On Tuesday, the House impeachment inquiry will resume with testimony from U. S. charge d’affaires William Taylor. Since the removal of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch in May, on the basis of conspiracy theories pressed by Rudy Giuliani and his indicted “assistant,” Taylor has been serving as the interim head of the U.S. diplomatic mission to Ukraine. Unlike most of those involved in planning how to convince Ukraine to bow to Donald Trump’s demands that they announce an investigation into Joe Biden, his son, and conspiracy theories about the 2016 election, Taylor is a longtime State Department employee and foreign policy specialist who was vocal in expressing his concerns. His testimony is likely to be among the most critical moments of the inquiry to date.
Throughout a series of texts and conversations, Taylor made his concerns clear to the other members of Trump’s team who were coordinating the extortion of Ukraine. The Ukrainian president was concerned that his country was not being “taken seriously,” said Taylor. Instead, it was being treated as “merely as an instrument in Washington reelection politics.” Days later, Taylor stated his concerns directly: “Are we now saying that security assistance and White House meetings are conditioned on investigations?” The response to that question was a note from Ambassador Gordon Sondland saying simply, “Call me.”
Taylor was well aware that Trump was withholding military aid from Ukraine and that he was doing so in an effort to extract political favors. He was adamant in expressing that Trump’s actions had “already shaken their faith in us,” and had sent a message to Russia that Trump valued personal politics above security concerns. For weeks, Taylor expressed his concerns to Sondland, Ambassador Kurt Volker, and others. He worried not just about Trump stalling aid, but about a “nightmare” scenario in which Trump coerced Ukrainian leaders into making the political announcements Trump wanted to support his campaign—then left them to be taken apart by Russia.
Perhaps the most blatant example of the striking difference between Taylor’s attempts to uphold diplomatic relations with an allied nation against an assault from Trump, Giuliani, and a collection of political appointees only concerned about keeping their boss happy came when Taylor sent a text to Sondland saying, “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.” It was five hours before Sondland replied, and it’s now known that in the interval Sondland called the White House and got his words straight from Trump: “The president has been crystal clear no quid pro quos of any kind.” And, said Sondland, it was once again time to stop sending texts and talk on the phone.
Congress will have a chance on Tuesday to hear about that phone call, as well as others made between Taylor, Sondland, Volker, and Giuliani. The hearing will be held behind closed doors. As with other hearings in the inquiry, it can be expected to last several hours.
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