But only with brief glances at the stone witnesses entering the secure basement room, neither Trump nor the general public were able to fully grasp his account of his approach to Ukraine. Now the president will learn, along with the rest of the country, what his own administration members are saying about how he is pushing Ukraine to investigate a political rival.
The power of television hearings was something of a subtext to Trump's presidency, from James Comy to Brett Cavanaugh to Robert Mueller. But they never came to the imminent threat of impeachment or any real consequence beyond damaged political reputation and negative news cycles.
The hearings announced on Wednesday have higher stakes. Since the open testimony was first presented by Democrats, the White House has been working with its Republican allies on the Capitol Hill to try to formulate a way to both respond to the testimony and use the public forum to call the proceedings illegitimate.
The White House is expected to do what it has for past public hearings in the past: monitoring live public hearings, frequent real-time staff updates, and the frequent spread of talking points to surrogates.
Two new advisers ̵
The White House Attorney's Office considered various options for dealing with public interviews, outlining a strategy to protect the president against allegations he used to detain Ukraine's military assistance to stimulate investigations into political rivals. White House attorneys pour themselves in behind-the-scenes transcripts of their closed-door depositions as they build their case, trying to determine what to expect from the public phase.
Some future witnesses have caused Trump's allies more acid than others.
There has been an increased level of concern in the White House over the last few days about the expression of US senior diplomat Bill Taylor, according to many people familiar with the matter. His closed-door postponement, which is said to be explicitly quid pro quo, is considered one of the most damaging to Trump's case.
White House officials view Taylor as more credible than other witnesses who detail the president's approach to Ukraine and have been told by Capitol Hill Republicans that he may be the most difficult to discount.
White House officials were under the impression that Democrats would save his evidence last. Instead, it is the first one – a week from Wednesday.
Taylor's word will not be easily dismissed. He is a graduate of West Point, a Vietnam veteran and was personally assigned by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for the job – a job that text messages published Tuesday by House investigators revealed that he was extremely reluctant to consider personal involvement Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani in Ukraine matters.
Taylor remains in office as senior US diplomat in Kiev, another reason some officials believe his speech will carry more weight than some witnesses who left the administration, such as a former National Security Council official Fiona Hill or Ambassador Kurt Volker, the one-time US special envoy to Ukraine.
After Taylor testified, Trump was individually detached by Pompeo and accused him of renting. He later said publicly that Pompeo had made a mistake in doing so, rarely criticizing one of his favorite cabinet members.
This response, combined with Trump's general agitation in the closed-door impeachment procedure, led some White House officials to wonder how he would react to the television version.
In private conversations, the president discusses with intelligence assistants and allies whose complaint was raised by the impeachment investigation. It is unclear whether Trump knows the identity of the individual, but even publicly has pressured the media and his allies to issue the name, raising objections from lawyers representing the abuser.
During his latest wide-ranging investigation into the president – Robert Mueller's former special counsel for Russia – Trump was largely glued to the television screen during the days of congressional public testimony. Back then, Trump often watched work unfold from the comfort of the White House residence or the dining room right up to the Oval Office, a live tweeter throughout.
So far, Trump has not had this distraction during the impeachment process. On Wednesday, after US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sundland was publicly released, the president continued his regular meeting schedule, according to a senior White House official. He did not tweet about testimony published on Thursday morning, when he took to his favorite social media platform to cite Volker's ignorance of the quid pro quo as revenge.
And instead of the bad mood of the president, the mood in the West Wing went down, officials also continued to worry, although many read updates on testimony.
"Nobody shakes at any of this," a senior White House official said Wednesday night, insisting the mood in the building was the same in the morning as it was when staff filtered from the White House.
There is also a growing sense of invincibility among many senior White House officials who have watched White House officials past efforts to investigate Trump. Neither Congressional investigations nor the special counsel's investigation left a large mark on Trump, leaving some White House officials similarly dismissing the impeachment investigation.
Some of them are dealing with the public by not fully understanding all the topics in the impeachment investigation, and not caring enough to move the needle. Their view is that the twists and turns of the investigation are too complex for average Americans to catch in any meaningful way.
A Trump advisor on Tuesday denied the idea that Sondland's testimony or the release of other transcripts was a major blow to Trump.
"Hard money making," said this advisor. "The Democrats Begin in a Position of Weakness."
Presidential political advisers have already begun to profit from the nature of Trump-based procedures by digging up Trump endorsers for donations and fomenting resentment of Democratic efforts to free Trump. office. During a rally Monday in Kentucky, supporters dressed behind him wearing t-shirts emblazoned with "Read the Transcript," a message Trump said his allies were effective in counteracting Democrats' misconduct allegations.
And officials remain confident that while impeachment is imminent, Democrats will be unable to gather enough Republican senators to remove Trump from office.
At lunch with Republican senators on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence offered a well-known piece of advice to lawmakers in the House who were fighting a viable defense strategy: read the transcript.
The Vice President urged lawmakers in the House to point out that the Trump administration provided lethal assistance to Ukraine, and he advised them to simply return to the census when confronted with questions about the President's behavior.
The council is not new and it comes as some senators complain to the White House that they need a better defense strategy.
Jim Acosta contributed to this CNN report.