After the testimonies behind the closed doors of the Congress, place to the auditions under the eye of the cameras and the Americans. On Wednesday, two diplomats, William Taylor and George Kent, opened the ball at public hearings as part of Donald Trump's impeachment investigation, accused of pressuring Ukraine to force Kiev to investigate his rival Democrat Joe Biden for the 2020 presidential election.
For more than six hours, they answered questions from the Intelligence Committee of the House of Representatives. No shattering revelations to the key, but the day has still brought some water to the mill of the Democrats, who hope to tip public opinion by giving flesh to this complex issue.
Who are the two witnesses?
Both William Taylor and George Kent have spent a great deal of their career as diplomats. Veteran of the Vietnam War, William Taylor, 72, was ambassador to Kiev during the second term of George W. Bush. He returned to business in Ukraine in June after the departure of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. She accuses Trump of putting pressure on the State Department to get his departure.
A former student of Harvard, where he studied Russian literature and history, George Kent is a senior official of the State Department Specialist of Ukraine. He has been working for the US government for almost three decades. Kent has packed his bags in Warsaw, Kiev, Thailand and Uzbekistan.
What did they say to the elected representatives of the Congress?
This first wave of testimonies filmed did not hold a huge surprise, the content of statements Taylor and Kent delivered behind closed doors is already known. William Taylor nevertheless brought a new element. And for good reason: he says he himself learned Friday only.
According to one of his associates, Donald Trump had spoken on July 26 by telephone with one of his relatives, the ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. The day before, the US president had asked his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden.
Wanting to know what the president thought of Ukraine, William Taylor's associate asked Sondland directly. "He said that President Trump was more interested in the Biden inquiry" than the situation in that country, Taylor said. Enough to please the Democrats, but this new element to charge has a weakness that did not miss the point of Republicans and Trump: it is about "second hand" and not a "smoking gun" , irrefutable proof that would suddenly rock the course of the investigation.
A name is often found in the mouths of two diplomats, that of Rudy Giuliani. Donald Trump's personal attorney appears as the character at the heart of the "irregular" diplomatic channel set up between Washington and Kiev. For George Kent, Giuliani's goal was as clear as it was simple: he was "looking for something to dirty" Joe Biden.
How did Donald Trump react?
Donald Trump was "too busy" Wednesday to keep his eyes on his television screen. At least that's what he has been doing since the Oval Office, when he welcomed his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The president "do not look. He works, "said White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham.
However, when we look at the Twitter account of Donald Trump, excerpts of both auditions are not lacking, even if it is most often just retweeted messages. At midday, he also shared a video that appeared to have been recorded in front of the White House and in which he denounced "the biggest swindle in the history of American politics."
"The Democrats want you to withdraw your weapons, your health insurance, your vote, your freedom, your judges. They want to take everything from you. […] It's very simple: they try to stop me because I'm fighting for you. I will not let them do it, "he warns.
Who will be auditioned in the next days?
The schedule of auditions is very tight. By next week, nine more witnesses will be heard by the elected representatives of the House of Representatives. Friday, it is the former ambassador of the United States in Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch who will be auditioned.
Tuesday will be particularly busy with four hearings including that of Kurt Volker, special envoy of the United States for Ukraine until his resignation in late September. But Gordon Sondland's Wednesday morning testimony is one of the most anticipated. US ambassador to the European Union and close to Donald Trump, he admitted to having linked military aid to Ukraine with the opening of an investigation into Joe Biden.
The waltz will end Thursday morning with Fiona Hill, a former White House advisor. Worried about possible blackmail, she explained that she seized the White House legal services as early as July 10, two weeks before Trump and Zelensky's appeal.