The top US envoy to Ukraine testified that a senior diplomat told him in early September that President Donald Trump made US security aid to Ukraine entirely dependent on a public promise to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and the 2016 election.
Acting Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor also quoted senior diplomat Gordon Sondland as saying Trump wanted Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy “in a public box,” according to a prepared statement to congressional committees that was obtained by Bloomberg.
The account offers what may be the most damaging revelations so far on the events that have spawned a House impeachment investigation. It directly contradicts Trump’s assertions that there was no “quid pro quo” behind his July 25 phone conversation with Zelenskiy.
Taylor is a key witness because of his previously released text messages to colleagues expressing concern about back-channel Ukraine negotiations led by Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer.
Taylor’s exchanges with Sondland — the US ambassador to the European Union who gave about $1 million to Trump’s inauguration — form a crucial part of the House inquiry.
“By mid-July it was becoming clear to me that the meeting President Zelenskiy wanted was conditioned on the investigations of Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 elections,” Taylor said, referring to a company on whose board Biden’s son served.
“It was also clear that this condition was driven by the irregular policy channel I had come to understand was guided by Mr. Giuliani.”
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement that “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.”
Taylor’s account, which was first reported by the Washington Post, “further corroborates” the allegation that Trump made the release of security aid dependent on the president’s demands to go after his political rivals, said Representative Gerald Connolly of Virginia, a Democrat who serves on the House Oversight Committee.
“In August and September of this year, I became increasingly concerned that our relationship with Ukraine was being fundamentally undermined by an irregular, informal channel of US policy-making and by the withholding of vital security assistance for domestic political reasons,” Taylor said in his opening statement to three House panels holding impeachment hearings.
Taylor said Sondland at one point tried to explain that Trump was a businessman.
Notes that Taylor kept and turned over to the committees made his testimony “more credible,” Democrat Connolly said.