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Without objection, the chair is authorized to declare a recess of the committee at any time. There is a quorum present. Here's how the committee will proceed for this hearing. I will make an opening statement and then Ranking Member Nunez will have the opportunity to make a statement and we will go to witness statements and then to questions for audience members. We welcome you and we respect your interest in being here. In turn, we ask for your respect as we proceed with today's hearing.


Mr. Chairman. It is the intention of the committee to proceed without disrupt chairman before what may make a parliamentary inquiry into a state inquiry. Mr. Chairman, this is our first hearing under these new set of rules, House Resolution 660. It gives you the discretion to allow yourself and the ranking member periods of extended questions of up to 45 minutes each before other members are allowed to ask questions if possible. We'd like to know the rules of engagement before we get started.


Had you made a decision yet as to how many? Forty five minute rounds you will allow yourself and the ranking member? I have not. As we inform the minority yesterday, we will see how the first year it goes and how much material able to get through. At that point, the chair will announce the period. If there is a period of the second round, which may be up to forty five minutes, or we'll go straight to a five minute questions by members for audience members.


Again, we welcome you and your interest. In turn, we expect and will insist on decorum in the committee. As chairman, I'll take all necessary and appropriate steps to maintain order and ensure the committee is run in accordance with House Rules and House Resolution 660. With that, I now recognize myself to give an opening statement in the impeachment inquiry into Donald J. Trump. The 44th President of the United States in 2014. Russia invaded the United States ally, Ukraine.


Reverse that nation's embrace of the West. And to fulfill Vladimir Putin's desire to rebuild a Russian empire. In the following years, 14000 Ukrainians died as they battled superior Russian forces. Earlier this year, Vladimir's Wolinsky was elected president of Ukraine on a platform of ending the conflict and tackling corruption. He was a newcomer to politics. And immediately sought to establish a relationship with Ukraine's most powerful patron, the United States. The questions presented by this impeachment inquiry are whether President Trump sought to exploit that allies vulnerability and invite Ukraine's interference in our elections.


Whether President Trump sought to condition official acts such as a White House meeting or U.S. military assistance on Ukraine's willingness to assist with two political investigations that would help his re-election campaign. And if President Trump did either. Whether such an abuse of his power is compatible with the office of the presidency. The matter is as simple and as terrible as that. Our answer to these questions will affect not only the future of this presidency, but the future of the presidency itself.


And what kind of conduct or misconduct the American people may come to expect from their commander in chief. There are a few actions as consequential as the impeachment of a president. While the founders did not intend that impeachment be employed for mere differences over policy. They also made impeachment a constitutional process that Congress must utilize as necessary. The facts in the present inquiry are not seriously contested. Beginning in January of this year, the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, pressed Ukrainian authorities to investigate prisma, the country's largest national gas producer, and the Bidens since Vice President Joe Biden was seen as a strong potential challenger to Trump.


Giuliani also promoted a debunked conspiracy that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that hacked the 2016 U.S. election. The nation's intelligence agencies have stated unequivocally that it was Russia, not Ukraine, and interfered in our election. But Giuliani believed this conspiracy theory, referred to as CrowdStrike shorthand for the company that discovered the Russian hack would aid his client's re-election. Giuliani also conducted a smear campaign against the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Maria Evanovich, on April 29, a senior State Department official told her that although she had done nothing wrong, President Trump had lost confidence in her with the sidelining of the.


The stage was set for the establishment of an irregular channel in which Giuliani and later others, including Gordon Sunland, an influential donor to the president's inauguration, now serving as ambassador to the European Union, could advance the president's personal and political interests. Evanovich, his replacement in Kiev, Ambassador Bill Taylor, is a West Point graduate and Vietnam veteran as he began to better understand the scheme through the summer of twenty six twenty nineteen. He pushed back, informing Deputy Assistant Secretary Kent and others about a plan to condition U.S.


government actions and funding on the performance of political favors by the Ukrainian government, favors intended for President Trump that would undermine our security and our elections. Several key events in the scheme took place in the month of July. On July 10th, Ambassador, someone informed a group of U.S. and Ukrainian officials meeting at the White House that according to you, chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, a White House meeting desperately sought by the Ukrainian president with Trump would happen only if Ukraine undertook an investigation into the energy sector, which was understood to mean Verismo and specifically the Bidens.


