State Dept anxious about defending former USA ambassador to Ukraine

President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch Mc Connell at a campaign rally in Lexington Ky. on Monday

But Sondland suddenly remembered something-he changed his original testimony to reflect that he supposed that it was possible that military aid has been withheld to pressure Ukraine making a public statement asked by the Trump administration, adding that he had been in touch with a Ukrainian official last month.

Mr Mulvaney is the latest administration official to be ordered to testify with the impeachment probe closing in around those nearest the president as it proceeds into a new public phase, in which transcripts of closed-door testimony are being released. Trump's July 25 call with Ukraine's president in which Trump pressed for a public investigation into Ukrainian activities by Democrats sparked the impeachment inquiry.

Marie Yovanovitch, who was abruptly pulled from her post as USA ambassador to Ukraine in May, will testify on November 15.

The details appeared to bolster the initial whistleblower complaint that led to the investigation by three US House of Representatives committees.

"Let me be clear: Mr. Giuliani does not work for me or for my mission, and I do not know what official or unofficial role, if any, he has with the State Department", he said in his opening statement. For example, he told lawmakers that European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland told White House official Tim Morrison, who told Ukraine ambassador William Taylor, that Mr. Sondland had spoken to Mr. Trump about the Ukraine investigations. His testimony from that deposition was released on Thursday.

Schiff said the closed-door testimonies have offered an "increasing appreciation for just what took place during the course of the previous year and the degree to which the president enlisted whole departments of government in the elicit aim of trying to get Ukraine to dig up dirt on a political opponent".

"I think it was becoming clear to the Ukrainians that, in order to get this meeting that they wanted, they would have to commit to pursuing these investigations", Taylor said.

Taylor, who came out of retirement in June to serve as a special US envoy to Ukraine, will be the first of two witnesses to recount their private testimony in a public setting, as the impeachment inquiry enters a new, more television-friendly phase.

US President Donald Trump is facing an impeachment inquiry that has only grown in intensity, and now poses the greatest threat to his presidency.

A State Department envoy told lawmakers it was his "clear understanding" the USA government meant to withhold military aid from Ukraine until the country committed to investigations sought by President Donald Trump, including into a political rival, according to a transcript of the closed-door interview released Wednesday.

The Capitol Hill hearings will be broadcast live as Democratic and Republican lawmakers question witnesses, many of whom the White House has sought to discredit.

Trump has blasted the House inquiry as a witch hunt and accused Democrats of unfairly targeting him in hope of reversing his surprise victory in the 2016 presidential election.

All of which set the stage for this week - when Sondland amended his testimony and told lawmakers that he did, in fact, participate in a quid pro quo. "Both transcripts released today show there is even less evidence for this illegitimate impeachment sham than previously thought, " Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.