Diplomat testifies Trump planned to withhold Ukrainian aid in quid pro quo

U.S. diplomat to the Ukraine William Taylor testified he was told President Donald Trump would withhold aid to Ukraine unless it announced investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son as well as the country's alleged involvement in the 2016 election. Photo by Chris Kleponis/ UPI

Oct. 23 (UPI) — William Taylor, the United States’ top diplomat to Ukraine, testified Tuesday that he was told President Donald Trump would withhold military aid until the country’s president publicly declared an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden.

In a 15-page opening statement obtained by media outlets including The Washington Post and CNN, Taylor said he was told Ukrainian demands, including a one-on-one meeting between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, were dependent on the public announcement of investigations into Burisma, a company that hired Hunter Biden, and Ukraine’s alleged involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

“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 U.S. policy-making and by the withholding of vital security assistance for domestic political reasons,” Taylor said.

He described unsuccessful efforts by officials from the Pentagon, State Department, CIA and former national security adviser John Bolton to get a meeting with Trump to encourage him to release the aid.

Taylor said U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland told him everything, including the meeting and the security aid, was dependent on such an announcement.

“He said that President Trump wanted President Zelensky ‘in a public box’ by making a public statement about ordering such investigations,” Taylor said of Sondland.

Taylor added that he was told by a National Security Council official that Trump told Sondland he had insisted Zelensky “go to a microphone” and declare he was opening investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 election.

“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 could be at a ‘stalemate.’ I understood ‘stalemate’ to mean that Ukraine would not receive the much-needed military assistance,” he said.

Further, Taylor said both Sondland and then-U.S. special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker described Trump as a “businessman” and attempted to explain that a businessman asks a person to pay up before signing a check to “someone who owes him something.”

“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 Sept. 9,” he said.

Taylor’s testimony contradicted earlier testimony from Sondland in which he said he recalls “no discussions” with anyone at the State Department or the White House about investigating the Bidens. It also contradicted the White House’s assertions that no quid pro quo was involved in the dealings between Trump and Zelensky.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham stated Tuesday that Trump “has done nothing wrong,” describing the testimony as a “coordinated smear campaign” against the president.

“There was no quid pro quo,” she said. “Today was just more triple hearsay and selective leaks from the Democrats’ politically motivated, closed door, secretive hearings.”

Taylor testified behind closed doors to the House committees on intelligence, foreign affairs, oversight and government reform as part of their impeachment inquiry into Trump.


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