositions. House Democrats argue preliminary questionings must be done behind closed doors to prevent witnesses from coordinating their testimonies. They say they will hold public sessions in the coming weeks.
Many of the Republicans involved in the chaotic scene were not members of those three committees, and were therefore unauthorized from entering the secure room. Their defiant act was further sullied by their use of phones in the secure facility, a serious violation of House rules.
“Dozens of members brought in electronics,” argued Rep. Eric Swalwell, a member of the Intelligence committee. “They not only brought in their unauthorized bodies, they may have brought in the Russians and the Chinese with electronics into a secure space.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz, who led the demonstration, called for greater transparency in the inquiry, which he believes is unwarranted: “If behind those doors, they intend to overturn the result of an American presidential election, we want to know what’s going on,” Gaetz said, claiming Democrats are “obsessed with attacking a president who we believe has not done anything to deserve impeachment.”
Impeachment Proceedings Ramp Up in Recent Weeks
The probe appears to have turned sharply against the president in recent weeks, with multiple career officials seemingly corroborating the original whistleblower’s complaint of a “quid-pro-quo,” an exchange where each party’s transaction is directly contingent upon the other’s, in the closed-door hearings. In this case, the quid-pro-quo was U.S. aid and a White House visit in exchange for a public investigation into the Biden family that Trump believed would benefit him politically.
Lawmakers and observers argue ambassador Bill Taylor’s 15-page testimony on Tuesday provides the most thorough timeline of the efforts of an “irregular, informal” channel operated by Rudy Giuliani, EU ambassador Gordon Sondland, special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry to override the official channel of career diplomats assigned to Ukraine, in order to facilitate the illegal quid-pro-quo.
“Amb. Sondland said, ‘everything’ was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance,'” Taylor testified to committee members on Tuesday, referring to a planned publicized announcement of investigations into Hunter Biden’s work at Ukrainian gas company Burisma. “He said that President Trump wanted President Zelensky ‘in a public box’ by making a public statement about ordering such investigations.”
Taylor singled out the “irregular efforts” of Rudy Giuliani, who is reportedly under investigation by federal prosecutors for his business ties to Ukraine and potential violations of foreign lobbying laws.
“The push to make President Zelenskyy publicly commit to investigations of Burisma and alleged interference in the 2016 election showed how the official foreign policy of the United States was undercut by the irregular efforts led by Mr. Giuliani,” Taylor told lawmakers.
Trump described ambassador Taylor, who has worked in every Republican and Democratic administration since 1985, as a politically motivated “Never Trumper Republican.”
“Never Trumper Republicans, though on respirators with not many left, are in certain ways worse and more dangerous for our Country than the Do Nothing Democrats,” tweeted President Trump. “Watch out for them, they are human scum!”
The rapid pace of the inquiry is set to continue as a federal judge on Wednesday ordered the release of the State Department’s Ukraine-related documents within the next 30 days.