Local congressional Democrats press witnesses in impeachment inquiry
Two congressmen representing the suburbs pressed witnesses to clarify the record Wednesday in a fiercely partisan impeachment hearing into whether President Donald Trump withheld funds from Ukraine for political gain.
"As a West Point cadet and as an infantry commander in Vietnam -- in a battlefield situation is a commanding officer allowed to hold up action, placing his troops at risk, until someone provides him a personal benefit?" Schaumburg Democratic U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi asked acting Ukraine Ambassador William Taylor.
"No, sir," Taylor replied during the House Permanent Committee on Select Intelligence session.
Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent were grilled about whether the White House held up millions of dollars in military aid to coerce Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Trump's rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Republicans criticized Democrats for using hearsay evidence and noted that neither Taylor nor Kent had spoken directly to Trump.
Chicago Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley said, "the American public needs to be reminded that countless people have been convicted on hearsay because the courts have routinely allowed needed exceptions. Hearsay can be much better evidence than direct."
This prompted a Twitter post from the president's son, Donald Trump Jr., asking "can you believe this insanity?"
President Trump has said there was no quid pro quo in Ukraine and said in a Twitter post Wednesday that the proceedings were "the single greatest scam in the history of American politics. (Democrats) are trying to stop me because I'm fighting for you."
Krishnamoorthi asked Taylor about his statement that Ukrainians were "desperate" for the funding.
"The (Ukrainian) minister of defense came to me ... I would use the word 'desperate,' to figure out why the assistance was being held," Taylor said.
He also told Krishnamoorthi that Zelenskiy had planned to make a statement on CNN about an investigation.
Krishnamoorthi asked if it was correct that two days after House Democrats began officially investigating the Ukraine controversy that "the Trump administration eventually released the military aid."
"That is the timeline, yes," Kent said.
Using the analogy of the commander who holds up action to receive a personal benefit, "could that type of conduct trigger a court martial?" Krishnamoorthi asked.
"Yes sir," Taylor said.
Quigley accused the government of obstructing witnesses and asked both men to confirm the State Department asked them not to testify.
"I received initially a letter directing me not to appear," Kent said, adding he was responding to a subpoena. Taylor assented, saying, "I was told by the State Department, 'Don't appear under these circumstances.'"