US diplomat’s testimony details Trump quid pro quo claims
House Democrats have released the transcript of closed-door congressional testimony from William Taylor, the top US diplomat in Kyiv, who has become a central figure in the impeachment inquiry into US president Donald Trump.
The West Point graduate and career diplomat first testified behind closed doors to the impeachment inquiry on October 22, providing what Democrats described as the clearest evidence yet that the president engaged in a “quid pro quo” arrangement with his Ukrainian counterpart.
The congressional committees leading the probe published a 324-page transcript of Mr Taylor’s testimony on Wednesday, as part of a new public phase of their investigation.
Mr Taylor told congressional investigators that the release of US military aid to Ukraine earlier this year was conditioned on the Ukrainian president publicly opening an investigation into Mr Trump’s political opponent Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
Mr Taylor explained to lawmakers how he came to understand that both a White House meeting between Mr Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart, along with the release of about $391m in military aid, were conditioned on Kyiv opening public investigations into the Bidens and into alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 US presidential election. Hunter Biden sat on the board of Ukrainian oil and gas company Burisma while his father was US vice-president.
Mr Taylor said that Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the EU, expressed that Mr Trump had told him he wanted Ukrainian president Volodymr Zelensky to “state publicly that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election”, according to the transcript.
“Ambassador Sondland also told me that he now recognised that he had made a mistake by earlier telling Ukrainian officials to whom he spoke that a White House meeting with President Zelensky was dependent on a public announcement of investigations,” he added. “In fact, Ambassador Sondland said everything was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance.”
The committees leading the impeachment inquiry published Mr Sondland’s own closed-door testimony on Tuesday, as well as an additional four-page sworn statement in which the ambassador revised previous comments.
Mr Sondland, a hotelier and Trump donor, told lawmakers that his “recollection about certain conversations” had been “refreshed”. In the sworn statement, he detailed a September 1 phone conversation with Andrey Yermak, a top adviser to Mr Zelensky, saying he told Mr Yermak that “resumption of US aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks”.
Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House intelligence committee and de facto leader of the Democrats’ probe, said on Wednesday that Mr Taylor would return to Capitol Hill for a live, televised hearing on November 13.
George Kent, deputy assistant secretary in the European and Eurasian bureau at the US state department, will also testify in an open hearing next Wednesday. Marie Yovanovitch, the former US ambassador to Ukraine, will testify in an opening session on Friday, November 15, Mr Schiff said.