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'Sighs and Gasps' as Ukraine Envoy Testifies

William Taylor testifies 'everything' was dependent on Ukraine launching probes
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 22, 2019 2:54 PM CDT
Updated Oct 22, 2019 7:03 PM CDT

(Newser) – There were "sighs and gasps" on Capitol Hill Tuesday as William Taylor testified before the House Intelligence, Oversight, and Foreign Affairs Committees as part of the Trump impeachment hearings, Politico reports. Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, first gave what CNN describes as a "lengthy and detailed opening statement," in which he described a phone call with the US ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, regarding why security aid to Ukraine had been frozen. He then testified for hours. The AP describes lawmakers who emerged from the nearly 10-hour private deposition as "stunned." More:

  • Taylor testified that Sondland told him one of the reasons for the aid delay may have been to push Ukraine to publicly announce an investigation that might help Trump politically, such as a probe into Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company that hired Hunter Biden. "In fact, Ambassador Sondland said ‘everything’ was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance," Taylor testified.

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  • What's "everything"? Sources say Taylor described both military aid to Ukraine and a potential White House meeting between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which Zelensky wanted, as both being extensively tied to the public opening of such a probe. The source said Taylor described "pervasive ... efforts" among Trump allies to get Ukraine to launch both the aforementioned Burisma probe and an investigation into a debunked 2016 election conspiracy theory having to do with Democrats.
  • "I sensed something odd," Taylor said while talking about three Trump officials planning a call with Zelenskiy; he noted that one of those officials, Sondland, wanted to make sure "no one was transcribing or monitoring" the call.
  • Taylor, who lawmakers say kept detailed records of conversations and documents, also said he "sat in astonishment" during a July 18 phone call in which a White House budget official said that Trump had relayed a message through his acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney that the aid should be withheld.
  • By a month later, Taylor said, his concerns were so much that he was considering resigning; he described an August 22 phone call he found "extremely troubling" in which Tim Morrison, a Russia adviser at the White House, told him Trump didn't "want to provide any assistance at all."
  • "The body language of the people hearing it was ‘holy s---,’ seriously,” said Democratic committee member Rep. Harley Rouda about Taylor's opening statement. Other House Democrats used words including "disturbing," "troubling," "shocking," and "explosive" to describe his testimony, NBC News reports.
  • "President Trump has done nothing wrong," said White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham after Taylor's testimony made headlines. "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."
  • CNN reports that following the end of Taylor's testimony, dozens of House Republicans were planning to participate in a "marathon of speeches to slam Democrats" for the impeachment inquiry.
  • As for Taylor, sources say he's planning to return to his job in Ukraine Wednesday. Others who have testified, Kurt Volker and Marie Yovanovitch, had already left their relevant roles before giving testimony.
Taylor is the one previously revealed to have texted Sondland, "I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign." (Read more Trump impeachment stories.)

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