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The House Intelligence Committee hears testimony from two key figures in the impeachment probe against President Donald Trump in the first round of public hearings Wednesday.
Top Ukraine diplomat William Taylor and senior State Department official George Kent answer lawmakers' questions about how the president's associates, including his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and a few political appointees, tried to pressure Ukraine to open an investigation into Democrat Joe Biden and Biden's son.
The impeachment inquiry was set off after whistleblower's revelations, including that a White House official had reported hearing "frightening" details of a July phone call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
During the call, Trump urged Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Biden, a front-runner in the 2020 Democratic primary, and his son Hunter, who had been a board member of Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma. Trump and his Republican allies have questioned Biden's call while he was vice president for Ukraine to fire a prosecutor who was probing Burisma. Biden's actions were consistent with many other countries at the time, which had called for that prosecutor's ouster over allegations of corruption.
Trump also asked Ukraine to look into a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine and not Russia meddled in the 2016 election to help Hillary Clinton, not Trump. At the time of the call, the White House had been withholding nearly $400 million in military aid.
With these public hearings, the committee is trying to determine whether Trump abused the power of his office by requesting foreign assistance in a U.S. election.
In earlier closed door testimony before the committee, Taylor said he was told military aid was dependent on whether Ukraine would cooperate with the request to investigate Biden, the transcripts said.
Kent in his private deposition last month said Trump "wanted nothing less than Zelenskiy to go to [the] microphone and say 'investigations, Biden, and Clinton,'" according to a transcript released on Nov. 7.
Marie Yovanovitch, a career diplomat who was the ambassador to Ukraine from August 2016 until she was ousted by the Trump administration to May 2019, is expected to testify Friday.