National Skirt Advisor Boldon abruptly ended the meeting and said afterwards that he would not be, quote, part of whatever drug deal Sunland and Mulvany are cooking up on this, end quote. A week later, on July 18th, Representive, the Office of Management Budget, the White House agency that oversees federal spending, announced on a video conference that Mulvany at the direction of the president, was freezing nearly $400 million in security assistance authorized and appropriated by Congress in which the entirety of the U.S.


national security establishment supported. One week after that, Donald Trump would have the now infamous July 25th phone call with Ukrainian President Wolinsky. During that call, Trump complained that the U.S. relationship with Ukraine had not been reciprocal. Later, Zelinski. Thanks Trump for his support in the area of defense and says that Ukraine is ready to purchase more javelins, an anti-tank weapon that was among the most important deterrents of further Russian military action. Trump's immediate response. I would like you to do us a favor, though.


Trump then requested that Zelinsky investigate the discredited 2016 CrowdStrike conspiracy theory and even more ominously, ominously look into the Bidens. Neither of these investigations was in the U.S. national interest. And neither was part of the official prefatory material for the call. Both, however, were in Donald Trump's personal interest and in the interests of his 2020 re-election campaign, and the Ukrainian president knew about both in advance because Sandlin and others had been pressing Ukraine for weeks about investigations into the 2016 election.


But Obama and the Bidens. After the call, multiple individuals were concerned enough to report it to the National Security Council's top lawyer. The White House would then take the extraordinary step of moving the call record to a highly classified server exclusively reserved for the most sensitive intelligence matters. In the weeks that followed, Ambassador Taylor learned new facts about a scheme that song Land even Song Land would described as becoming more insidious. Taylor texted Solin, quote, Are we now saying that security assistance and White House meeting are conditioned on investigations?


As summer turned to fall, it kept getting more insidious. Mr. Sandlin testified. Mr. Taylor, who took notes of his conversation, said the ambassador told him in a September 1st phone call that everything was dependent on the public announcement of investigations, including security assistance. President Trump wanted Mr. Zelinski in a public box. President Trump is a businessman, Sunland said later. When a business man is about to sign a cheque to someone who owes him something. The businessman asked that person to pay up before signing the cheque.


In a sworn declaration after Taylor's testimony, Salmond would admit to telling Ukrainians at a September 1st meeting in Warsaw. Quote, A resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anticorruption statement that we have been discussing for many weeks. The president's chief of staff confirmed Trump's efforts to coerce Ukraine by withholding aid when Mick Mulvaney was asked publicly about it. His answer was breathtaking. We do that all the time with foreign policy. He said, I have news for everybody.


Get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy that is going to happen. The video of that confession is plain for all to see. Some have argued in the president's defense that the aid was ultimately released. And that is true. But only after Congress began an investigation, only after the president's lawyers learned of a whistleblower complaint, and only after members of Congress began asking uncomfortable questions about quid pro quos. A scheme to condition official acts or taxpayer funding to obtain a personal political benefit does not become less odious because it is discovered before it is fully consummated.


In fact, the security assistance had been delayed so long it would take another act of Congress to ensure that it could still go out. And that Oval Office meeting that Zelinsky desperately sought. It still hasn't happened. Although we have learned a great deal about these events in the last several weeks, there are still missing pieces. The president has instructed the State Department and other agencies to ignore congressional subpoenas for documents. He has instructed witnesses to defy subpoenas and refuse to appear.


And he has suggested that those who do expose wrongdoing should be treated like traitors and spies. These actions will force Congress to consider, as it did with President Nixon, whether Trump's obstruction of the constitutional duties of Congress constituted additional grounds for impeachment. If the president can simply refuse all oversight, particularly in the context of an impeachment proceeding, the balance of power between our two branches of government will be irrevocably altered. That is not what the founders intended. And the prospects for further corruption and abuse of power in this administration or any other will be exponentially increased.


This is what we believe the testimony will show. Both as to the president's conduct and as to his obstruction of Congress, the issue that we confront. Is the one posed by the president's acting chief of staff when he challenged Americans to get over it. If we find that the president, United States, abused his power and invited foreign interference in our elections, or if he sought to condition, coerce, extort or bribe an ally into conducting investigations to aid his re-election campaign and did so by withholding official acts, a White House meeting or hundreds of millions of dollars of needed military aid, must we simply get over it?


Is this what Americans should now expect from their president? If this is not impeachable conduct, what is? Does the oath of office itself requiring that our laws be faithfully executed? That our president defend a constitution that balances the powers of its branches, setting ambition against the ambitions so we become no monarchy, still have meaning. These are the questions we much ask and answer. Without rancor, if we can. Without delay, regardless. And without party favor and without prejudice if we are true to our responsibilities.


Benjamin Franklin was asked what kind of a country America was to become. A republic, he answered. If you can keep it. The fundamental issue raised by the impeachment inquiry into Donald J. Trump is can we keep it?