The Latest: U.S. Envoy Says Trump Tied Ukraine Aid to Investigations
Have your thoughts on impeachment changed in the past month?
by Countable's Trump Impeachment Coverage | 10.23.19
October 23rd 2019:
- The 30-second recap: A whistleblower complaint, which led to a now month-long House impeachment inquiry, accuses White House officials of trying to conceal "politically sensitive" information about President Donald Trump's July 25th phone call with Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelensky.
- During the phone call, Trump asked Ukraine's leader to "do us a favor" and work with Attorney General William Barr and Trump's personal attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, to "look into" former Vice President Joe Biden and his family.
- 228 House members currently support an impeachment inquiry.
Diplomat Bill Taylor testifies Trump used Ukraine aid as leverage for probes
- Bill Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, told House investigators Tuesday that President Trump tied the release of military aid to Kiev on its willingness to investigate Biden and alleged interference in the 2016 election.
- Taylor’s testimony undermines Trump and his allies’ main defense that there was no “quid pro quo," drawing a direct line from congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine to Zelensky launching an investigation into Trump’s political opponents.
- Taylor testified that he and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, met with a senior adviser to Zelensky on September 1, informing him that “the security assistance money would not come until President Zelensky committed to pursue the Burisma investigation.” Burisma was the Ukrainian gas company employing Hunter Biden.
- “When a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something,” Taylor quoted Sondland as saying, “the businessman asks that person to pay up before signing the check.” Sondland told Taylor that he coached Zelenskiy to tell Trump he would “leave no stone unturned” in pursuit of Trump’s political opponents.
“I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” Taylor said he told Sondland in September
- Additional excerpts from Taylor’s testimony can be found below.
What are people saying?
- Trump and his defenders shifted from saying there was no quid pro quo to saying it can’t be a quid pro quo without Ukraine knowing one existed.
(This contradicts Taylor’s above-mentioned testimony regarding Sept. 1)
- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Axios this past weekend:
“If you could show me that, you know, Trump actually was engaging in a quid pro quo, outside the phone call, that would be very disturbing.”
- Following Taylor’s testimony Tuesday, the Washington Post ran a piece headlined: “Here’s the quid pro quo proof, Lindsey Graham”
- But Graham appeared on "Fox News" Tuesday night, saying it’s not a quid pro quo unless Zelensky publicly states he was unnerved by Trump’s request.
“This opening statement by Bill Taylor today, everybody is breathless. Here a question: Uh, why does the president of the Ukraine deny there’s a quid pro quo? What do you know that he doesn’t know? … And the president of the Ukraine, the alleged victim of all this, denies that there was a quid pro quo, he didn’t feel threatened by the president of the United States.”
- Matt Whitaker, Trump’s former acting attorney general, also visited Fox, arguing that Trump’s behavior isn’t grounds for impeachment because “abuse of power is not a crime.”
- Rep. Sean Maloney (D-NY): “It’s obviously not a very good day for the president,” Maloney said after emerging from the closed session with Taylor. “Bill Taylor is a West Point graduate who served as an infantry officer in the 101st Airborne in Vietnam. . . . Guys like Bill Taylor don’t pull their punches. Today, you’ve got a very credible witness providing critical testimony.”
“While the evidence that has emerged to date is extremely damaging for the president and seems to paint a clear picture of presidential abuse of power, we still don’t have all the facts, and it’s our job to get them,” Maloney added.
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who’s running for president in 2020, tweeted:
- Political strategist David Axelrod:
Key excerpts from Taylor's testimony"
- "I sensed something odd when Ambassador Sondland told me on June 28 that he did not wish to include most of the regular interagency participants in a call planned with President Zelensky later that day. … Ambassador Sondland said that he wanted to make sure no one was transcribing or monitoring as they added President Zelensky to the call."
- "In a regular NSC secure video-conference call on July 18, I heard a staff person from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) say that there was a hold on security assistance to Ukraine but could not say why. "
- "Toward the end of an otherwise normal meeting, a voice on the call — the person was off-screen — said that she was from OMB and that her boss had instructed her not to approve any additional spending of security assistance for Ukraine until further notice. I and others sat in astonishment. ... All that the OMB staff person said was that the directive had come from the President to the Chief of Staff to OMB."
- "There followed a series of NSC-led interagency meetings, starting at the staff level and quickly reaching the level of Cabinet secretaries. At every meeting, the unanimous conclusion was that the security assistance should be resumed, the hold lifted."
- "[On Sept. 1], 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."
- "[O]n September 8, Ambassador Sondland ... 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."
What do you think?
Does Taylor’s testimony influence your thoughts on impeachment? Take action and tell your reps, then share your thoughts below.
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