Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Nation & World

Key takeaways from ambassador’s testimony on Ukraine

Democrats said they were shocked and disturbed by what they heard. A look at the key takeaways from Taylor’s statement, which was obtained by The Associated Press.
A top U.S. diplomat, William Taylor, departs the Capitol after testifying in the Democrats' impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump, in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019. [J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE | AP]
Published Oct. 23

WASHINGTON — Maybe it was a quid pro quo after all.

A top U.S. diplomat told House impeachment investigators that President Donald Trump was withholding military aid to Ukraine unless the country's president went public with a promise to investigate Democrats.

William Taylor's 15-page opening statement — delivered Tuesday as part of a closed-door deposition — is now central to the impeachment inquiry. It contradicts Trump's repeated denials, and details what Taylor says was a pressure campaign against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Democrats and a company linked to the family of Trump's potential 2020 Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Democrats said they were shocked and disturbed by what they heard.

A look at the key takeaways from Taylor's statement, which was obtained by The Associated Press:

PUTTING UKRAINE'S LEADER 'IN A PUBLIC BOX'

In his statement, Taylor recounts conversations with other officials in the Trump administration, including Ambassador Gordon Sondland.

While Sondland told lawmakers he had spoken with Trump before reassuring Taylor on Sept. 1 that there was no quid pro quo with Ukraine, Taylor remembers the call with Sondland differently.

"During that phone call, Ambassador Sondland told me that President Trump had told him that he wants President Zelenskiy to state publicly that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U. S. election," Taylor said in the statement. Biden's son, Hunter, served as a board member of Burisma Holdings.

Crucially, according to Taylor, Sondland said "everything" Ukraine wanted was contingent upon Ukraine opening an investigation, including the military assistance approved by Congress that Trump was holding back.

"He said that President Trump wanted President Zelenskiy 'in a public box,'" Taylor said.

RELATED: U.S. diplomat drawn into Trump’s Ukraine effort set to testify

___

KEPT IN THE DARK

Taylor testified he took over the embassy in Ukraine earlier this year, after the ousting of former Ambassador Maria Yovanovitch. He spoke with her about the job offer, and she urged him to go, "both for policy reasons and for the morale of the embassy." (Yovanovitch testified to impeachment investigators earlier this month that Trump had her removed from Ukraine.)

But he felt increasingly in the dark, as did others, about what was really happening with Ukraine policy. He was even kept in the dark about Trump's call on July 25 with Zelenskiy.

"Strangely," Taylor said, "even though I was Chief of Mission and was scheduled to meet with President Zelenskiy along with Ambassador Volker the following day," he received no readout of the call from the White House. "The Ukrainian government issued a short, cryptic summary."

___

THE TWO CHANNELS

Taylor detailed an unusual arrangement for U.S. policymaking involving Ukraine — an official channel through the State Department and a "highly irregular" channel.

That irregular channel, Taylor told lawmakers, involved Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer; Sondland; U.S. special representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker; and Energy Secretary Rick Perry. The group was so well-connected in Washington that they could operate outside of the official State Department channels, he said. And they did.

Members of the group also took strides to avoid having their conversations documented, Taylor said.

In one instance, Sondland told Taylor that he didn't want some U.S. officials to listen in to a call in June. The next day, when the call was to take place, Sondland said he wanted to "make sure no one was transcribing or monitoring" as Zelenskiy joined the call, Taylor said.

Taylor also said that by mid-July it was clear that any meeting between Trump and Zelenskiy would have to come after Zelenskiy agreed to investigate Burisma Holdings.

"It was also clear that this condition was driven by the irregular policy channel I had come to understand was guided by Mr. Giuliani," Taylor said.

___

THE CABINET SECRETARIES SCRAMBLE

Taylor said he first learned aid was being held from Ukraine on July 18, during a video conference, from a staff member at the Office of Management and Budget.

"In an instant, I realized that one of the key pillars of our strong support for Ukraine was threatened," he said.

The State Department, the Defense Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Adviser all thought the president should reverse course, Taylor said. They tried to get a meeting but it never happened, he told lawmakers.

___

GRAVELY NEEDED ASSISTANCE

Taylor described an urgent need for military aid. He and Volker went to the front lines in northern Ukraine shortly after the July 25 call, where Russian-backed forces were fighting, to get a briefing from the commander of forces there. The commander there thanked them for the security assistance. “But I was aware that this assistance was on hold, which made me uncomfortable,” he said. He noted more than 13,000 Ukrainians had been killed. And more “undoubtedly” would die without the U.S. assistance.

