Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in the Ukraine, testified Tuesday that he was told that American military aid to the country was contingent on Kiev putting out a statement they were investigating the Bidens and the 2016 election.
Donald Trump refused to release the aid or meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky until Zelensky agreed to investigate the president’s political rivals, Taylor testified.
Trump wanted a public commitment from the Ukraine they would investigate Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian gas company with Hunter Biden on its board, Taylor – a Vietnam veteran and career State Department official – told Congress, and said the president wanted Ukraine ‘put in a box.’
Trump and his allies have pushed an unproven theory Joe Biden, as vice president, demanded the Ukraine remove a prosecutor to the benefit of the company.
The president also pushed an unproven conspiracy theory that an email server belonging to the Democratic National Committee was hacked by Ukrainians during the 2016 election and they made it look as it were the Russians – a story, that if true, would indicate he won the 2016 contest without Russian interference.
Taylor said he was told that Trump had made clear that military aid to help keep Ukraine safe from Russia would only be made available if Zelensky went public to order ‘investigations,’ otherwise there was a ‘stalemate.’
And Taylor testified, that Trump’s EU ambassador Gordon Sondland told another diplomat: ‘President Trump did insist that President Zelenskyy go to a microphone and say that he is opening investigations of Biden and 2016 election interference, and that President Zelenskyy should want to do this himself.’
The bombshell testimony rocked Washington D.C. and left the White House reeling – after Trump had started the day by calling impeachment ‘a lynching.’
As Democratic lawmakers trickled out of the hearing, they called they evidence ‘damning,’ while Republicans had little to say.
After Taylor’s opening statement leaked, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham issued a statement attempting to cast Taylor as part of a vast left-wing conspiracy.
‘President Trump has done nothing wrong – this is a coordinated smear campaign from far-left lawmakers and radical unelected bureaucrats waging war on the Constitution,’ the statement said. Grisham did not make herself available for questions.
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Bill Taylor testified he was told that American military aid to Ukraine was contingent on Kiev putting out a statement they were investigating the Bidens
President Donald Trump wanted a probe of Bursima, a Ukraine company with Hunter Biden on its board, and unproven allegations on the 2016 election
Joe and Hunter Biden have never been charged in any wrong-doing in regards to the Ukraine
It’s highly unusual for white politicians to invoke lynchings; the mob-murder phenomenon took the lives of 3,446 African-Americans in the U.S. between 1882 and 1968
She called Taylor’s statement ‘triple hearsay,’ and repeated Trump’s claimed ‘there was no quid pro quo.’
But Taylor’s statement left no room for doubt that he believed there was a quid prop quo.
He opened his hours of behind-closed-doors testimony with a highly-detailed 15 page statement to lawmakers.
BILL TAYLOR’S MOST DAMNING QUOTES
ON TRUMP AND UKRAINE
The following day, on September 8, Ambassador Sondland and I spoke on the phone. He said 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.’
Ambassador Sondland said that he had talked to President Zelenskyy and Mr. Yermak and 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.
Ambassador Sondland said that this conversation concluded with President Zelenskyy agreeing to make a public statement in an interview with CNN.
ON HOW TRUMP WANTED UKRAINE IN ‘A BOX’
… in fact Ambassador Sondland said, “everything” was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance. He said that President Trump wanted to put President Zelenskyy ‘in a public box’ by making a public statement about ordering such investigations.
ON WHAT SONDLAND TOLD UKRAINE’S LEADERS FACE TO FACE
Ambassador Sondland told Mr. Yermak that the security assistance money would not come until President Zelenskyy committed to pursue the Bursisma investigation.
ON WHAT TRUMP WANTED
...on September 8, Ambassador Sondland and I spoke on the phone. He said 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.’
ON TRUMP’S UNDERSTANDING OF QUID PRO QUO
…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, he said, the businessman asks that person to pay up before signing the check.
Taylor said Trump wanted to put Zelensky in a ‘public box’ of committing to those probes before sitting down with him, The Washington Post reported.
Taylor called the involvement of Rudy Giuliani in a ‘parallel’ foreign policy ‘highly irregular’; confirmed that John Bolton had called linking military aid to Ukraine to a Biden probe a ‘drug deal’; implicated Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo and Mick Mulvaney in the scheme; and painted Sondland as part of Giuliani’s scheme as well as an error-prone official lax on security and an unreliable witness – who one Republican conceded is likely to be recalled to the probe.
He recalled a phone call with Sondland, whom the president put in charge of Ukrainian affairs despite that country not being an EU member.
‘During that phone call, Amb. Sondland told me that President Trump had told him that he wants President Zelensky to state publicly that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election,’ Taylor said in the statement, obtained by the Post.
He added Sondland told him ‘everything’ – meaning U.S. military aid and a White House meeting – was contingent on the Ukraine publicly agreeing to the probe.
