After the first day of public hearings in the impeachment inquiry, politicians tried to spin the testimony from two top U.S. diplomats, which linked Trump to a pressure campaign to force Ukraine to conduct investigations that would benefit him politically.
(SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) REP.
NANCY PELOSI, SAYING: "The devastating testimony corroborated evidence of bribery." (SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) REP.
JIM JORDAN, SAYING: "The facts are squarely, strongly, on the president's side." Predictably, reactions to the hours-long testimony of George Kent and
Class="kln">Bill Taylor ran along party lines.
But Ambassador Taylor did make some news, when he told congress that his staffer overheard the president on the phone with his ambassador to the EU discuss the investigations.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) ACTING U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE, WILLIAM TAYLOR, SAYING: "Ambassador Sondland called President Trump and told him of his meetings in Kiev.
The member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone asking Ambassador Sondland about the investigations.
Ambassador Sondland told President Trump the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.
Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine.
Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden that Giuliani was pressing for." The president denied having such a conversation.
The pair told lawmakers why they were so alarmed when they learned the U.S. was withholding military aid to Ukraine that would be used to deter Russian aggression.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) ACTING U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE, WILLIAM TAYLOR, SAYING: "Because that security assistance was so important for Ukraine as well as for our own national interest - to withhold that assistance, for no good reason, other than help with a political campaign made no sense.
It was counterproductive to all that we'd been trying to do.
It was illogical, it could not be explained.
It was crazy." They also described an unusual backchannel effort by the president's personal attorney to get the Ukrainian to announce an investigation into Joe Biden.
(SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) U.S. Diplomat George Kent: "In mid-August, it became clear to me that Giuliani's efforts to gin up politically-motivated investigations were now infecting U.S. engagement with Ukraine." Republicans' arguments seemed to boil down to these: the allegations are hearsay, the aid was eventually released, plus the alleged extortion victim, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, denied being extorted.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) EXCHANGE BETWEEN U.S. REPUBLICAN REPRESENTATIVE JIM JORDAN AND ACTING U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE, WILLIAM TAYLOR: JORDAN: Ambassador you weren't on the call, were you?
You didn't listen in on President Trump's call and President Zelinskiy's call, did you?
TAYLOR: I did not.
JORDAN: You never talked to chief of staff Mulvaney.
TAYLOR: I never did.
JORDAN: You never met the president.
TAYLOR: That's correct.
(SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) REP.
JOHN RATCLIFFE, SAYING: "He told Reuters there was no blackmail!
He told the LA Times there was no pressure or blackmail from the United States." (SOUNDBITE) (ENGLISH) EXCHANGE BETWEEN REP.
ADAM SCHIFF AND DIPLOMAT GEORGE KENT: SCHIFF: "You would agree that if President Zelenskiy contradicted President Trump and said, 'Of course I felt pressure, they were holding up $400 million in military assistance we have people dying every day, they would be sophisticated enough to know they would pay a very high price with this president, would they not?" KENT: "That's a fair assessment," Democrats say it's clear Trump abused the power of presidency for personal gain.
But House Republicans appeared united behind the president.
Whether the hearings can sway public opinion remains to be seen.
On Friday, lawmakers will hear from Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, who was ousted by Trump.