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Recap: 1st Week Of Impeachment Hearings


We're going to start the program today with another recap of the inquiry into President Trump's dealings with Ukraine, an inquiry aimed at determining whether his conduct merits impeachment. Today we'll focus on two key moments in a week that featured the first public hearings into the matter. NPR's Tamara Keith is going to walk us through what happened.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: This week was all about the diplomats, about these lifelong public servants, these people who have spent their entire careers not being partisan coming into a very partisan hearing space in this room where there are politicians from both parties trying to score points with their testimony. And these witnesses were doing their best to say, I am not partisan. I am not here to be anyone's star witness. I am here to speak the truth and speak the truth about U.S. policy.

MARTIN: So who were these witnesses? On Wednesday, it was George Kent and William Taylor. George Kent is the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs. William Taylor is the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.


WILLIAM TAYLOR: Last Friday, a member of my staff told me of events that occurred on July 26.

MARTIN: At this moment in his testimony, Ambassador Taylor reveals a new piece of information concerning a phone call between EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland and President Trump.


TAYLOR: In the presence of my staff, at a restaurant, 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 the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.

KEITH: This call happened the day after the call between President Trump and President Zelenskiy, where President Trump asked for these investigations. What's notable here is that you have Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the EU, the European Union, who has become one of Trump's leading emissaries to Ukraine. He's in Kyiv, and he is talking to Ukrainian officials, following up on the president's phone call, following up about the investigations that President Trump asked for.


TAYLOR: 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.

KEITH: This was new. This was something that he hadn't testified to in his closed-door deposition.

MARTIN: And then, on Friday, there was another hearing, this time with only one witness - Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was abruptly removed from her post in May.

KEITH: Marie Yovanovitch came across as a sympathetic figure in this testimony because she was, as she describes it, a victim. She was a victim of what she describes as a smear campaign. And then, during the hearing itself, as she is testifying, President Trump tweets about her. He keys in on something that she said during her opening statement, about having been in numerous hardship positions, including Mogadishu, Somalia. And he says, everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia. How did that go, question mark?

MARTIN: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff reacted to the president's tweet in real time, referring to it during his questioning of Ambassador Yovanovitch.


ADAM SCHIFF: Ambassador, you're shown the courage to come forward today and testify, notwithstanding the fact you urged by the White House or State Department not to, notwithstanding the fact that, as you testified earlier, the president implicitly threatened you in that call record. And now the president in real time is attacking you. What effect do you think that has on other witnesses' willingness to come forward and expose wrongdoing?

MARIE YOVANOVITCH: Well, it's very intimidating.

SCHIFF: It's a designed to intimidate, is it not?

YOVANOVITCH: I mean, I can't speak to what the president is trying to do. But I think the effect is to be intimidating.

KEITH: Now, the president himself was later asked about it and insisted that he did not feel that he had been intimidating and that he was simply exercising his freedom of speech.

MARTIN: That was NPR's Tamara Keith.

MARTIN: And that brings us to today. Mark Sandy of the Office of Management and Budget testified behind closed doors. It isn't clear what he actually said. But both Democrats and Republicans told reporters afterwards that he supported their version of events. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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