WASHINGTON, D.C.- Acting ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor and State Department official George Kent were the first witnesses to publicly testify before the House Intelligence Committee Wednesday.
“I discovered a weird combination of encouraging, confusing, and ultimately alarming circumstances,” said Taylor.
The testimony signifies the next phase of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
Vermont’s sole Congressman Peter Welch sits on the 22 person panel.
“The question here is not a dispute about the enormous power that a president has,” he said. “The question is whether in this case there was an abuse of that power.”
The inquiry stems from a phone call Trump had with Ukrainian leaders on July 25th. In August, a whistleblower complaint was filed with the inspector general’s office. It alleges the President urged Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and the presidential hopeful’s son Hunter. A few days later, it was reported the president froze nearly $400 million in military aid for Ukraine.
Welch got the loudest laughter of the hearing with a response to Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan who accused Chairman Adam Schiff and the democrats of hiding the whistleblower.
“There is one witness that they won’t bring in front of us,” said Jordan. ”That’s the guy who started it all, the whistle-blower.”
“I’d be glad to have the person who started it all come in and testify,” responded Welch. “President Trump is welcome to take a seat right there.”
New York republican Elise Stefanik said there are two important facts, “Number one: Ukraine received the aid. Number two: There was in fact no investigation into Biden.”
The congresswoman also sparred with Schiff, asking for an answer to a request made by republicans to add six additional witnesses, including the whistleblower.
“Three of the witnesses the minority has requested are scheduled for next week,” Schiff said,
Stefanik interrupted, “Those are your witnesses Mr. Chairman not the additional six witnesses.”
The pair also had a heated exchange when Stefanik asked whether Schiff would bar certain questions from being answered.
“Mr. Chairman, will you be prohibiting witnesses from answering member’s questions as you have in the closed-door depositions,” asked Stefanik.
“The only times I prevented witnesses from answering questions along with our counsel was when it was apparent member were seeking to out the whistleblower,” said Schiff. “We will do everything to protect the whistleblower’s identity.”
On Friday Marie Yovanovitch, the former US ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor replaced will testify.