Politics: Plenty of substance, little drama at first open impeachment hearing - - PressFrom - US
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Politics Plenty of substance, little drama at first open impeachment hearing

02:25  14 november  2019
02:25  14 november  2019 Source:   nbcnews.com

The real reasons Democrats want open impeachment hearings

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Plenty of substance but little drama on first day of impeachment hearings . In the reserved manner of veteran diplomats with Harvard degrees, Bill Taylor and George Kent opened the public phase of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump by bearing witness to a

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WASHINGTON — It was substantive, but it wasn't dramatic.

In the reserved manner of veteran diplomats with Harvard degrees, Bill Taylor and George Kent opened the public phase of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump by bearing witness to a scheme they described as not only wildly unorthodox but in direct contravention of U.S. interests.

"It is clearly in our national interest to deter further Russian aggression," Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and a decorated Vietnam veteran, said in explaining why Trump's decision to withhold congressionally appropriated aid to the most immediate target of Russian expansionism didn't align with U.S. policy.

Trump denies knowledge of call mentioned in impeachment hearing

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As key diplomats testified in an open session, Democrats hoped to overcome the polarization that has defined Trump’s presidency.

The first day of televised impeachment hearings featured international drama , a volley of interruptions and a Cronkite-like voice. Wednesday’s public hearing , the first installment of the impeachment TV serial, introduced competing story arcs and plenty of grandstanding.Credit Erin

But at a time when Democrats are simultaneously eager to influence public opinion in favor of ousting the president and quietly apprehensive that their hearings could stall or backfire, the first round felt more like the dress rehearsal for a serious one-act play than opening night for a hit Broadway musical.

During five-and-a-half hours of testimony, under questioning from House Intelligence Committee members of both parties and staff lawyers from each side of the aisle, the two men delivered a wide-ranging discourse on America's interests in Eastern Europe, diplomatic protocol and democratic norms — and how they believe Trump subverted all of them in service of political goals.

And yet Taylor and Kent failed — or perhaps succeeded, given their non-partisan roles in government and the atypically serious postures struck by lawmakers of both parties— by dropping no bombshells and largely repeating the testimony they gave congressional investigators at depositions previously held behind closed doors.

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  Democrat met with laughter after suggesting Trump testify before impeachment committee Democratic Rep. Peter Welch invited President Trump to testify before Congress, prompting laughter from the House Intelligence Committee hearing room. © (Susan Walsh/AP) Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., questions top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine William Taylor, and career Foreign Service officer George Kent, at the House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, during the first public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents.

Across the country, the first public airing of the impeachment drama had millions of Americans Americans were consuming these hearings in ways unimaginable during the last impeachment Democrats were hoping, if not for a national epiphany, then at least a day that would stand out from

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"If you have to do something that makes Republicans in this country believe the president has committed some serious infraction, then today was 'ball one,'" said Matt Schlapp, a Trump ally who speaks frequently to White House officials and GOP lawmakers. "It wasn’t a wild pitch, but it wasn’t close to the strike zone."

Slideshow by photo services

Trump told reporters at the White House that he did not watch the proceedings.

"I hear it's a joke," he said. "This is a sham, and it shouldn't be allowed."

Even if the president wasn't watching, Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., told Republicans on the committee who want an intelligence community whistleblower to testify that Trump is welcome to defend himself under oath.

For their part, Republicans poked no real holes in witness testimony, spent little time defending Trump, and burned time off the clock by asking about conspiracy theories that have captivated their political base but which are easily debunked.

At one point, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio — who was added to the GOP's roster on the committee for the impeachment hearings — appeared to confound Taylor by insisting the president couldn't have conditioned aid for Ukraine on an investigation into political rival Joe Biden, because the money ultimately flowed and the probe was never announced.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who avoided contentious back-and-forth exchanges with his GOP counterparts, waited until the end of the hearing to explain to the viewing audience that Trump released the funding only after a whistleblower complaint that would expose his plot arrived at the White House.

Schumer calls on Trump to testify as part of impeachment inquiry

  Schumer calls on Trump to testify as part of impeachment inquiry Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is calling on President Trump to testify as part of the House's impeachment inquiry in the wake of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) offering to let him speak with the panel. "Speaker Pelosi invited President Trump to come testify, and I think her invitation is correct. If Donald Trump doesn't agree with what he's hearing, doesn't like what he's hearing, he shouldn't tweet -- he should come to the committee and testify under oath. And he should allow all those around him to come to the committee and testify under oath," Schumer said on Sunday during a press conference in New York.

Top U.S. diplomat Bill Taylor and State Department official George Kent testified before the U.S. house in the first open impeachment hearings against Donald Trump, where the two recounted the events during the withholding of U.S. aid to Ukraine.

Democrats had prepared themselves for Republicans to try to hijack the hearing with procedural motions and wild lines of questioning, but that never quite materialized. The decorum on the GOP side was commendable enough in Schiff's view that he thanked the minority party in his concluding remarks.

Republicans conducted themselves "in a serious way" and in a "civil way," he said.

There wasn't much either side could grab onto.

Taylor did create a stir when he told the committee one of his aides overheard an ambassador at the center of the story, Gordon Sondland, talking to the president about Ukraine on the phone. Afterward, Sondland told the staffer that Trump cared more about getting Ukraine to open investigations into 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden than about any issues that mattered to the Ukrainians.

But that served as more of a footnote than a headline.

The lawmakers will reconvene Friday with testimony from former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was ousted after Trump loyalists ran a disinformation campaign against her.

Democratic strategists say their side will have to do a better job to capture public attention.

"It's clear this is going to be a battle of narratives and messages," said Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis. "Based on Day One, if the goal was to present a clear and easy-to-follow narrative, neither side did a stellar job. We need to stop presenting this like a foreign policy class — this needs to be about making a clear case about what the president did wrong, again and again. That narrative is getting lost."

There's time for Democrats to tell a more compelling version of the story — keeping in mind that the attention span of most Americans doesn't match that of most C-SPAN viewers.

Schumer calls on Trump to testify as part of impeachment inquiry .
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is calling on President Trump to testify as part of the House's impeachment inquiry in the wake of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) offering to let him speak with the panel. "Speaker Pelosi invited President Trump to come testify, and I think her invitation is correct. If Donald Trump doesn't agree with what he's hearing, doesn't like what he's hearing, he shouldn't tweet -- he should come to the committee and testify under oath. And he should allow all those around him to come to the committee and testify under oath," Schumer said on Sunday during a press conference in New York.

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