Acting Ukraine Ambassador Bill Taylor testified to the House that President Trump held up military aid to Ukraine until it agreed to investigate Joe Biden.
The United States’ top diplomat in Ukraine reportedly testified on Tuesday to House lawmakers that President Donald Trump held up military aid to Ukraine until its president agreed to investigate Joe Biden ― effectively confirming a quid pro quo demand on the part of the White House.
Acting Ambassador Bill Taylor’s private testimony for the House impeachment inquiry said it was “crazy” to make the military aid contingent on investigations of Trump’s political rivals, according to The Washington Post.
Democrats who were in the room said Taylor’s testimony described a clear connection between U.S. foreign policy and Trump’s political goals, and called it the most damaging account yet for the president, The New York Times reported.
Taylor was called to testify in the impeachment probe earlier this month, after Kurt Volker, the special envoy to Ukraine until his recent resignation, revealed text messages between himself, Taylor and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. envoy to the European Union. In a Sept. 1 text, Taylor expressed concern about a possible quid pro quo between the U.S. and Ukraine. Sondland responded by telling Taylor to “call me.”
“During that phone call, Amb. Sondland told me that President Trump had told him that he wants President [Volodymyr] Zelensky to state publicly that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election,” Taylor said Tuesday in his opening statement, obtained by the Post.
Biden, who was formerly vice president to Barack Obama, is running for president in 2020, and until recently was leading in the Democratic primary. Biden’s son Hunter was a board member of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma until earlier this year.
The question of a quid pro quo is at the center of the impeachment inquiry, relating to a July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky in which the U.S. president pressured the Ukrainian leader to “do us a favor” and investigate the Biden family. The call came soon after Trump suspended nearly $400 million in already approved military aid to Ukraine.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) told reporters on Tuesday that Taylor “drew a direct line” with the hearing, which she said included documents, timelines and records of individual conversations.
“I do not know how you would listen to today’s testimony from Ambassador Taylor and come to any other [conclusion] except that the president abused his power and withheld foreign aid,” Wasserman Schultz said.
Republicans reportedly declined to share details of Taylor’s testimony, but said Democrats are exaggerating about the level of damaging information provided.
“I don’t know that any of us, if we are being intellectually honest, are hearing revelations that we were not aware of,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said, according to the Times. “The bottom line is no one has yet to make the case for why the aid was withheld or even if the Ukrainians knew about it.”