Millions expected to watch first Trump impeachment hearing on Wednesday

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The first House impeachment hearing is expected to feature damning testimony from the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine and a top State Department official.

Millions are expected to watch the first House impeachment hearing on Wednesday, following Monday's news that the national networks — ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS — will preempt regular programming and join cable news organizations in airing the hearings live, the Hill reported Monday.

The witnesses — top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine Bill Taylor and top State Department official George Kent — are expected to provide damning testimony about Donald Trump's alleged attempts to use extortion and bribery to compel Ukraine to tell lies about former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential political rival for Trump in the 2020 presidential race.

Previous high-profile congressional testimonies in the Trump era generated huge viewership.

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Former FBI Director James Comey's 2017 congressional testimony garnered 19.5 million viewers, while more than 20 million viewers watched Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testify about then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's alleged attempted rape.

The congressional testimony audience figures do not include the millions of people who watched the respective hearings via streaming on their computers or smartphones.

Both Taylor and Kent have testified behind closed doors before the House Intelligence, Oversight, and Foreign Affairs Committees, the three congressional committees leading the impeachment inquiry. But Wednesday will be the first time both men speak publicly about what they witnessed while working in the Trump administration.

According to his closed-door testimony, Taylor confirmed that the Trump administration was withholding almost $400 million in military aid in order to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden. In a September text message to another Trump official, Taylor exclaimed, "I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign."

Kent, Trump's deputy assistant Secretary of State, recently told Congress that asking a foreign country to investigate a political rival "goes against everything that we are trying to promote in post-Soviet states for the last 28 years, which is the promotion of the rule of law."

Kent also accused Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, of leading a "campaign for several months full of lies and incorrect information about [U.S.] Ambassador [to Ukraine Marie] Yovanovitch." Trump eventually relieved Yovanovitch of her role in Ukraine before her scheduled departure date.

On Saturday, Republicans released a list of witnesses they would like called in the impeachment inquiry. The list includes the anonymous whistleblower who initially alerted his or her superiors to Trump's possible extortion scheme, as well as Nellie Ohr, a favorite of Fox News conspiracy theorists.

Taylor and Kent will testify in front of the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, with Taylor testifying at 10 a.m. EST.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.