House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), ahead of the impeachment inquiry’s first high-stakes public hearings, hailed the largely unknown State Department officials testifying as courageous and patriotic on Monday.
“This week, the American people will hear for themselves from dedicated public servants with direct knowledge of the president’s efforts to press Ukraine to investigate his political opponents,” he wrote in the note. Schiff continued:
The men and women who will testify have spent decades serving their country. They’ve served presidents of both parties faithfully, advancing America’s interests around the world. And they will describe, as they did in their closed door testimony, the way in which the president’s personal and political interests were put first.
As the American people watch, as you watch, I hope you will keep in mind that these men and women are demonstrating incredible courage and patriotism by coming forward. They did not seek out the limelight or bright lights of a congressional hearing room, but when called upon, they have done their nation yet another service.
That spirit of service and patriotism is what inspires me, and what is at the forefront of my mind on the cusp of the momentous days to come,” he concluded.
Those officials include Bill Taylor, the current U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine; George Kent, a senior State Department official; and Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.
Although Schiff claimed they had “direct knowledge of the president’s efforts to press Ukraine,” he did not mention that they all testified they did not have firsthand knowledge of any alleged “quid pro quo” by President Trump in exchange for anything from Ukraine.
Taylor said during his closed-door deposition that it was his “clear understanding” that President Trump wanted to leverage military aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigations that would benefit him politically. However, he said he did not have firsthand knowledge of that.
He testified he did not speak to the president, or have direct communications with him, instead basing his views on what he said others, including U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland had told him. (Sondland himself testified that Trump told him directly that he wanted “nothing” from Ukraine and that there was no quid pro quo).
Kent similarly did not have firsthand knowledge of any alleged quid pro quo. He has testified that he had no “direct knowledge” that U.S. aid to Ukraine was ever connected to the opening of a new investigation against Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
And Yovanovitch was removed from her Washington post in late April, before U.S. officials first tried to get a phone call or a White House visit set up with Trump in late May and before the temporary freezing of U.S. aid in July.
However, Democrats will likely rely on their testimony to paint a picture of career officials being pushed aside by Trump appointees such as Sondland, Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani in an irregular foreign policy process.
Former federal prosecutor and National Review contributing editor Andrew McCarthy characterized career officials testifying against Trump as unelected bureaucrats who are trying to usurp policymaking power from the president.
“This is essentially the policy community…rising up against the only elected official that we elect to make policy. You know, I may happen to agree with the policy community and on the president’s views of Russia, but the …is the guy who got elected and we elect him to make policy,” he said Tuesday on Fox News.
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