November 13, 2019

Castro Questions Witnesses During First Impeachment Hearing of President Trump

– As Delivered –

WASHINGTON—Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Vice Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and a member of the House Intelligence and Education and Labor Committees, today had the following exchange with George Kent and Bill Taylor during the highly anticipated first open impeachment hearing, where the American people heard the evidence for themselves on President Trump’s abuse of power:

CASTRO: Thank you, Chairman. Thank you, gentleman, for your testimony today, for your service to our country. Listening to all the evidence, everything I’ve heard and read in this investigation, it seems to me that the President of the United States either committed extortion and bribery of a foreign official, or attempted extortion and bribery of a foreign official. When President Trump got President Zelensky on the phone on July 25th, he was talking to a desperate man, wasn’t he? President Zelensky was desperate to protect his country and make sure that he had foreign assistance from the United States, is that right?

TAYLOR: President Zelensky is very interested in U.S. support, both assistance and political support.

CASTRO: What would have happened if the aid had gotten cut off, Ambassador? What would have happened to President Zelensky’s career and what would have happened to the Ukraine?

TAYLOR: The assistance-if the assistance had been cut off, he would have been much weaker in his negotiations with the Russians, he would have been much weaker on the battlefield.

CASTRO: The Russians may have taken it as an invitation to actually take military action against Ukraine, is that right?

TAYLOR: The Russians always look for vulnerabilities and they know that the United States has supported Ukraine. If the Russians determine or suspect that the support is lessened or not there, they will likely take advantage.

CASTRO: They could have pounced?

TAYLOR: They could have taken advantage.

CASTRO: So, he had a desperate man on the phone, and he asked a desperate man for a favor. And based on your testimony it sounds like begrudgingly, President Zelensky may have actually agreed to do that favor and investigate the Bidens and Burisma. Is that right?

TAYLOR: President Zelensky does say in the transcript that he will pursue the investigation.

CASTRO: So, we know that President Trump asked for a favor to help his political career and it appears as though the President of the Ukraine agreed to that favor. Do we know why it didn’t actually happen? Do we know why there was no announcement in front of CNN, or to CNN, about an investigation?

TAYLOR: Mr. Castro, as we’ve determined, as we’ve discussed here on September 11th, just before any CNN discussion or interview, the hold was released. The hold on the security systems was released.

CASTRO: So, the hold was released. Is it possible that the White House released that hold because they knew that a whistleblower had basically turned this in?

TAYLOR: I don’t know, sir.

CASTRO: Do you think that’s possible?

TAYLOR: I’m not in a position to judge.

CASTRO: So, we have a President who the other side has claimed or has defended the President saying that the aid went through and that there was never any investigation, but the President attempted to get those things done and it looks like there was an initial agreement by the President of Ukraine to actually do those things. So, ambassador, is attempted murder a crime? Is attempted murder a crime?

TAYLOR: Attempted murder is a crime.

CASTRO: Is attempted robbery a crime?

TAYLOR: Neither of us is a lawyer, but I-

CASTRO: I think anybody in this room can answer that question.

TAYLOR: I think that’s right. I’ll go out on a limb and say yes it is.

CASTRO: Is attempted extortion and bribery a crime?

TAYLOR: I don’t know, Sir.

CASTRO: In the minute that I have left, I want you to speak to the nation about what’s at stake, Ambassador Kent. You said in your opening statement, you warned about selective prosecutions and a President of the United States going after specific Americans abroad. If this Congress clears President Trump, does it mean that he can go ask another foreign country to investigate another presidential candidate, a member of Congress, a Governor, a Senator, or any private American citizen doing business overseas? If there’s no consequence for a President who does that then it means there’s a green light, doesn’t it? For any President to ask any country to go prosecute or investigate an American citizen for political and personal gain of that President, doesn’t it?

KENT: Thank you for the question, first of all, I’m not an Ambassador-

CASTRO: I’m sorry, Deputy Assistant Secretary.

KENT: I will repeat I think on principle, regardless of the country, whether it’s the Ukraine, the U.S., or any country, the facts of law, criminal nexus should drive investigations by law enforcement officials, and it is not the role of politicians to be involved in directing the judicial systems of their own country or other countries.

CASTRO: I yield back, Chairman.

A full recording of the exchange is available here.

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