Washington, D.C. – Don’t miss our coverage of the House Impeachment Inquiry Hearings this morning starting at 6am on Fm News 101 KXL. The House Intelligence Committee is holding its second week of public hearings in the impeachment probe, following testimony by three witnesses last week. Today, Portland’s connection to the Impeachment Inquiry, U.S. Ambassador Gordon Sondland, will testify. Sondland owns some hotels in Portland, where dozens of protesters gathered in front of yesterday afternoon. Protesters stood in front of the Sentinel Hotel, then they marched to the Woodlark, and Dossier Hotels. They’re three of the six hotels owned by Sondland’s Provenance Hotels Group. The protesters say their message to Sondland is Portlanders really care about this, they want him to come clean, do what’s right for the country, and tell the truth.
Read more from CBS NEWS:
What to know about Wednesday’s impeachment hearing
Washington — In the most high-stakes testimony in the impeachment inquiry yet, the House will hear testimony from the U.S. diplomat who discussed efforts to pressure Ukraine directly with President Trump.
Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the EU, will appear before the House Intelligence Committee Wednesday morning to explain his shifting testimony, as well as conversations he had with the president about the campaign to get Ukraine to open investigations into the 2016 and a company that had employed former Vice President Joe Biden’s son.
Sondland, a major Trump donor, initially told the committees conducting the impeachment probe that he was not aware that a delay in military aid to Ukraine was connected to their willingness to announce the investigations. But in revised testimony earlier this month, Sondland recalled telling a high-level Ukrainian official that the aid “likely” wouldn’t be released until an announcement was made.
A U.S. embassy staffer in Kiev testified behind closed doors last week that he had overheard Sondland speaking to the president on the phone on July 26, the day after Mr. Trump’s call with Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine. The staffer, David Holmes, said he could clearly hear Sondland and Mr. Trump discussing “investigations,” with Sondland assuring the president that Zelensky would follow through.
Sondland’s hearing is the first of two on Wednesday, with officials from the Pentagon and State Department testifying in the afternoon.
Nine witnesses are scheduled to publicly testify in the second week of open hearings in the impeachment inquiry against President Trump.
Last week, three current or former White House officials testified before the House Intelligence Committee: Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine; George Kent, a top State Department official; and Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
This week’s hearings will unfold over the course of three days, from Tuesday to Thursday. There will be two hearings each on Tuesday and Wednesday, and one on Thursday.
House Republicans requested a list of witnesses for the public hearings, but at least two of them are unlikely to win Democrats’ approval: the whistleblower, and Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company. The whistleblower has offered to answer Republicans’ questions in writing to protect his or her identity, but Republicans have insisted on public testimony.
In response to the GOP requests, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said, “This inquiry is not, and will not serve, however, as a vehicle to undertake the same sham investigations into the Bidens or 2016.”
The question at the center of the probe is whether Mr. Trump placed his political interests above national security by withholding U.S. aid to Ukraine and a coveted White House visit to pressure the country to launch investigations that could have benefitted his 2020 reelection campaign. It is illegal to seek or accept foreign assistance in U.S. elections.
The transcripts of most of the witnesses’ closed-door testimony were released earlier this month. Here’s a brief rundown of what to keep in mind about each witness, and when they’re set to appear:
Gordon Sondland is the ambassador to the European Union and “the most important witness so far because he actually talked to Trump directly about this stuff,” says Wehle.
He was on a call that we learned about during Taylor’s public hearing in which Mr. Trump allegedly asked about “the investigations.” Sondland also told Taylor’s staff member that Mr. Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden than Ukraine.
“His testimony could totally decimate the Trump defense that he was really worried about corruption versus self-interested foreign election meddling,” says Wehle.
In a shocking reversal earlier this month, Sondland revised his original closed-door testimony because he said reading other witnesses’ accounts “refreshed my recollection about conversations involving the suspension of U.S. aid.”
Sondland said he now remembers telling a top Ukrainian official that the release of delayed military aid was “likely” dependent on the foreign country announcing investigations that would benefit Mr. Trump politically.
Vindman accused him of asking Ukrainian officials to investigate the Bidens “in order to secure the meeting with the president.” Sondland testified that the meeting was contingent on Ukraine investigating 2016 election interference and Burisma, which employed Hunter Biden.
Laura Cooper is the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, and is responsible for overseeing U.S. military aid to Ukraine. She explained why providing aid is central for countering Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine.
“Security assistance is vital to helping the Ukrainians be able to defend themselves,” Cooper said in her closed-door testimony. “It is also within the U.S. national interest to provide security assistance to Ukraine.”
She said the funds “were held without explanation,” and that officials “began to raise concerns about how this could be done in a legal fashion.”
During a July 23 meeting, she learned from a representative for the Office of Management and Budget that the delay in aid “relates to the president’s concerns about corruption.” Mr. Trump has repeated unfounded claims that Biden and his son engaged in corrupt activities in Ukraine.
“So I walked away from the meeting on the 23rd thinking okay, we know that this is, you know, a larger issue,” Cooper testified.
David Hale is the undersecretary of state for political affairs. Neither his opening statement nor the transcript of his November 6 closed-door testimony have been released.