Witnesses in the impeachment of President Donald Trump blew huge holes in Trump’s defense that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says he felt “no pressure” to investigate Joe Biden, and thus could not have been extorted by Trump to conduct such investigations in exchange for the release of security aid.
At Wednesday’s public impeachment hearing before the House Intelligence Committee, several Republican members repeated Trump’s line that Zelensky has said he felt “no pressure” during the infamous July 25 phone call, and thus Trump could not have been pressuring him.
But Chairman Adam Schiff made short work of that premise in a series of questions to witnesses William Taylor and George Kent.
“Ukrainians, Mr. Kent, are pretty sophisticated about U.S. politics, are they not?” Schiff said, to which Kent replied “Perhaps.”
“You would agree that if President Zelensky contradicted President Trump and said ‘Of course I felt pressured, they were holding up $400 million in military assistance, we had people dying every day,’ if he were to contradict President Trump directly, they would be sophisticated enough to know they may pay a very heavy price with this President, were they not?” Schiff asked.
“That’s a fair assessment,” Kent replied.
“And President Zelensky not only had to worry about retribution from Donald Trump should he contradict Donald Trump publicly, he also has to worry about how he’s perceived domestically, doesn’t he, Ambassador Taylor?” Schiff asked Taylor.
“President Zelensky is very sensitive to the views of Ukrainian people, who indeed are very attentive to Ukrainian U.S. politics, yes,” Taylor said.
“And so if President Zelensky were to say ‘I had to capitulate and agree to these investigations, I was ready to go on CNN, until the aid got restored,’ that would obviously be hurtful to him back home, would it not?” Schiff asked.
“He cannot afford to be seen to be deferring to any foreign leader,” Taylor said. “He is very confident in his own abilities and he knows that the Ukrainian people expect him to be clear and defend Ukrainian interests.”
Earlier in the hearing, Taylor had testified that Zelensky had, in fact, agreed to announce the investigations Trump demanded.
But a day after Taylor was told this, the whistleblower’s complaint was reported to Congress by the inspector general, and two days after that, the aid was released. According to Taylor’s testimony, it was on September 13 — only after the complaint became public and the aid had been released — that a Ukrainian official confirmed to him that Zelensky would not be announcing investigations.
Watch the clip above, via Fox News.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.