/The White House: Key takeaways from Ukraine diplomat Bill Taylor’s ‘explosive’ opening statement
The White House: Key takeaways from Ukraine diplomat Bill Taylor’s ‘explosive’ opening statement

The White House: Key takeaways from Ukraine diplomat Bill Taylor’s ‘explosive’ opening statement

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WASHINGTON – William Taylor, the top American diplomat in Ukraine, testified Tuesday before congressional committees conducting an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. 

According to Taylor, Trump’s allies made it clear last year that aid to Ukraine and a White House meeting between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky would be conditioned on the opening of an investigation into a Ukrainian energy company. Former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter was once a board member of that company.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said Taylor’s opening statement drew a “direct line” between releasing the monetary aid and the opening of investigations into the Bidens. The allegation that Trump used his office to pressure Ukraine is what kicked off the impeachment investigation. 

Taylor’s 15-page opening statement was described as “explosive” by Democratic members of Congress present for his testimony. Republicans, on the other hand, said there was “nothing new.” 

Here are the key takeaways from Taylor’s opening statement, obtained by the Associated Press and a source familiar with the statement confirmed its authenticity to USA TODAY. 

The White House: ‘Two channels’ of U.S. policymaking in Ukraine 

According to Taylor, there were “two channels” of policymaking in Ukraine. One channel was the official State Department channel. The other involved other American officials and Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. 

“There was an irregular, informal channel of U.S. policy-making with respect to Ukraine, one which included then-Special Envoy Kurt Volker, Ambassador (Gordon) Sondland, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, and as I subsequently learned, Mr. Giuliani,” Taylor told congressional members and staff. 

Taylor said the irregular channel began in May 2019 after an American delegation returned from Ukraine. 

The White House: Taylor says he was told a White House meeting with Zelensky would be conditioned on the opening of investigations 

Taylor said “during my subsequent conversations with Ambassadors Volker and Sondland, they relayed to me that the President ‘wanted to hear from Zelenskyy’ before scheduling the meeting in the Oval Office.” 

“By mid-July it was becoming clear to me that the meeting President Zelenskyy wanted was conditioned on the investigations of Burisma and Ukrainian interference in the 2016 elections,” Taylor said. “It was also clear that this condition was driven by the irregular policy channel I had come to understand was guided by Mr. Giuliani.” 

The White House: John Bolton called the situation a ‘drug deal’ 

Taylor describes a July 19 phone conversation with National Security Council staffers Fiona Hill and Alexander Vindman about a meeting they had with Ukrainian officials on July 10. Hill has already testified before the committees, and Vindman is scheduled to do so.  

“They told me that Ambassador Sondland had connected ‘investigations’ with an Oval Office meeting for President Zelenskyy, which so irritated Ambassador Bolton that he abruptly ended the meeting, telling Dr. Hill and Mr. Vindman that they should have nothing to do with domestic politics,” Taylor said. “He also directed Dr. Hill to ‘brief the lawyers.’ Dr. Hill said that Ambassador Bolton referred to this as a ‘drug deal’ after the July 10 meeting.”

Bolton also thought a call between Trump and Zelenskyy would be a “disaster” and opposed it, according to Taylor. 

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The White House: Taylor contacted Secretary of State Pompeo but didn’t get a response

Taylor said that on Aug. 29, he sent a cable to the State Department expressing his concerns about the withholding of aid to Ukraine, but never heard back. At the time, Taylor was not yet aware that the withholding of aid might be tied to investigations.

“Ambassador Bolton recommended that I send a first-person cable to Secretary Pompeo directly, relaying my concerns. I wrote and transmitted such a cable on August 29, describing the “folly” I saw in withholding military aid to Ukraine…I told the Secretary I could not and would not defend such a policy,” Taylor said. “Although I received no specific response, I heard that soon thereafter, the Secretary carried the cable with him to a meeting at the White House focused on security assistance for Ukraine.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told ABC’s “This Week” on Oct. 20 that he “never saw” the withholding of aid as tied to the opening of investigations. 

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Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell is calling President Donald Trump’s use of the word “lynching” to describe the House impeachment inquiry as “unfortunate.” Senator Chuck Schumer said Trump “never should have used the word, never.” (Oct. 22)
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The White House: Taylor was told aid would be conditioned on investigations

Taylor said he was not aware security assistance would be conditioned on investigations until Sept. 1, when he discussed the issue with Tim Morrison, a National Security Council staffer. 

Taylor said Morrison described a conversation between Sondland and adviser to the Ukrainian president Andriy Yermak in Warsaw, Poland. 

“Ambassador Sondland told Mr. Yermak that the security assistance money would not come until President Zelenskyy committed to pursue the Burisma investigation,” Taylor said. 

That same day, Taylor texted Sondland to ask if security assistance and a White House meeting were being conditioned on investigations, to which Sondland replied asking Taylor to call him. 

“During that phone call, Ambassador Sondland told me that President Trump had told him that he wants President Zelensky to state publicly that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. election,” Taylor said. If Ukraine did not do that, there would be a “stalemate.” 

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