The Associated Press

Democrats announced Wednesday they will launch public impeachment hearings next week, intending to bring to life weeks of closed-door testimony and lay out a convincing narrative of presidential misconduct by Donald Trump.

First to testify will be William Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine, who has relayed in private his understanding that there was a blatant quid pro quo with Trump holding up military aid to a U.S. ally facing threats from its giant neighbor Russia.

That aid, at the heart of the impeachment inquiry, is alleged to have been held hostage until Ukraine agreed to investigate political foe Joe Biden and the idea, out of the mainstream of U.S. intelligence findings, that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.

The testimony of Taylor a career envoy and war veteran with 50 years of service to the U.S., is what Democrats want Americans to hear first.

Taylor has told investigators about an “irregular channel” that the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, set up for Ukraine diplomacy, and how the White House was holding up the military aid, according to a transcript of his closed-door interview released Wednesday.

“That was my clear understanding, security assistance money would not come until the president committed to pursue the investigation,” Taylor said.

He was asked if he was aware that “quid pro quo” meant “this for that.”

“I am,” he replied.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing, and Republicans largely dismiss the impeachment inquiry, now into its second month, as a sham.

But Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee leading the probe, said that with two days of hearings next week Americans will have a chance to decide for themselves.

Along with Taylor, the public will hear from former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, whom Trump fired after what she and others say was a smear campaign against her, and career State Department official George Kent. Taylor and Kent will appear Wednesday, Yovanovitch on Friday.

To prepare for what’s ahead, the White House is beefing up its communications operations. Trump ally Pam Bondi, the former attorney general of Florida, and Tony Sayegh, a former Treasury Department spokesman, are expected to join the White House team.

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