Republicans, meanwhile, continued to downplay the president’s pressure campaign on Ukraine while largely leaving the facts of what unfolded throughout the summer undisputed.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) on “Fox News Sunday“ repeatedly reiterated that Ukraine eventually received the $391 million in military aid that is at the center of the Democrats’ impeachment investigation.
“The real bottom line is he got the money — Ukraine got the money,” Scalise told host Chris Wallace, noting that senior Ukrainian officials have publicly said they didn’t feel pressured by Trump to investigate Biden in return.
“There was never an investigation undertaken,” added Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), one of the lead Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, on “Face the Nation.“ “It didn’t happen.”
And Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who pressed Trump about the aid holdup in August, said the president seemed to indicate he was preparing to release the military funding.
“He was already leaning toward providing that funding on Aug. 31,” Johnson said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.“ “My guess is that if this never would’ve been exposed, the funding would’ve been restored and our relationship with Ukraine would be far better off than it is today.”
But Democrats note the aid wasn’t released until Sept. 11, two days after House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) announced a “wide-ranging investigation” into Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine after Schiff first learned of the whistleblower complaint.
“The president of the United States was using the massive powers entrusted to him, to try to use tax payer dollars as leverage to get a foreign country to interfere in an election,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press.”
“If you don’t use impeachment for this type of offense, then I am not sure what you use it for.”
Murphy’s remarks follow a week in which House investigators — and millions of Americans tuning in — heard detailed accounts about the pervasiveness of the campaign to pressure Ukraine into helping the president damage a top political rival, the smearing of reputations along the way, and Trump’s direct involvement in the effort.
Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, delivered compelling public testimony Friday about the “smear campaign” against her led by Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, a humiliating end to her decades-long blemish free foreign service career that she said also significantly undermined U.S. national security interests abroad.
Trump attacked Yovanovitch on Twitter in the middle of the hearing, prompting Schiff and other Democrats to accuse Trump of real-time witness intimidation, potentially bolstering an obstruction of justice charge against the president.
Lawmakers also heard testimony — first from William Taylor, the top American diplomat in Ukraine and later from the staffer himself — about a phone conversation a U.S. official overheard in Kyiv during which Trump asked if Ukraine had agreed to investigate Biden.
David Holmes, the State Department official, corroborated Taylor’s account during a closed-door deposition with House investigators Friday afternoon. Holmes said he overheard Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, telling Trump that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky would do “anything you ask him to.”
Sondland, who did not mention the July 26 call with Trump in either his closed-door deposition or later addendum to his testimony, will appear before the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday.
Sondland is one of eight witnesses scheduled to testify publicly over three days as Democrats try to wrap up public hearings soon. Democrats are still trying to finish their full probe — including possibly voting to impeach Trump — by the end of the year.
The slate of hearings this week will kick off Tuesday morning with testimony from Jennifer Williams, a top aide to Vice President Mike Pence, and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a senior official on the National Security Council.
Both Vindman and Williams were on the July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky and later expressed alarm about the president asking for “a favor” that included investigating an energy company associated with Biden’s son.
In a transcript of Williams’ closed-door deposition, released Saturday afternoon, the Pence aide said Trump’s demands were “unusual and inappropriate.”
Still, Pelosi on Sunday wouldn’t elaborate on what, if any, articles of impeachment Democrats will bring against Trump or whether that would include bribery, which she accused the president of earlier in the week.
Bribery is one of the specific crimes listed in the Constitution as impeachable. Over the last week, House Democrats have been making a concerted effort to publicly claim Trump committed bribery when he tried to use millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine as leverage to force the country to investigate Biden.
“There’s not even a decision made to impeach the president,” Pelosi said on “Face the Nation,“ while adding that Trump has yet to produce evidence that “demonstrates his innocence.”
“This is a finding of fact, unfolding of the truth. And then a decision will be made and that is a decision that goes beyond me,” Pelosi added.