Nov 13, 2019

The impeachment surprise on Day 1

Bill Taylor and George Kent are sworn in. Photo: Joshua Roberts - Pool/Getty Images

In a surprise revelation during a day with more drama than news, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine testified during the House impeachment hearing that he learned about another Trump phone call last week.

Driving the news: Bill Taylor learned last week that a staffer overheard President Trump discuss "the investigations" in Ukraine with EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland the day after Trump's July 25 call with the president of Ukraine, he told the House Intel Committee today.

Why it matters: It’s an example of Trump personally involving himself at the ground level with the push to have the Ukrainian president announce these investigations.

  • It would tie Trump more directly to the pressure campaign and make it more difficult to say it was Rudy Giuliani going rogue, or just Sondland’s interpretation of what Trump wanted.
  • Trump responded at a presser: "I know nothing about that. First time I've heard." (Video).

The big picture: No one's expecting to learn much from these hearings, which feature witnesses who've already been deposed behind closed doors.

  • Democrats hope the public will be galvanized by a stream of public servants speaking out about abnormal behavior.
  • Republicans hope they can keep the discussion focused on improprieties by people who aren't named Donald J. Trump, including even alleging wrongdoings by prior administrations.

Between the lines: Taylor and George Kent said they had never had contact with the president.

  • Reality check: The White House is blocking most of the people who've had contact with Trump from testifying.
  • Instead, Taylor and Kent emphasized, their presence was to answer questions and express their alarm at the abnormality of the actions they witnessed from their own government this year in Ukraine.

What they're saying: House Democratic aides think this went better than Robert Mueller's hearing, but are worried that no matter what happens in these hearings, viewers will continue to see this through a partisan lens, Axios' Alayna Treene reports.

  • "The contrast of Taylor to Mueller ... is jarring. ... Taylor is in full command," the N.Y. Times' Maggie Haberman wrote on the Times live blog.

The bottom line: History is unfolding before us, but due to the splintering of modern media, expect people to walk away with very different impressions of what they're seeing — depending on where they see it.

Go deeper: More highlights from today's testimonies

Go deeper

Trump impeachment hearing: Highlights from Bill Taylor's and George Kent's testimonies

George Kent (L) and Bill Taylor. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent testified Wednesday in the House's first public impeachment hearing.

Driving the news: In a new revelation, Taylor testified that a member of his staff overheard EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland on July 26 discussing "the investigations" on a phone call with Trump. When the staffer asked Sondland what Trump thought of Ukraine, "Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for," Taylor said.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Nov 13, 2019

Read Bill Taylor's opening statement in the impeachment hearing

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor is testifying in the House impeachment inquiry's first public hearing.

Driving the news: Taylor's opening statement included a new revelation that he said he learned from a staffer last Friday. The staffer overheard EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland discussing "investigations" in a phone call with Trump on July 26. When he asked Sondland what Trump thought of Ukraine, "Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for," Taylor said.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Nov 13, 2019

Trump denies discussing Ukraine investigations with Sondland in July phone call

During a press conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday, President Trump said he knows nothing about an alleged July 26 phone call with EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland in which he is reported to have asked about the status of Ukrainian investigations he sought into the Bidens and the 2016 election.

Go deeperArrowNov 13, 2019