Meet the witnesses: Diplomats start off impeachment hearings

  • Ambassador William Taylor is escorted by U.S. Capitol Police as he arrives to testify before House committees as part of the Democrats' impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump, at the Capitol in Washington. Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, told lawmakers last month that President Donald Trump was withholding military aid for Ukraine unless the country's president agreed publicly to investigate Democrats, according to a transcript of his closed-door testimony released by impeachment investigators on Nov. 6.

    Ambassador William Taylor is escorted by U.S. Capitol Police as he arrives to testify before House committees as part of the Democrats' impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump, at the Capitol in Washington. Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, told lawmakers last month that President Donald Trump was withholding military aid for Ukraine unless the country's president agreed publicly to investigate Democrats, according to a transcript of his closed-door testimony released by impeachment investigators on Nov. 6. Associated Press/Oct. 22, 2019

  • Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent leaves Capitol Hill after appearing before a joint House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and Committee on Oversight and Reform for a deposition on Capitol Hill in Washington. House impeachment investigators released a transcript from Kent, a career official at the State Department on Nov. 7. He testified that he was told to "lay low" on Ukraine policy as the Trump administration, and the president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, were interacting with Ukraine outside of traditional foreign policy channels.

    Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent leaves Capitol Hill after appearing before a joint House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and Committee on Oversight and Reform for a deposition on Capitol Hill in Washington. House impeachment investigators released a transcript from Kent, a career official at the State Department on Nov. 7. He testified that he was told to "lay low" on Ukraine policy as the Trump administration, and the president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, were interacting with Ukraine outside of traditional foreign policy channels. Associated Press/Oct. 15, 2019

  • Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington. The House impeachment panels are starting to release transcripts from their investigation. And in one of them, Yovanovitch says that Ukrainian officials warned her in advance that Rudy Giuliani and his allies were planning to "do things, including to me."

    Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington. The House impeachment panels are starting to release transcripts from their investigation. And in one of them, Yovanovitch says that Ukrainian officials warned her in advance that Rudy Giuliani and his allies were planning to "do things, including to me." Associated Press/Oct. 11, 2019

 
 
Updated 11/12/2019 9:55 AM

WASHINGTON -- Diplomats and career government officials, they're little known outside professional circles, but they're about to become household names testifying in the House impeachment inquiry.

The witnesses will tell House investigators -- and Americans tuning into the live public hearings -- what they know about President Donald Trump's actions toward Ukraine, including the July phone call with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that ignited the impeachment inquiry.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

First up will be William Taylor, the charge d'affaires in Ukraine, and George Kent, the deputy Assistant Secretary in the European and Eurasian Bureau, both testifying on Wednesday. On Friday, lawmakers will hear from former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

Meet the witnesses:

WILLIAM 'BILL' TAYLOR

Ambassador William Taylor, is escorted by U.S. Capitol Police as he arrives to testify before House committees as part of the Democrats impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump, at the Capitol in Washington.
Ambassador William Taylor, is escorted by U.S. Capitol Police as he arrives to testify before House committees as part of the Democrats impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump, at the Capitol in Washington. - Associated Press/Oct. 22, 2019

A longtime diplomat with a 50-year career of government service, Taylor returned to Ukraine this year after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked him to lead the U.S. Embassy.

The graduate of West Point and infantry officer with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam had a storied career working around the globe, including on Iraq reconstruction and as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 2006-09.

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Trump recalled Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch after what others would testify was a smear campaign against her. When Taylor returned to Kyiv, he said he was stunned at what he found.

"I discovered a weird combination of encouraging, confusing and ultimately alarming circumstances," Taylor testified on Oct. 22.

The diplomat went on to describe the "irregular" channel of U.S. policymaking, outside the official one. He soon learned it was being run by Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and others from the administration. "A confusing and unusual arrangement," he testified.

Taylor has served under every presidential administration, Republican and Democrat, since 1985, and also worked for then-Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J.

More recently he was an executive vice president at the nonpartisan U.S. Institute of Peace.

GEORGE KENT

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent leaves Capitol Hill in Washington, after testifying before congressional lawmakers as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent leaves Capitol Hill in Washington, after testifying before congressional lawmakers as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. - Associated Press/Oct. 15, 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The bow-tie wearing career foreign service officer speaks Ukrainian, Russian and Thai and has worked in Poland, Uzbekistan and Bangkok. He joined the State Department in 1992.

Kent testified on Oct. 15 there were three words Trump wanted to hear from the Ukraine president: "Investigations, Biden and Clinton."

He also told the investigators about the "campaign of lies" against Yovanovitch that he said was waged by the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

Kent is a graduate of Harvard and the Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies, as well as National Defense University's Eisenhower School. He is a fan of the Red Sox.

MARIE 'MASHA' YOVANOVITCH

Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, center, arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, to testify before congressional lawmakers as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, center, arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, to testify before congressional lawmakers as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. - Associated Press/Oct. 11, 2019

She had twice served as an ambassador -- to the Kyrgyz Republic and to Armenia -- before being confirmed as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in a Senate voice vote in July 2016.

Seen as a tough ambassador, at a time when the U.S. was trying to root out corruption in the young democracy, she was recalled from Ukraine by Trump last spring.

Known as Masha, Yovanovitch testified on Oct. 11 that she was told that people were "looking to hurt" her. One senior Ukraine official said she needed to "watch my back."

She is a career diplomat having served in several top positions as a principal deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, a senior adviser and the dean of the language school at the Foreign Service Institute.

She is now working as a senior State Department fellow at Georgetown University.

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