Democrats Hold Impeachment Investigation Hearings Live on TV

It’s on TV, it’s ugly, it’s politics for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Today begins the never-ending process on TV by House Democrats to bring down President Donald Trump for possible wrongdoings with testimony over the next few days from almost everyone involved with the president. 

They hearings in time for holiday discussion at the Thanksgiving dinner table are the first in a series of open hearings designed to bring the public into the impeachment process and make the case to the American people that Mr. Trump should be removed from office.

Today, in an opening state of testimony, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor said a member of his staff overheard a July phone call between President Trump and EU ambassador Gordon Sondland about investigations the president wanted Ukraine to pursue.

According to his testimony, on July 26, a day after Mr. Trump asked Ukraine President Zelensky in a phone call to undertake investigations of the Bidens and the 2016 election, Mr. Sondland called the president to update him on his meetings in Kyiv. In that call, Mr. Trump asked the ambassador—who had met with Mr. Zelensky that day—about “the investigations,” to which Mr. Sondland replied that the Ukrainians were “ready to move forward,” Mr. Taylor testified.

He said he was alerted about the conversation by a member of his staff who was present for the phone call.

“Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for,” Mr. Taylor testified.

That interaction came weeks before Mr. Sondland, as previously disclosed by him, told a Ukrainian official that aid to that country would remain frozen until Kyiv committed to investigations sought by Mr. Trump. The ambassador made that assertion in an addendum to his testimony last week that reversed his earlier stance that he didn’t know of any link between investigations and aid.

Republicans have sought to defend the president by saying that he wasn’t directly involved in efforts to press Ukraine to undertake investigations—with the exception of his July 25 call with Mr. Zelensky. But Mr. Trump’s role in directing his diplomats to push for those probes will complicate that defense. 

Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, in his opening statement described the impeachment inquiry as the “low-rent Ukrainian sequel” to former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. He also decried a “cultlike atmosphere” in which witnesses had been subjected to in closed-door hearings, and accused Democrats of selectively leaking portions of their testimony.

Mr. Nunes said Republicans are seeking to determine Democrats’ interactions with the whistleblower whose complaint about the president’s Ukraine interactions set off the impeachment probe.  He also echoed the president’s call for investigations into alleged Ukrainian election interference and into Mr. Biden’s son’s work for the Ukrainian gas company Burisma Group. Both Bidens have denied any wrongdoing in their Ukraine activities.

Coming Testimony

On Friday, the House will hear from Marie Yovanovitch, who served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine until she was pushed out in May.

Up on Tuesday: The House will hear from Jennifer Williams, an aide to the Vice President, as well as White House national security official Alexander Vindman, former U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker and former White House staffer Tim Morrison next Tuesday.

On Wednesday: U.S. ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland, Pentagon official Laura Cooper and David Hale, a U.S. diplomat will testify.

On Thursday, former White House national security staffer Fiona Hill will testify.

Three of those witnesses — Messrs. Morrison, Volker and Hale — were requested by Republicans.

Republicans have also pressed to call Hunter Biden, the son of the former vice president. Democrats have suggested that they will not allow Mr. Biden to be called.

The framers of the Constitution provided few details about how the impeachment proceedings should be run, leaving much for Congress to decide. House Democrats say the White House’s refusal to provide witnesses or produce documents is obstruction and itself impeachable.

Hearings are expected to continue and will shift, likely by Thanksgiving, to the Judiciary Committee to consider actual articles of impeachment.

The House, which is controlled by Democrats, is expected to vote by Christmas.
That would launch a trial in the Senate, where Republicans have the majority, in the new year.  Stay tuned.

U.S. consumer prices rose in October, driven by higher energy costs according to experts on the economy.

The consumer-price index—which measures what Americans pay for everyday items ranging from clothing to dental services—rose a seasonally adjusted 0.4% in October from the previous month, the Labor Department said Wednesday.

Excluding the often volatile food and energy categories, prices were up 0.2% in October from September, matching economists’ expectations for so-called core prices.   October’s increase in prices followed muted inflation readings in September.

Pat Sajak is set to be released from the hospital following his emergency surgery.

The 73-year-old host of TV’s Wheel of Fortune updated fans after he was rushed to the hospital due to a blocked intestine last week. Longtime co-host Vanna White has been stepping in to host the show in Sajak’s absence.

Pat wrote on his Twitter, “I’m so grateful for all the good wishes during my recent illness. Happy to say that the worst has passed, and I’ll be out of the hospital in a day of two, then back to work (unless @TheVannaWhite has completely taken over!)”

Sajak is expected to return to the show after next week.

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