ANALYSIS: Taylor Impeachment Testimony Reveals Stunning Details of Trump Push For Biden Investigations
In riveting testimony, top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine William Taylor laid out stunning and devastating details of President Donald Trump’s attempts to coerce Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as a conspiracy theory about Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.
Taylor testified before the House Intelligence Committee Wednesday at the first public hearing of the impeachment inquiry, and while much of his testimony drew on previous statements and depositions, it was the first time most Americans heard the story firsthand.
The diplomat began by describing his long years of service to the United States, and then illuminated the stakes of the security assistance to Ukraine at issue in stark terms.
“Even as we sit here today, the Russians are attacking Ukrainian soldiers in their own country and have been for the last four years,” Taylor told the committee. “I saw this on the front line last week; the day I was there a Ukrainian soldier was killed and four were wounded.”
He added that “the security assistance we provide is crucial to Ukraine’s defense and to the protection of the soldiers I met last week,” and that “I wrote that withholding security assistance in exchange for help with a domestic political campaign in the United States would be ‘crazy.’ I believed that then, and I believe it now.”
Taylor gave a brief but powerful summary of the last several years of Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine, and explained that before he agreed to return to diplomatic service, he told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that “if U.S. policy toward Ukraine changed, he would not want me posted there and I could not stay.”
What followed was a timeline in which Taylor slowly realized that Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani was heading an unofficial diplomatic track with Ukraine that was at odds with U.S. interests, one which involved withholding security assistance.
Taylor’s meticulously detailed communications with other figures in this scandal made clear that that security assistance was dependent on the investigations Trump was demanding. After NSC official Tim Morrison told Taylor that Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland had told a Ukrainian official that security assistance would be withheld until Ukraine committed to a Biden-related investigation, Taylor sent a now-infamous text.
I sent Ambassador Sondland a text message asking if “we [are] now saying that security assistance and [a] WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?”
Ambassador Sondland responded asking me to call him, which I did.
During that phone call, Ambassador Sondland told me that President Trump had told him that he wants President Zelenskyy to state publicly that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
Ambassador Sondland also told me that he now recognized that he had made a mistake by earlier telling Ukrainian officials that only a White House meeting with President Zelenskyy was dependent on a public announcement of investigations—in fact, Ambassador Sondland said, “everything” was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance. He said that President Trump wanted President Zelenskyy “in a public box” by making a public statement about ordering such investigations.
Taylor also described a phone call in which Sondland described Trump elucidating a demand in exchange for security assistance, while simultaneously insisting it was not a quid pro quo:
He confirmed that he had talked to President Trump as I had suggested a week earlier, but that President Trump was adamant that President Zelenskyy, himself, had to “clear things up and do it in public.”
President Trump said it was not a “quid pro quo.” I believe this was the same conversation between Ambassador Sondland and President Trump that Mr. Morrison had described to me on September 7.
Ambassador Sondland also said that he had talked to President Zelenskyy and Mr. Yermak and had told them that, although this was not a quid pro quo, if President Zelenskyy did not “clear things up” in public, we would be at a “stalemate.” I understood a “stalemate” to mean that Ukraine would not receive the much-needed military assistance.
Taylor then explained some of the background on another of those incriminating text messages:
Shortly after that call with Ambassador Sondland, I expressed my strong reservations in a text message to Ambassador Sondland, stating that my “nightmare is they [the Ukrainians] give the interview and don’t get the security assistance. The Russians love it. (And I quit.).” I was serious.
The next day, September 9, I said to Ambassadors Sondland and Volker that “[t]he message to the Ukrainians (and Russians) we send with the decision on security assistance is key. With the hold, we have already shaken their faith in us.” I also said, “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”
Ambassador Sondland responded about five hours later that I was “incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been
crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind.”
During our call on September 8, Ambassador Sondland tried to explain to me that President Trump is a businessman. When a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, the businessman asks that person to pay up before signing the check. Ambassador Volker used the same language several days later while we were together at the Yalta European Strategy Conference. I argued to both that the explanation made no sense: the Ukrainians did not “owe” President Trump anything, and holding up security assistance for domestic political gain was “crazy,” as I had said in my text message to Ambassadors Sondland and Volker on September 9.
But the newest revelation Taylor made was about a phone call that a member of his staff overheard.
“Ambassador Sondland called President Trump and told him of his meetings in Kyiv,” Taylor said. “The member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone, asking Ambassador Sondland about ‘the investigations.’ Ambassador Sondland told President Trump that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.”
“Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for,” Taylor said.
Taylor wound up his statement with a love letter to Ukraine, describing a “young nation, struggling to break free of its past, hopeful that their new government will finally usher in a new Ukraine, proud of its independence from Russia, eager to join Western institutions and enjoy a more secure and prosperous life.”
Watch Taylor’s testimony above, via Fox News.
Have a tip we should know? firstname.lastname@example.org