PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It was a historic day on Capitol Hill. The impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump moved beyond the shadows of closed-door hearings and into the public eye.
Two career diplomats gave their account of President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine while Democrats and Republicans sparred in front of the cameras.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff gaveled in the first public hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s actions with Ukraine.
“The questions presented by this impeachment inquiry are whether President Trump sought to exploit that ally’s vulnerability and invite Ukraine’s interference in our elections,” Schiff said.
Democrats are trying to lay out a case that the Trump Administration withheld military aid to pressure Ukraine to open up politically motivated investigations.
Republicans call the process a sham and say Wednesday’s witnesses, Ambassador Bill Taylor and State Department official George Kent, are being used.
“It seems you agreed wittingly or unwittingly to participate in a drama. But the main performance, the Russia hoax, has ended and you’ve been cast in the low-rent Ukrainian sequel,” Rep. Devin Nunes said.
During his testimony, Taylor revealed new information about a phone call between Trump and EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland. Taylor says his staffer overheard Trump asking about the investigations.
“Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine. Mr. Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of [Joe] Biden, which [Rudy] Giuliani was pressing for,” Taylor said.
Both of the witnesses say the president’s personal attorney, Giuliani, worked behind the scenes to get Ukraine to open the political investigations.
Kent testified that Giuliani, along with two associates, spread lies and misinformation about former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in an attempt to get her removed from the position.
“In my opinion, those attacks undermined U.S. and Ukrainian national interests and damaged our critical bilateral relationship,” Kent said.
For the first time in 21 years, the public, like law students at Rutgers University in Camden, had the chance to watch an impeachment hearing play out.
“As law students. anything in the political field is going to have some kind of effect on our future careers,” law student Juliana Davis student said.
“There’s a lot that goes on that bares on their lives as future lawyers, outside of the walls of this law school,” professor John Oberdiek said. “And to have something like an impeachment hearing on is the clearest indication that their legal education is timely.”
The hourslong hearing has gripped many who were watching. One person not watching, though, was the president.
He dismissed the witnesses on Twitter this morning as “never Trumpers.”
The staffer who overheard President Trump’s call with Ambassador Sondland will testify behind closed doors Friday.