House Democrats release first transcripts from impeachment probe

House Democrats on Monday released the first set of transcripts from their closed-door depositions as part of the impeachment inquiry into President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Official testifies that Bolton had 'one-on-one meeting' with Trump over Ukraine aid Louisiana governor wins re-election MORE.

The interview transcripts with former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and top State Department official Michael McKinley offer the first look at what witnesses told investigators about Trump’s contacts with Ukraine. The release marks a new phase for the Democrats' impeachment inquiry into whether the president pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open investigations into his political rival, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBudget official says he didn't know why military aid was delayed: report Growing 2020 field underscores Democratic divide READ: Foreign service officer Jennifer Williams' closed-door testimony from the House impeachment inquiry MORE.

“As we move towards this new public phase of the impeachment inquiry, the American public will begin to see for themselves the evidence that the committees have collected. With each new interview, we learn more about the President’s attempt to manipulate the levers of power to his personal political benefit," the chairs of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform committees wrote in a joint statement.

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“The transcripts of interviews with Ambassadors Yovanovitch and McKinley demonstrate clearly how President Trump approved the removal of a highly respected and effective diplomat based on public falsehoods and smears against Ambassador Yovanovitch’s character and her work in support of long-held U.S. foreign policy anticorruption goals," they added.

The statement also says the depositions show how Trump sought to create "an irregular back channel" by asking Zelensky to investigate interference in the 2016 election, as well as Biden.

The release is certain to raise objections from Republicans, who have been calling for the immediate release of all the transcripts — not just a select few — since the depositions began just over a month ago.

Shortly before the Democrats released the two depositions, Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsDemocrats seize on new evidence in first public impeachment hearing House Republicans call impeachment hearing 'boring,' dismiss Taylor testimony as hearsay Key takeaways from first public impeachment hearing MORE (R-N.C.), a member of the Oversight and Reform Committee, predicted Democrats would release only the interviews painting Trump in a negative light.

"You and I both know how this game will work out. They will release the transcripts that are most beneficial to them, make the news cycle happen, and then the damning transcripts that are available, they will wait a period of time [to release]," Meadows said. "And so I don't think that's fair, transparent, and certainly we need to make sure that there are no select edits."