When Vice President Mike Pence met with Zelenskiy on Sept. 1, Zelenskiy asked almost immediately about the security aid, Taylor said he was told.

In subsequent meetings, Taylor said Sondland told him that the restoration of aid to Ukraine was dependent on Zelenskiy making a public statement that he would investigate the Bidens.

___

TRUMP THE BUSINESSMAN

Taylor told lawmakers that Sondland tried, at one point, to explain the dealings with Ukraine by stating that "President Trump is a businessman." ''When a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, the businessman asks that person to pay up before signing the check," he recalls Sondland saying.

Volker used the same terms later. Taylor said that he argued to both the explanation made no sense because Ukraine owed Trump nothing.

“And holding up security assistance for domestic political gain was ‘crazy’ as I had said in my text message,” he said, referring to a text released by House Democrats.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. David Holmes, a U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, during a public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) ANDREW HARNIK  |  AP
    Key impeachment witnesses said it was clear Rudy Giuliani was pursuing political investigations of Democrats in Ukraine.
  2. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., attends a ceremony to unveil a portrait honoring former Speaker of the House John Boehner on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, in Washington. (AP Photo/Michael A. McCoy) MICHAEL A. MCCOY  |  AP
    The bill would keep federal agencies up and running through Dec. 20 and avert a government shutdown after midnight Thursday.
  3. Should we stop changing our clocks twice a year? CHARLES KRUPA  |  AP
    The Republican senator, along with Sen. Rick Scott, introduced the Sunshine Protection Act earlier this year.
  4. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit charged Netanyahu with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three different scandals. It is the first time a sitting Israeli prime minister has been charged with a crime. Mandelblit was set to issue a formal statement later Thursday. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty) ODED BALILTY  |  AP
    Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit charged Netanyahu with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three different scandals.
  5. Riley Kinn pauses during an interview in Fostoria, Ohio, on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019. Although Kinn was assured by the Diocese of Toledo, Ohio, that he'd have the chance to share his story with an independent review board, he never got the opportunity. After the diocese sent a retired police detective to interview him, who took names of others who could back his account, he learned by letter that the board had found his allegations “unsubstantiated.” Toledo Diocese spokeswoman Kelly Donaghy said the review board doesn’t promise victims they can testify, but examines each case in turn. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) PAUL SANCYA  |  AP
    Review boards appointed by bishops and operating in secrecy have routinely undermined sex abuse claims from victims, shielded accused priests and helped the church avoid payouts.
  6. Zum driver Stacey Patrick, right, waves goodbye to student Saahas Kohli, left, and his mother, Alpa Kohli, obscured behind her son, as he returns home from school in Saratoga, Calif. A handful of ride-hailing companies have surfaced that allow parents to order rides, and in some cases childcare, for children using smartphone apps. The promise is alluring at a time when children are expected to accomplish a dizzying array of extracurricular activities and the boundaries between work and home have blurred. But the companies face hurdles convincing parents that a stranger hired by a ride-hailing company is trustworthy enough to ferry their most precious passengers. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) BEN MARGOT  |  AP
    Ride-hailing companies resolve a dilemma many parents face: how to pick up your kids from school while holding a full-time job.
  7. In this Nov. 4, 2019, file photo former White House adviser on Russia, Fiona Hill arrives for a closed door meeting as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File) ANDREW HARNIK  |  AP
    Donald Trump’s exchange with the Ukrainian president was like nothing he had ever seen, David Holmes said in an earlier deposition.
  8. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., left, with Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif, the ranking member, concludes a day of testimony by key witnesses as it probes President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE  |  AP
    The United States ambassador to the European Union told the impeachment inquiry his efforts to press Ukraine to announce investigations were ordered by President Trump, and top officials knew.
  9. Ambassador Gordon Sondland says a July cellphone call with President Donald Trump “primarily discussed” rapper A$AP Rocky who was imprisoned in Sweden earlier this year. Sondland tells a House Impeachment inquiry into Trump that a closed testimony from U.S. Embassy in Ukraine diplomat David Holmes had jogged his memory of the discussion. ( EVAN AGOSTINI  |  Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
    Sondland says his July 26 call with Trump from a Kyiv restaurant mainly focused on the rapper, instead of Ukraine military aid.
  10. U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland talks about holding a cell phone to his ear as he talks with President Donald Trump as he testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, during a public impeachment hearing of Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) ANDREW HARNIK  |  AP
    Gordon Sondland told House impeachment investigators he pushed a “quid pro quo” with Ukraine because it was what the President wanted.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement