The big news from today's opening salvo in the impeachment of Donald Trump, the news that Trump himself absolutely tried to bribe Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky with pressure to smear Joe Biden.
In a nationally televised hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee room across from the Capitol, William B. Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat in Ukraine, brought to life Democrats’ allegations that Mr. Trump has abused his office by trying to enlist a foreign power to help him in an election. Mr. Taylor testified to the House Intelligence Committee, which is leading the inquiry, that he was told in July that Mr. Trump cared more about “investigations of Biden” than he did about Ukraine.
The revelation, as Congress embarked on only the third set of presidential impeachment hearings in modern times, tied Mr. Trump more directly into what Mr. Taylor described in vivid detail as a “highly irregular” effort to place the president’s political interests at the center of American policy toward Ukraine.
“I don’t think President Trump was trying to end corruption in Ukraine,” said Representative Jim Himes, Democrat of Connecticut, encapsulating Democrats’ case. “I think he was trying to aim corruption in Ukraine at Vice President Biden and at the 2020 election.”
The proceedings pushed into the public gaze an epic clash between Mr. Trump and Democrats over impeachment that has shifted into high gear less than a year before the presidential election. In the first impeachment hearing on Capitol Hill in more than two decades, Mr. Taylor and another veteran diplomat, George P. Kent, sketched out, in testimony by turns cinematic and dry, a tale of foreign policymaking distorted by a president’s political vendettas with a small country facing Russian aggression caught in the middle.
“If this is not impeachable conduct,” demanded Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the chairman of the committee, “what is?”
Bill Taylor was the star of the show today, and Trump is livid.
Even as the public recitation of facts unfolded in the hearing room, there were signs that Democrats’ investigation was still expanding. Investigators scheduled depositions with David Holmes, an official in the United States Embassy in Kiev, and Mark Sandy of the Office of Management and Budget for Friday and Saturday. According to an official involved in the inquiry, Mr. Holmes was the aide Mr. Taylor referred to in his new testimony, who informed Mr. Taylor about Mr. Trump’s singular interest in investigating the Bidens.
Mr. Taylor said a member of his staff overheard a telephone conversation in which the president mentioned “the investigations” to Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, who told Mr. Trump “that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.” The conversation took place just one day after Mr. Trump personally pressed Ukraine’s new president in a phone call to investigate the Bidens and unproven allegations that Ukraine conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 election.
The reason why David Holmes is being questioned over the weekend? He's the staff member Bill Taylor mentioned in today's hearing that overheard the phone call from Sondland to Trump about "the investigations".
It's about to get hot in here this week.