‘Amb. Sondland also told me that he now recognized that he had made a mistake by earlier telling the Ukrainian officials to whom he spoke that a White House meeting with President Zelensky was dependent on a public announcement of investigations — in fact, Amb. Sondland said, ‘everything’ was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance,’ Taylor said.
‘He said that President Trump wanted President Zelensky ‘in a public box’ by making a public statement about ordering such investigations,” he noted.
Taylor, a former officer in the 101st Airborne Division, is a key witness in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into the president. He was part of a series of text messages between U.S. diplomats trying to set up the Trump-Zelensky meeting and pressuring a Ukrainian official to release a public statement committing the country to the investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 election.
‘I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,’ he wrote in excerpts of text messages released by congressional investigators.
Taylor is also considered the biggest threat to Trump to come before lawmakers.
He left his retirement to take up the top U.S. post in the Ukraine after Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was fired by Trump. He has no ties to the administration and no diplomatic career to worry about given his senior statesman status.
His lengthy testimony outlined an ‘irregular’ channel of U.S.-Ukraine policy led by Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.
‘I became increasingly concerned that our relationship with Ukraine was being fundamentally undermined by an irregular, informal channel of U.S. policy-making and by the withholding of vital security assistance for domestic political reasons,’ Taylor testified.
Taylor testified about conversations he had with Trump’s Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland about why U.S. aid to the Ukraine was frozen
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz called Taylor’s testimony ‘damning’
He outlined his reasons for accepting the Chief of Mission post in the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, citing his belief Zelensky’s election signaled a moment of change for the Ukraine and his concern about their struggle to fend off Russian influence.
He said one reason for his concern about returning was what he had heard about the role Giuliani was playing in U.S.-Ukrainian policy.
WHAT WHITE HOUSE SAID AS BILL TAYLOR ROCKED TRUMP
‘President Trump has done nothing wrong — this is a coordinated smear campaign from far-left lawmakers and radical unelected bureaucrats waging war on the Constitution.
‘There was no quid pro quo. Today was just more triple hearsay and selective leaks from the Democrats’ politically-motivated, closed door, secretive hearings.
‘Every day this nonsense continues more taxpayer time and money is wasted.
‘President Trump is leading the way for the American people by delivering a safer, stronger, and more secure country – the do-nothing Democrats should consider doing the same.’
Stephanie Grisham, Press Secretary
‘I worried about what I had heard concerning the role of Rudolph Giuliani, who had made several high-profile statements about Ukraine and U.S. policy toward the country,’ he testified.
He ultimately accepted the position – which was not ambassador status as he was not confirmed by the Senate – and said he arrived in Kiev to a ‘weird combination of encouraging, confusing and ultimately alarming circumstances.’
He described a ‘confusing and unusual arrangement for making U.S. policy towards Ukraine.’
‘There appeared to be two channels of U.S. policy-making and implementation, one regular and one highly irregular,’ he testified.
Taylor, as chief of mission, headed the regular channel.
He said the irregular channel included Sondland, then-Special Envoy Kurt Volker, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and Giuliani.
He described the group as ‘well-connected in Washington’ but operating ‘mostly outside of official State Department channels.’
He said both groups were working on the common goal of arranging a White House meeting between Trump and Zelensky.
‘By mid-July it was becoming clear to me that the meeting President Zelensky wanted was conditioned on the investigations of Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.’
And he accused that condition of being put in place by the irregular channel led by Giuliani.
He also cited conversations with National Security Council officials Fiona Hill, who has already testified to lawmakers, and NSC’s Director of European Affairs Alex Vindman, who is scheduled to testify in coming days, that the hold was put in place officially by acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney as he had a ‘skeptical view of the Ukraine.’
He then related a text conversation he had with Sondland where he asked him about a report he heard from aids that U.S. security assistance was conditioned on the Ukraine undertaking these investigations.
‘Call me,’ was Sondland’s response.
Taylor cited his concern about an ‘irregular’ channel of U.S.-Ukraine policy led by Rudy Giuliani
Taylor testified acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney put the official hold on U.S. aid to the Ukraine
Taylor testified when he did, Sondland told him ‘that President Trump had told him that he wants President Zelensky to state publicly that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.’
He added: ‘Ambassador Sondland also told me that he now recognized that he had made a mistake by earlier telling the Ukrainian officials to whom he spoke that a White House meeting with President Zelensky 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 Zelensky ‘in a public box’ by making a public statement about ordering such investigations.’
Taylor claimed he responded that President Trump ‘should have more respect for another head of state’ and what he described was not in the best interest of either nation.
He then blamed Giuliani.
‘The push to make President Zelensky publicly commit to investigations of Burisma and alleged interference in the 2016 election showed how the official foreign policy of the United States was undercut by irregular efforts led by Mr. Giuliani.’
Taylor also testified he heard from administration officials Trump had said he was not asking for a ‘quid pro quo’ but did want to hear a commitment from Zelensky.
As he continued to push for U.S. aid to be released, Taylor recounted additional conversations with Sondland about Trump’s insistence Zelensky ‘clear things up and do it in public’ in regards to the investigations.
