Ben Smith Impeachment Today Podcast: The Hearings Are Coming To Prime Time

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It’s Friday, Nov. 8, 2019, 45 days since House Democrats began impeachment proceedings. Every morning, theImpeachment Todaypodcast helps you separate what’s real and groundbreaking from what’s just, well, bullshit.

In today’s episode: The Government Accountability Office has opened its own investigation into why military aid to Ukraine was put on hold, and more testimony from State Department officials makes life difficult for the Trump administration. And what exactly will happen when the public impeachment hearings begin next week? We’ve got D.C. reporter Addy Baird on to talk about what you’ll be seeing takeover the news.

You can listen to today’s episode below, or check it out on on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

It’s Friday, November 8th, 2019. 45 days since the House of Representatives launched its impeachment inquiry, and this is Impeachment Today. Good morning, I’m Hayes Brown, reporter and editor at Buzzfeed News. It’s Friday. You made it. We made it. After today, rest up, because next week we’ve got some potential game changers coming at us. On that note, today we’re talking to Addy Baird about what to expect when open impeachment hearings begin on Wednesday. But before we get to that, let’s catch up on what happened yesterday.

George Kent was the latest official whose testimony house Democrats have made public. He’s a deputy assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasian affairs. Kent told Congress in no uncertain terms that president Trump’s demand, that Ukraine quote, “initiate politically motivated prosecutions,” as he put it, was damaging to US support for the rule of law. He also focused on the quote “campaign of lies” that Rudy Giuliani ran, targeting a former US ambassador to Ukraine. Kent is going to be one of the three officials scheduled to testify at public hearings next week. House investigators on Thursdays spoke to one of the last officials that will testify behind closed doors, Jennifer Williams, a State Department employee detailed to vice president Mike Pence. They would still love to hear from one more person before the next phase begins. Acting chief of staff and current head of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney. Congress issued him a subpoena on Thursday night. He’s probably going to say no.

Also, it turns out president Zelensky of Ukraine was this close to granting the favors that Trump asked of him during their July phone call. The New York Times reported on Thursday that Zelensky’s government decided that getting US military aid released to them was more pressing than the risk to Ukraine’s bipartisan support in the US. The Times says Zelensky was ready to announce investigations into a company tied to Joe Biden’s son and supposed Ukrainian interference in the 2016 US election during a CNN interview. In the end, Zelensky was saved by a stroke of luck. After news of the hold leaked, Congress pushed the administration to lift the freeze. The aid was released just two days before the interview was scheduled to take place. So that was close.

Finally, there’s a new investigation into whether the White House broke the law in freezing that aid. Look out folks, the Government Accountability Office is on the case. The GAO is the nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress. They’re looking into whether holding $391 million of aid from Ukraine violated appropriations law. Mulvaney, in his role as head of the Office of Management and Budget, ordered the hold in July. He did so at the order of the president, several administration officials said in testimony to Congress. That money would have vanished if the hold hadn’t been lifted by the end of the fiscal year, which was September 30th.

The White House has insisted that everything was on up and up as far as telling Congress about any changes in the aid, since it was eventually delivered. But officials have testified that the release of the money was dependent on Ukraine granting Trump’s personal political requests. Now, can the GAO do much if the executive branch stonewalls them? Well, no. But it’s nice that they’re trying. And now, bearing in mind that this scale is logarithmic, like how we measure earthquakes, we have today’s reading from our Nixometer.

On our scale, a zero is a normal day in a normal White House, and 10 is president Richard M. Nixon resigning and flying away in Marine One. And this morning we’re at a 6.95. Look, a lot happened this week. I went back and listened to the last few episodes and you really have to appreciate how quickly things are moving. We’re not quite at a seven yet, b

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