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First public hearing in House impeachment inquiry Wednesday

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the House impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump (all times local):

3:37 p.m.

Testimony in the House’s first public impeachment hearing has ended, with more hearings to come.

State Department officials William Taylor and George Kent testified for more than five hours Wednesday about their concerns with President Donald Trump’s requests that Ukraine investigate Democrats as the U.S. withheld military aid to the country.

Democrats are investigating those requests, and whether they were linked, as they move toward an impeachment vote.

Republicans said the witnesses didn’t have firsthand knowledge and noted the aid was eventually released. The U.S. government released the money after pressure from senators in early September.

Next up will be former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was ousted in May on Trump’s orders. She will testify Friday.

Next week, the House Intelligence Committee will hear from eight more witnesses in the impeachment probe.


3:30 p.m.

A Republican lawmaker in the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump says the whistleblower is the "one witness" who should be brought in front of the American people.

Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio says the whistleblower, whose complaint touched off the inquiry, should come before the committee. He says he wants to know the identity of the whistleblower, a CIA officer assigned to the White House.

Jordan earlier complained that the witnesses Wednesday testifying publicly for the first time didn’t have firsthand knowledge of the accusations and never spoke directly to President Donald Trump.

The whistleblower has not been asked to testify.

Democratic Rep. Peter Welch of Ohio said he’d be glad to have the person who started it all testify: "President Trump is welcome to sit right there."


3 p.m.

The two veteran diplomats testifying in the House impeachment hearing are denying President Donald Trump’s accusation that they adamantly oppose him.

Shortly before Wednesday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing began, Trump tweeted, "NEVER TRUMPERS!" He mentioned no evidence.

California Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell asked both men if Trump’s claim was true.

State Department official George Kent said he’s served under three Republican and two Democratic presidents during his 27 years of service. He said he serves "whatever president is duly elected" and carries out their foreign policies. He oversees U.S. policy in Ukraine and other countries in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus.

William Taylor answered, "No sir." Taylor is the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine and was recruited by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to serve there.


2:40 p.m.

Republicans say two State Department witnesses testifying in Democrats’ first impeachment hearing can’t know if President Donald Trump did anything wrong because they haven’t met him.

Ohio Rep. Mike Turner asked diplomats William Taylor and George Kent if either had ever met Trump. Both said they had not.

Democrats are investigating Trump’s requests that Ukraine investigate Democrats as military aid was withheld. Taylor and Kent have said they had concerns about the requests and understood one was conditioned on the other.

Republicans say there’s no case because they are basing their knowledge on secondhand information and because the aid was eventually released. The aid was released following a congressional outcry.

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham tweeted about Turner’s exchange and said "This country deserves so much better."


2:15 p.m.

Republican Rep. Jim Jordan has told the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine that he is "wrong" to have said there was a clear understanding that President Donald Trump was withholding military aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigations of Democrats.

Jordan was questioning William Taylor during the first public hearing in the House impeachment inquiry.

Taylor has said his understanding was based on conversations with other diplomats. But Jordan said the president of Ukraine never announced an investigation and the aid was eventually released.

The aid was released in September following an outcry in the U.S. Congress.

Jordan mockingly called Taylor the Democrats’ "star witness" and said he’s "seen church prayer chains that are easier to understand than this."

Taylor responded that he didn’t consider himself a star witness.


1:50 p.m.

A lawyer handling the questioning for Republican lawmakers during the impeachment proceedings is suggesting that the Trump administration’s interactions with Ukraine could have been more "outlandish" than they actually were.

Steve Castor asked William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, if the "irregular channel" the administration used for outreach to Ukraine was "not as outlandish as it could be."

Taylor laughed, but then conceded that it was not.

Taylor has described an "irregular channel" in which Ukraine policy was delegated to President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, for the purpose of advancing the president’s personal and political interests.

1:15 p.m.

The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee says President Donald Trump "would have a perfectly good reason for wanting to find out what happened" if there were indications that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

California Rep. Devin Nunes is questioning State Department witnesses in the first public hearing in the Democrats’ impeachment probe.

National security officials have told Congress they don’t believe Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election.

Democrats opened the investigation after a whistleblower complaint revealed that Trump had requested that Ukraine investigate political rival Joe Biden and his family and Ukraine’s role in the 2016 election.

Democrats say the requests for politically motivated investigations are impeachable, but Republicans disagree.

12:45 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he’s been "too busy" to watch the first public impeachment hearing.

But he told reporters as he meets with his Turkish counterpart in the Oval Office that he’s "sure" he’ll "get a report" from staff on the hearing, which he dismisses as a" witch hunt" and a "hoax."

Trump is also criticizing the use of staff lawyers to question witnesses. He’s dismissing Daniel Goldman, the investigations chief for Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, and Steve Castor, the chief investigative counsel for Republicans, as "television lawyers."

William Taylor and George Kent are testifying Wednesday in the first public hearing of the House impeachment inquiry.

Investigators are examining whether Trump abused the power of his presidency by pressing Ukraine’s leader to investigate his political rivals.


12:10 p.m.

