Following last week’s televised impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, lawmakers will once again go live in front of the cameras this week to interview eight more witnesses as part of public hearings that will stretch from Tuesday to Thursday.
At issue is whether Trump abused the power of his office by holding back security assistance from Ukraine in an attempt to pressure newly elected president Volodymyr Zelensky to announce an investigation involving Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.
Last week, the House Intelligence Committee heard from three witnesses — Bill Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine; George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary for Europe and Eurasian affairs; and Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
You can stream the impeachment hearings here, courtesy of PBS:
While Yovanovitch offered an emotional account of how smears by Rudy Giuliani ultimately led to her ouster, it was Taylor who made the most news when he revealed that David Holmes, a member of his staff, overheard Trump discussing the push for investigations during a cellphone call with the U.S. ambassador to Gordon Sondland. Holmes testified behind closed doors on Friday, and Sondland is set to appear publicly before the committee on Wednesday.
The hearings, which averaged an estimated 13.25 million viewers daily over two days last week, will once again air live on all major cable news networks and on nearly all local broadcast channels. In Philadelphia, the only exception is Fox 29, which will break only from its local programming to cover the hearings’ opening statements from Reps. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) and Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Intelligence Committee.
As far as streaming goes, every cable news and broadcast network — including Fox 29 — will offer live coverage of the hearings from their respective websites.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this week’s hearings.
The hearings are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. On Tuesday and Wednesday, a second set of hearings will begin at 2:30 p.m.
Both Schiff and Nunes will present opening statements before the witnesses offer their own opening statements and testimony.
Frankly, it will be hard for viewers not to find coverage of this week’s hearings. All of the major cable news networks — C-SPAN, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC — will air every minute live, sandwiched with special coverage and analysis. Viewers can also stream live coverage on the network’s various apps and websites, as well as on YouTube through a host of media companies.
In Philadelphia, 6ABC, CBS3, NBC10, and WHYY-TV will also cut into their local programing to offer live coverage of the hearings, while Fox29 plans to carry only the opening statements live.
This week, eight witnesses are scheduled to testify in public before the House Intelligence Committee after previously offering closed-door depositions as part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry.
First up to testify will be Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the director for European affairs at the National Security Council. Vindman was one of several people who was on the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky at the center of the impeachment inquiry, and privately testified that he tried and failed to add details that were omitted from the administration’s rough transcript, which the president has repeatedly described as “perfect.”
Testifying alongside Vindman will be Jennifer Williams, a career foreign service officer at the State Department tasked as a special adviser to Vice President Mike Pence. Like Vindman, Williams was also part of the July 25 phone call, telling lawmakers during her closed-door deposition that Trump’s call for Ukraine to open investigations into Biden “struck me as unusual and inappropriate.”
Williams also testified she heard Zelensky mention Burisma on the July 25 call, but the Ukrainian gas company doesn’t appear anywhere on the administration’s rough transcript. Her private testimony drew a strong rebuke from Trump, who called her a “never Trumper” on Twitter and accused her of being part of a “presidential attack.” Pence’s office did not issue a statement in support of Williams; instead it shared a cold statement with reports that simply stated, “Jennifer is a State Department employee.”
Testifying in the afternoon will be Kurt Volker, the State Department’s special envoy to Ukraine who resigned Sept. 27 after his name was mentioned in the original whistleblower complaint. Kent testified that Volker was one of the so-called “three amigos” (along with Sondland and Energy Secretary Rick Perry) who had direct access to Trump and worked closely with the president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
Testifying alongside Volker will be Tim Morrison, a former National Security Council official who resigned Oct. 30 — the day before he testified behind closed doors. Morrison told investigators during his deposition that Sondland informed Ukrainian officials that military aid was being held until Zelensky publicly announced an investigation into the Bidens. He also testified that Sondland was acting on Trump’s orders.
The lone witness testifying Wednesday morning is an important one — Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. Sondland, a top donor to Trump’s inaugural committee who was in direct contact with the president, was forced to reverse his private testimony to admit he told one of Zelensky’s top aides that military aid was being held until an investigation involving the Bidens was announced.
Sondland will also draw renewed interest from lawmakers on two fronts — new revelations of an overheard phone call he had with Trump about the push for investigations in Ukraine and emails obtained by the Wall Street Journal that show Sondland kept Trump administration officials in the loop on the pressure campaign.
As deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, Laura Cooper oversees the process for administering military aid to Ukraine. Last month, Cooper said in closed-door testimony that she had learned over the summer that funding for aid was being delayed in relation “to the president’s concerns about corruption” regarding Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. In her testimony, Cooper added that providing assistance to Ukraine is “within the U.S. national interest,” and that funding was “held without explanation.”
Undersecretary of state for political affairs David Hale serves as the third-ranking official in the State Department. Earlier this month, he participated in a closed-door testimony, but the transcript has not yet been released. However, according to the Associated Press, officials expected Hale to testify that the State Department failed to adequately defend Yovanovitch during a campaign that resulted in her ouster.
Former senior director for European and Russian affairs at the National Security Council Fiona Hill joined the NSC in 2017 and served as a top adviser on Russia until July. Hill testified before a committee last month, when she reiterated an account of a July meeting in the White House during which former national security adviser John Bolton reportedly told her to “go and tell [NSC lawyer John] Eisenberg that I am not part of this drug deal that [ambassador Gordon] Sondland and [chief of staff Mick] Mulvaney are cooking up” regarding Ukraine investigating Trump’s opponents.
Thanks to a format that allows for extended questioning, both Republicans and Democrats are once again expected to yield significant time to two attorneys who have already spent hours questioning witnesses — both behind closed door and during last week’s public hearings.
Republicans will turn to Steve Castor, a Philadelphia-area native, who earned his bachelor’s degree at Pennsylvania State University and his MBA at Lehigh University before switching to law. Prior to joining the Oversight Committee staff in 2005, Castor spent four years practicing commercial litigation in Philadelphia and Washington, according to a biography provided by House GOP staff.
Democrats are once again expected to lean on Daniel Goldman, the committee’s director of investigations. Like Castor, Goldman has been involved in the impeachment inquiry’s private and public questioning of witnesses. Prior to joining the Intelligence Committee, he served as the served as assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, and spent time as a legal analyst for MSNBC.