Connecticut Congressman Jim Himes was one of a handful of Democrats who questioned the two witnesses at the first public hearing of the impeachment inquiry. C-SPAN
Connecticut Congressman Jim Himes was among the lawmakers who questioned witnesses at the first public hearing of the impeachment inquiry. C-SPAN

Washington – U.S. Rep. Jim Himes began his questioning at the first public impeachment inquiry hearing by criticizing his Republican colleagues for trying to discredit State Department witnesses and the Democratic-led investigation of President Donald Trump’s conduct regarding Ukraine.

“One thing that is startling about the proceedings is that faced with serious allegations of presidential misconduct, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle do not engage or defend that conduct, and rather they spin theories of black ledgers and Steele dossiers and startling revelations that the Ukrainians might have been upset when a presidential candidate suggested that perhaps he would let the Russians keep Crimea,” Himes said.

Himes, D-4th District, was referring to GOP discussions about a ledger found in Ukraine that detailed millions of dollars in payments to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and a dossier written by a former British intelligence officer they say is a fabrication that was used to begin the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.

Himes also knocked the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes, for attacking the media “and most disgustingly attacking the extraordinary men and women of the State Department and the FBI.”

In his opening remarks at Wednesday’s hearing, Nunes called the impeachment inquiry “a carefully orchestrated media smear campaign.”

George Kent testified about the president’s interest in a Ukrainian investigation.
George Kent testified about the president’s interest in a Ukrainian investigation.

Nunes said Democrats “turned on a dime” after the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and then focused on Ukraine. He also called the hearings “an impeachment process in search of a crime.”

But Democrats stayed on script, pursuing a line of questioning aimed at establishing that Trump pressured Ukraine for personal political gain — not with the aim of rooting out corruption.

Himes asked State Department official George Kent, one of two witnesses testifying Wednesday, what a “real anti-corruption effort” would look like in Ukraine.

Kent replied that “if we are doing a systemic, holistic program,” the United States needed to depend on institutions with integrity in Ukraine and “that is going to start with investigators and then goes to the prosecutors and the courts and the corrections system.”

“Which is what we did in 2014,” Kent said.

He detailed past efforts of the United States to prod Ukraine toward reform, including the establishment of an “anti-corruption team” to look into “unusual wealth” and an “anti-corruption council,” as well as the installation of prosecutors and investigators “that could not be bought and focused on the high level of corruption.”

Himes then read part of a memo released by the White House of the now-infamous July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which the president asked Ukraine’s leader to coordinate with U.S. Attorney General William Barr to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden.

“When you hear that, do you think the president is requesting a well thought out, fully calibrated corruption program?” Himes asked.

“I do not,” Kent replied.

Kent and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor told lawmakers they had concerns about Trump’s Ukraine policy.

State Department official George Kent and Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor are sworn in at the start of Wednesday’s hearing.
State Department official George Kent and Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor are sworn in at the start of Wednesday’s hearing.

Taylor testified to a “highly irregular” foreign policy that was led by Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and was at odds with both official U.S. policy and interests in Ukraine.

“There appeared to be two channels of U.S. policymaking and implementation, one regular and one highly irregular,” Taylor said.

He also testified about a July 26 phone call between Trump and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, that was overheard by a member of Taylor’s staff. During that call, Taylor said Trump asked about the status of Ukraine’s Biden investigation, tying the president more closely to the attempt to probe his political opponents.

Taylor also testified about his concern when he learned U.S. military aid was being conditioned on a Ukrainian investigation and said he was told by Sondland that Trump cared “more about the investigations of Biden” than about Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Trump released a video Thursday that called the impeachment hearings the “single greatest scam in the history of American politics.”

Several Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee sought to delay the hearing by focusing on the identity of the whistleblower and requesting the individual testify behind closed doors.

At the start of the hearing, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, claimed Schiff knows the identity of the whistleblower — a statement Schiff immediately disputed.

Jordan also mentioned a Sept. 5 visit to Ukraine by Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Ron Johnson, where the senators and Taylor met with Zelensky, and two previous meetings between the Ukrainian president and Taylor as proof there was no quid pro quo that linked U.S. military aid to the investigation of Joe Biden and his son because “no linkage” was discussed in those meetings.

“Three meetings with the president of Ukraine, but no linkage,” said Jordan.

Taylor said the Ukrainians were unaware U.S. aid had been held up when the first two meetings were held, but knew about the hold up by the time the third meeting with Murphy and Johnson took place.

But the ambassador agreed with Jordan that there was “no linkage” at that meeting.

Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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  1. This losing sham impeachment is predicated on President Trump having done nothing wrong in Ukraine as a sequel to President Trump having done nothing wrong in Russia. The third and final part of this trilogy will take place less than a year from now when American citizens re-elect Trump to the presidency.

    I can’t wait to see what becomes of Hunter Biden in the third book.

  2. “Debunked conspiracy theories” would be much more accurate when describing the various and ever-changing Democrat Party efforts since before the 2016 election.

  3. Rep. Himes and the Democratic Party leaders are undermining the Constitution; this impeachment inquiry/process is a joke, waste of our taxpayer dollars and a waste of time. From my perspective, the State Department witnesses showed their arrogance in that their complaint was that the President was not pursuing their preferred Ukrainian foreign policy in a process that goes through them. Well excuse me but they were not elected to fashion foreign policy; their job is to disagree behind closed doors and then implement the foreign policy as directed by the President. If they cannot implement the policy, resign and then complain to their hearts content. John Gilsenan

    1. This is essentially about lifetime civil servants having hurt feelings about their boss disagreeing and not liking them. Try the private sector and see what that’s like.

  4. Rep Himes, you are the most rational and sane member of our Washington delegation. Now I know that is not saying much, but you should really become the voice of reason in a Democratic Party that has lost it way among the socialists, democratic socialists, enviro-lunatics, and “everything-for-free” unicorn jockeys. It is going to be very embarrassing if you and your colleagues impeach this president and he is reelected in a few months.
    But perhaps worse than mere embarrassment, by participating in this fiasco, you set up the precedent of the partisan-impeachment in which the President will be impeached for jaywalking if the opposing party controls the House. And then if the opposing party also controls the Senate, yikes! Why bother voting?

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