The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine is telling impeachment investigators that detailed notes he took about what he saw as irregular policy in Ukraine may be provided to Congress "sooner or later."

William Taylor says the notes "may be coming" even though the State Department has so far defied a subpoena to provide documents related to President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

Dan Goldman, chief of investigations for the House intelligence panel, responded that they would "welcome" those notes.

Taylor has said that he based his testimony about concerns over the policy on detailed notes, including notepads he kept at his desk and in his pocket. But Trump has directed federal agencies not to cooperate with the impeachment investigation, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said he won’t provide the documents.

Taylor is testifying Wednesday in the first public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry.


12:05 p.m.

As the House opens public hearings in its impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, it also is continuing the closed-door sessions.

Two more witnesses are expected this week. David Holmes a State Department official, was invited to appear Friday. And Mark Sandy, the associate director for national security programs at the White House Office of Management and Budget, was invited for Saturday.

That’s according to an official working on the impeachment inquiry who was not authorized to divulge details of the closed-door hearings.

It’s not clear they will appear. Some witnesses have, others have not.

House members have heard from several witnesses on whether Trump withheld security aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigations into Joe Biden’s son’s role on the board of a Ukrainian gas company and possible interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.

— By Mary Clare Jalonick


11:55 a.m.

William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, says that a cellphone conversation his aide overheard between another diplomat and President Donald Trump in July shows that the president cares more about investigations into Democrat Joe Biden than he does about Ukraine.

In Democrats’ first public impeachment hearing, Taylor said "yes, sir" when House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff asked him if the importance of that overheard conversation was that Trump cared more about the politically motivated probes he was requesting from Ukraine than he did about the East European ally itself.

Taylor told lawmakers that the unnamed aide had told him about the cellphone conversation he overheard between European Union Ambassador Gordan Sondland and Trump on July 26.

He said he didn’t know about that call when he first testified behind closed doors Oct. 22.


11:45 a.m.

The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine says he thought it was "crazy" and "illogical" for the Trump administration to make military aid contingent on Ukraine announcing investigations into political rival Joe Biden.

William Taylor made the statements in response to questioning from Daniel Goldman, the investigations chief for Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Taylor said the security assistance was important not only to Ukraine but to America’s own military interests. He said "it made no sense" to withhold that money and was "counterproductive to all of what we had been trying to do."

Goldman showed Taylor text messages he sent to other diplomats explaining his belief that it was "crazy" to withhold the military aid for political gain.


11:40 a.m.

President Donald Trump isn’t watching the public House impeachment hearings against him.

That’s according to Stephanie Grisham, the president’s chief spokeswoman. Grisham tells reporters by email that Trump is participating in meetings in the Oval Office.

She writes: "Not watching. He’s working."

Trump is scheduled around noon to receive Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (REH’-jehp TY’-ihp UR’-doh-wahn) for meetings, including a separate gathering with senators invited by the White House. Trump and Erdogan are also slated to hold a joint news conference at the White House.

Trump opened Wednesday by lashing out on Twitter at the inquiry and the two career U.S. diplomats who are testifying.

The inquiry focuses on a July telephone call in which Trump sought to get the leader of Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political rivals.

Trump denies wrongdoing and has described the conversation as "perfect."


11:15 a.m.

The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine says he was told that military aid to Ukraine and a White House visit for the new leader were contingent on a public announcement of investigations.

William Taylor told a House committee investigating impeachment against President Donald Trump that another diplomat, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, said "everything" was dependent on whether Ukraine’s president publicly announced investigations into Joe Biden’s son and potential interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Taylor says he was told Trump wanted the Ukrainian leader "in a public box" by making the statement.

But no statement was ever released.

11: 03 a.m.

The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine tells House lawmakers investigating impeachment that he noticed there were two policy channels operating with Ukraine, a "regular" and an "irregular" one.

William Taylor says the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was guiding requests through the irregular channel, which was unaccountable to Congress.

Taylor says it slowly became clear to him that conditions were placed on Ukraine’s new president.

He had to order investigations into possible Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, and also look into Joe Biden’s son Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.

Taylor is testifying Wednesday in the first public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry.

10:50 a.m.

A top State Department official says he never saw any effort by U.S. officials to shield from scrutiny a Ukrainian natural gas company where Hunter Biden sat on the board.

George Kent is testifying Wednesday in the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

Investigators are looking into allegations that Trump asked the new Ukrainian president to dig up dirt on the son of Joe Biden, a Democratic political rival.

Hunter Biden sat on the board of the Ukrainian gas company called Burisma. Kent said he raised concerns in 2015 that his status could create the perception of a conflict of interest.

But Kent said he never saw any attempt to shield Burisma from scrutiny because of Biden’s connection to the company.

10:42 a.m.

A top State Department official tells a House committee investigating whether President Donald Trump should be impeached that he does not believe the U.S. should ask other countries to engage in "selective, politically associated investigations."

George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state, is testifying Wednesday in the first public hearing. He has already testified in a closed session.

Kent says such "selective actions" undermine the rule of law regardless of the country.

House investigators are looking into allegations that Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine unless the new leadership agreed to investigate the son of Democratic political rival Joe Biden.

Biden’s son sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.

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