Politics Top diplomat in Ukraine directly ties Trump to quid pro quo

00:25  07 november  2019
00:25  07 november  2019 Source:   nbcnews.com

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The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, told House impeachment investigators last month that President Donald Trump directed officials to tie military aid to Ukraine to demands that the country open political advantageous probes, according to a transcript of his testimony made public Wednesday.

The transcript of Taylor's closed-door testimony before the three House committees leading the impeachment inquiry into Trump — the latest in a series of witness transcripts made public — confirms NBC News' reporting about his more than nine hours of testimony last month. It also contains new details about the language he used in describing the White House's attempted quid pro quo with Ukraine that shed light on his level of concern about the matter.

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For example, Taylor said he and others "sat in astonishment" as a White House Office of Management and Budget official said during a July 18 inter-agency call that Trump had ordered a hold on military assistance to Ukraine, according to the transcript.

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As NBC News reported in October after he first testified, Taylor stated in plain and clear language that he felt the military aid to Ukraine had been directly tied to Ukraine opening investigations into the Burisma energy company — the Ukrainian gas company whose board of directors Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden joined in 2014 — as well as a conspiracy theory about alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.

"That was my clear understanding, security assistance money would not come until the president [of Ukraine] committed to pursue the investigation," Taylor said, according to the transcript.

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He was then asked if he was "aware that quid pro quo literally means this for that?"

"I am," Taylor replied.

Slideshow by photo services

Taylor also quoted himself as telling another diplomat that it would be a "nightmare" if the Trump administration withheld the military aid even if Ukraine committed to the desired investigations.

"The Russians love it. And I quit," should that hypothetical scenario unfold, he said.

Taylor laid out in painstaking detail how U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland had told him that Trump was "adamant" that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy himself publicly announce the Biden and 2016 investigations — but that Trump nonetheless felt such an arrangement would not constitute a quid pro quo.

"On September 8th, 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 Zelenskiy himself had to clear things up and do it in public. President Trump said it was not a quid pro quo," Taylor said, according to the transcript.

Taylor said at another point that it became clear that “everything” — from the release of nearly $400 million of military aidto a White House visit — was "dependent on such an announcement."

Taylor also fingered Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani as the “originator” of the idea to have Zelenskiy deliver the public statement about launching the Burisma-Biden and 2016 election investigations.

"The person who came up with that was Mr. Giuliani," Taylor said.

Asked immediately after that statement whose interests Giuliani was representing, Taylor replied, "President Trump."

There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden. Trump has repeatedly denied engaging in a quid pro quo with Ukraine.

In a series of tweets Wednesday, Giuliani said that the investigation he "conducted concerning the 2016 Ukrainian collusion and corruption" was done "solely as a defense attorney to defend my client against false charges, that kept changing as one after another were disproven."

In a statement, the chairs of the three committees leading the impeachment inquiry — House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff, D-Calif., House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. and House Oversight Committee acting Chair Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. — said Taylor’s testimony "lays bare how this shadow foreign policy channel pursued by the President’s agent, Rudy Giuliani, with the assistance of Ambassadors Sondland and Volker, placed immense pressure on the Ukrainian government to accomplish the President’s goal."

"Ambassador Taylor makes clear why this military aid and continued bipartisan support for Ukraine are so critically important—and why these efforts to undermine U.S. foreign policy for domestic political reasons were so damaging," they added.

The transcript of Taylor’s testimony was the latest to be released by the panels. On Tuesday, the committees released the transcript of the testimony of Sondland and of Kurt Volker, the then-U.S. special envoy to Ukraine who resigned after his name appeared in a whistleblower complaint about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. On Monday, they released the transcript of testimony from Marie Yovanovitch, the ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

Taylor is slated to be one of the witnesses testifying on Nov. 13 in the first open impeachment inquiry hearing.

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