HOW BILL TAYLOR SKEWERED TRUMP’S INNER CIRCLE
… I discovered a weird combination of encouraging, confusing and ultimately alarming circumstances.
ON RUDY GIULIANI
... the official foreign policy of the United States was undercut by the irregular efforts led by Mr. Giuliani.
ON WHAT MIKE PENCE TOLD THE UKRAINIANS
The Vice President did say that President Trump wanted the Europeans to do more to support Ukraine that he wanted the Ukrainians to do more to fight corruption.
ON WHAT MIKE POMPEO KNEW
Ambassador Bolton recommended that I send a first-person cable to Secretary Pompeo, relaying my concerns… I heard that soon thereafter the Secretary carried the cable with him to a meeting at the White House
ON WHAT JOHN BOLTON THOUGHT
Ambassador Bolton opposed a call between President Zelenskyy and President Trump out of concern that it ‘would be a disaster.’
ON PARANOIA ABOUT LEAKS
Ambassador Sondland said that he wanted to make sure no one was transcribing or monitoring as they added President Zelenskyy to the call
ON SONDLAND’S LAX SECURITY
I had a phone conversation with Ambassador Sondland while he was on a train from Paris to London.
‘On September 8, Ambassador Sondland and I spoke on the phone. He said he had talked to President Trump as I had suggested a week earlier, but that President Trump was adamant that President Zelensky, himself, had to ‘clear things up and do it in public.’ President Trump said it was not a ‘quid pro quo.’ Ambassador Sondland said that he had talked to President Zelensky and Mr. Yermak and told them that, although this was not a quid pro quo, if President Zelensky 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. Ambassador Sondland said that this conversation concluded with President Zelensky agreeing to make a public statement in an interview with CNN.’
He also cited what Sondland explained to him about the president’s thinking.
‘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, he said, the businessman asks that person to pay up before signing the check. Ambassador Volker used the same terms 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,’ he testified.
Democratic lawmakers described Taylor’s testimony as ‘disturbing’ and said it will bring a ‘sea change’ in the impeachment investigation.
‘What he said was incredibly damning to the president of the United States,’ said Democratic Representative Ted Lieu.
‘It was just the most damning testimony I’ve heard,’ said Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
‘He drew a very direct line in a series of events he described as being President Trump’s decision to withhold funds and refuse a meeting with Zelensky unless there was a public pronouncement by him of investigations of Burisma,’ she added.
‘All I have to say is in my ten short months in Congress, it’s not even noon and this is my most disturbing day in Congress so far. Very troubling,’ Democratic Representative Andy Levin told reporters on Capitol Hill during a break in Taylor’s testimony on Tuesday morning.
Democratic Congressman Stephen Lynch called Taylor’s testimony ‘a sea change.’
‘This testimony is a sea change. I think it could accelerate matters,’ he said. ‘This will, I think, answer more questions than it raises. Let’s put it that way.’
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff arrives to hear testimony from Bill Taylor
Lawmakers said Taylor cited detailed notes he took from his calls and conversations in his testimony before members and staff on the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight panels.
Democratic Representative Jim Himes told reporters Taylor offered no other documentation or text messages in his testimony.
Taylor, a State Department employee, plans to return to his job in Ukraine on Wednesday.
He was under subpoena to appear before Congress after the State Department told lawmakers their staff would not cooperate with the inquiry.
Trump has maintained he did nothing wrong and his July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president, which triggered the impeachment inquiry, was ‘perfect.’
A whistleblower’s complaint about the call triggered an investigation into whether Trump used his executive powers to pressure a foreign government into interfering in an American presidential election.
Taylor was the latest in a string of witnesses to testify on the mattering, including Sondland, former special envoy to the Ukraine Kurt Volker, and former U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testified earlier this month
Former US Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker testified last week
In July, Trump made his now-famous phone call with Zelensky in which he pressed him to investigate unsubstantiated claims about Democratic rival Joe Biden and a debunked conspiracy theory involving a computer server at the Democratic National Committee.
Trump, at the time. had quietly put a hold on nearly $400 million in military aid that Ukraine was counting on in its fight against Russian-backed separatists.
In the follow-up to the call, Taylor exchanged texts with two of Trump’s point men on Ukraine as they were trying to get Zelensky to commit to the investigations before setting a date for a coveted White House visit.
In a text message to Sondland on Sept. 1, Taylor questioned Trump’s motives: ‘Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?’ Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told him to call him.
In texts a week later to Sondland and Volker, Taylor expressed increased alarm, calling it ‘crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.’
He said not giving the military aid to Ukraine would be his ‘nightmare’ scenario because it sends the wrong message to both Kiev and Moscow. ‘The Russians love it. (And I quit).’
In a stilted reply, Sondland defended Trump’s intentions and suggested they stop the back and forth by text.
Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, is scheduled to testify on Wednesday. She has responsibility at the department for policy concerning Russia and Ukraine and has served at the Defense Department since 2001.