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Trump Impeachment Hearing Changes No Minds in Washington

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President Donald Trump participates in the Veterans Day Parade on November 11, 2019, in New York.

A day of testimony in the impeachment inquiry targeting U.S. President Donald Trump changed no minds in Washington, with his critics convinced as ever that he abused his office by pushing Ukraine for political investigations of Democrats in the U.S. and his staunchest allies unwavering in their opinion that he did nothing wrong.

Trump called Wednesday’s testimony from two career U.S. diplomats detailing his efforts to get Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to open the investigation of Biden “a joke.” The U.S. leader delighted in retweeting comments from supporters, including Congressman Mark Meadows’s assessment that the hearing was “a MAJOR setback for the unfounded impeachment fantasy.”

But Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee that could soon push for Trump’s impeachment, called the day’s testimony “pretty damning.” However, Nadler said he would remain open-minded “for the moment” on whether articles of impeachment should be written.

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway told CNN, “The president was very placid. I’ll tell you why. There was nothing new yesterday.”

She dismissed the importance of the day’s major news from the first of several days of the public impeachment inquiry, only the fourth against a U.S. president in the country’s 243-year history.

William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, testified that an aide of his, identified later as David Holmes, overheard a mobile phone conversation at a Kyiv restaurant on July 26. In the call, Taylor said, Trump asked Gordon Sondland, a million-dollar Trump political donor and now the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, about whether Ukraine was opening “the investigations” he wanted about Biden, his son Hunter Biden’s work for a Ukrainian natural gas company, and a debunked theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election Trump won, not Russia, as the U.S. intelligence community concluded.

On Thursday, a Foreign Service officer, Suriya Jayanti, based at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv, was identified as another person who also overheard the same conversation Trump had with Sondland.

The overheard conversation occurred a day after Trump from the White House asked Zelenskiy in a half-hour call for “a favor” — the investigations of the Bidens — at a time when he was blocking release of $391 million in military aid to Ukraine that it needed to help fight pro-Russian separatists in the eastern part of the country.

Taylor said his aide, David Holmes, told him that Sondland said he believed Trump was more concerned about the investigations of the Bidens, which Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani was pursuing, than anything else in Ukraine.

Impeachment investigators are interviewing Holmes, the Taylor aide, on Friday, while Sondland is set to testify before the impeachment inquiry next Wednesday. Sondland has already testified for hours in private behind closed doors, telling investigators that he told an aide to Zelenskiy that Ukraine would not get the military assistance unless the Ukrainian leader promised publicly that it would initiate the Biden investigations.

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