Acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor unequivocally testified on Tuesday that President Trump pushed Ukraine to investigate both election interference and a company linked to Joe Biden's son -- and was willing to hold up military aid and a White House meeting to get a public announcement from the country that the probes were underway.
In his opening remarks to House lawmakers obtained by Fox News, Taylor voiced his apparent frustration that his personal policy preference for providing strong military support to Ukraine was being undercut at points by the Trump administration.
Among Taylor's colorful claims were that then-national security adviser John Bolton preemptively warned that a Trump phone call with Ukraine's leader would be a "disaster," and Taylor's claim that he nearly didn't take the job leading Ukraine's embassy out of concerns the U.S. wouldn't be sufficiently supportive of Ukraine.
Taylor also described the existence of an "irregular" communications channel with Ukraine led by Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, and a "weird combination of encouraging, confusing, and ultimately alarming circumstances" once he arrived Kiev. The statement confirms previous reporting of Taylor's remarks by Fox News.
"During this same phone call I had with [National Security Council aide Tim] Morrison, he went on to describe a conversation [U.S. E.U.] Ambassador [Gordon] Sondland had with Mr. Yermak at Warsaw," Taylor testified, referring to a July 28 conversation. "Ambassador Sondland told [top Ukraine aide Andriy] Yermak that security assistance money would not come until President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy committed to pursue the Burisma investigation."
Burisma Holdings is the Ukrainian natural gas company where Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden was employed in a lucrative role despite no relevant expertise.
Taylor continued: "I was alarmed by what Mr. Morrison told me about the Sondland-Yermak conversation. This was the first time I had heard that the security assistance not just the White House meeting — was conditioned on the investigations."
That same day, Taylor said, he sent Sondland a text message asking if security assistance and a White House meeting "are conditioned on investigations," prompting Sondland to request Taylor call him. Although those texts have previously been released, the contents of Taylor's call have been unclear.
"During that phone call, Ambassador Sondland told me that President Trump had told him that he wants President Zelenskyy to state publicly that Ukrain will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. election," Taylor testified.
“By mid-July it was becoming clear to me that the meeting President Zelenskyy wanted was conditioned on the investigations of Burisma,” where Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden was employed in a lucrative role despite no relevant expertise, “and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections,” Taylor testified.
Also in his opening statement, Taylor described his commitment to providing support to Ukraine as so strong that he nearly threatened not to accept Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's offer for him to lead the U.S. Embassy in Kiev. Taylor, a retired diplomat, had been chosen to run the embassy after the administration abruptly ousted Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.
Taylor had served as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009, but because he was not yet reconfirmed by the Senate, his official title was to be Chargé d 'Affaires ad interim. A former Army officer, Taylor had been serving as executive vice president at the U.S. Institute of Peace, a nonpartisan think tank founded by Congress, when he was appointed to run the embassy.
"I could be effective only if the U.S. policy of strong support for Ukraine strong diplomatic support along with robust security, economic, and technical assistance — were to continue and if I had the backing of the Secretary of State to implement that policy," Taylor said.
"During my meeting with Secretary Pompeo on May 28, I made clear to him and the others present that if U.S. policy toward Ukraine changed, he would not want me posted there and I could not stay," Taylor continued. "He assured me that the policy of strong support for Ukraine would continue and that he would support me in defending that policy."
The White House, meanwhile, fired back Tuesday over Taylor's testimony: "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," White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said.
Only Taylor's opening statement has been released at this point. However, lawmakers emerging after hours of the private deposition said Taylor relayed a "disturbing" account, including establishing a "direct line" to the quid pro quo at the center of Democrats' impeachment inquiry.
Lawmakers said Taylor recalled events that filled in gaps from the testimony of other witnesses, particularly Sondland, who testified last week and whose statements now are being called into question by Taylor's account. They said Taylor kept records of conversations and documents. Read more at FOX News