House Democrats are taking their impeachment inquiry to the next level calling back three key witnesses for public questioning next week rather than behind closed doors.
House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, who is leading the inquiry, says the first two to testify in open hearings on Wednesday will be Former United States Ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent.
On Friday, the woman at the center of all of this, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, will speak in a public hearing. She says she was unfairly targeted, then removed from her post.
In her private testimony, Yovanovitch told lawmakers she felt “threatened” after finding out from the Ukrainians that President Trump was pressuring the State Department to have her removed.
She testified: "I thought this was a dangerous precedent, that as far as I could tell, since I didn't have any other explanation, that private interests and people who don't like a particular American ambassador could combine to, you know, find somebody who was more suitable for their interests."
Schiff telling reporters Wednesday, “The most important facts are largely not contested. We are getting an increasing appreciation for just what took place during the course of the last year and the degree to which the pres enlisted whole departments of government in the illicit aim of trying to get Ukraine to dig up dirt on a political opponent.”
House Democrats clearly believe they heard enough behind closed doors providing them a roadmap for public hearings to make their case to the American people. Still, Republicans are holding the line— accusing Democrats of creating controversy where there isn’t any.
“We know there was nothing wrong in the call transcript," said Rep. Jim Jordan. "We got the two guys on the call who said there was no pressure, no pushing, no quid pro quo. We have the fact that the Ukrainians at the time of the call didn't even know aid had been held. And we have the most important fact is they did nothing to get the aid released."
In testimony released Wednesday afternoon Taylor echoed other witness who described a pressure campaign being led by the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
That pressure – to investigate uncorroborated allegations of wrongdoing by former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.
Taylor said at the time, his understanding was hundreds of millions of dollars of security aid would not be sent to Ukraine, until they opened that investigation.
"That was my clear understanding, security assistance money would not come until the President committed to pursue the investigation," Taylor says. But, he questions whether anyone in the Ukrainian government was aware of the money being held.
Still, in text messages sent to former special envoy Kurt Volker Taylor says Ukrainian President Zelenskyy was “sensitive about Ukraine being taken seriously, not merely as an instrument in Washington domestic re-election politics.”
Taylor recalled: “As the month of July went on… I became less convinced that that meeting was worth what Giuliani was asking. Yes, it would be fine to have the two Presidents talk, but if President Zelenskyy, in order to get that meeting were going to have to intervene in U.S. domestic politics or policy... by announcing an investigation that would benefit someone in the United States, then it's not — it wasn't clear to me that that would be worth it.”
Taylor then reads a text message exchange with current U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland – as he raised concerns.
Sondland responds: “Absolutely. But we need to get the conversation started and the relationship built irrespective of the pretext.”
Democrats are still calling other witnesses to testify in private, including current acting White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney on Friday.
Asked today whether Mulvaney would testify, White House Counselor KellyAnne Conway said "I'm told no."