Updated: Apr 4, 2020
A first person account of the Ukrainian quid pro quo adds more weight to the case against Trump.
By Solomon Smith, Political News Editor
In a private Senate hearing, a senior U.S. diplomat to Ukraine offered disturbing testimony of President Donald J. Trump’s use of the office for personal gain.
The testimony came in the form of a prepared statement yesterday to the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors from William B. Taylor Jr., a senior diplomat and former ambassador to Ukraine with over 50 years of federal service.
“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,” read Taylor’s statement.
Taylor’s statement confirms the attempted quid pro quo by Trump with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, established that it was in the making months before the phone call and implicates several people in Trump’s orbit from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
“On June 27 Ambassador Sondland told me during a phone conversation that President Zelensky needed to make clear to President Trump that he, President Zelensky, was not standing in the way of ‘investigations,’” wrote Taylor.
According to Taylor, Trump withheld the aid for Ukraine in an effort to spread a fake news version of the 2016 election interference by Russia and undermine his most likely political rival in the 2020 presidential race, former Vice President Joe Biden. The “irregular” channels of communication were being passed through Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer. He goes on to say that as early as July 18, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had had put a hold on the Ukrainian assistance package, gave no reason for the hold but that the order had come from the president.
Ukraine has been an important part of securing the region against the aggressive movement of Russia, which may destabilize the region. Supporting the Ukrainian people with a military package was intended to shore up the area against Russian incursion and has long been an accepted part of the U.S. foreign policy.
Trump’s agents pushed the alternate agenda so hard that it became problematic and was “separate and at odds” to the recommended course of action — support Ukraine. Then foreign policy adviser, John Bolton, was so frustrated with the situation that he wanted to cancel the meeting saying it “would be a disaster.”
The opposing agendas were so confusing, according to Taylor, that the Ukrainians were becoming aware that something was wrong and contacted him with their concerns.
“I had a phone conversation with Mr. Danyliuk,” wrote Taylor, “He conveyed to me that President Zelensky did not want to be used as a pawn in a U.S. re-election campaign.”
When the July 25 phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky happened, Trump asked for a favor; opening an investigation into the 2016 election, Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. Trump indicated that the reward would be previously withheld aid.
An anonymous whistleblower filed an official complaint on Aug. 12 about the president’s phone call.
“In the course of my official duties, I have received information from multiple U.S. Government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election,” reads the complaint.
From the complaint it was also discovered that members of the president’s staff may have recognized the call as problematic and attempted to hide it by storing the records of the conversation in an unusual place, a highly restricted server according to the complaint. Taylor’s first-hand testimony corroborates much of the complaint and sheds light on the attempt to keep the phone call quiet. He was excluded from the call, even though he was essential in its set up, and unusually, did not receive a transcript of it.
“The first summary of the Trump-Zelensky call that I heard from anybody inside the U.S. government was during a phone call I had with Tim Morrison, Dr. Hill’s recent replacement at the NSC, on July 28,” wrote Taylor.
The White House response to the testimony has been sporadic and unfocused. In a press briefing at the White House, acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, called out the media for misrepresenting the phone call before breaking down in exasperation and telling the media to “get over it.”
“The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about in corruption with that nation,” said Mulvaney. “And that is absolutely appropriate.”
Trump himself has characterized the call as “perfect” and turned to Twitter using a loaded term.
“All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here - a lynching. But we will WIN,” tweeted Trump.