Today In Impeachmentland

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Ukraine, Trump & Administration, Trump ImpeachmentLeave a Comment

Today, William B. Taylor Jr., the United States ambassador to Ukraine, becomes the latest Trump administration official to make his way to Capitol Hill to offer his account to impeachment investigators as they search for answers about Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine.

Taylor is expected to be questioned about a series of text messages from September revealed by a former colleague, Kurt D. Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, in which Mr. Taylor wrote that he thought it was “crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

The exchange appeared to suggest that the Trump administration was trying to use a $319 million package of aid to Ukraine as leverage to squeeze the nation’s president to open investigations that would boost Trump’s presidential campaign — and that Taylor was alarmed by the effort.

Yesterday, George Kent testified before the committee. What did we learn?

Days before a key meeting with White House advisers about Ukraine, foreign leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban reportedly urged President Trump to take a hostile view of Kiev.

Trump met with Orban on May 13, 10 days before the meeting with several top presidential advisers, including now-outgoing Energy Secretary Rick Perry, former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, The New York Times reports.

His conversations with Orban and Putin strengthened his views that Ukraine was a corrupt nation looking to undermine him in the 2016 presidential election, The Washington Post reports.

The Hungarian and Russian leaders, however, reportedly did not specifically urge Trump to ask Ukraine for information on Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Former national security adviser John Bolton and Fiona Hill, the former National Security Council’s senior director for Eurasian and Russian affairs, opposed the Trump-Orban White House meeting, but acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney ultimately overruled them, the Post reports.

During the May 23 meeting, several top Trump advisers reportedly reassured the president that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky deserved support from the U.S., but Trump called the Ukrainians “terrible people” who “tried to take me down” in 2016.

At the time of the meeting, Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani was also working to influence the president about Ukraine as he aimed to pressure Kiev to provide damaging information about Democrats. Trump then pressured Zelensky during a July 25 call to investigate Biden and his son. House Democrats launched in impeachment inquiry in September amid revelations surrounding that call.

Just shows how easy it has been for foreign powers to manipulate Trump.

Trump was whining on Twitter again this morning, comparing the investigation to a “lynching” — and lots of white southern GOP politicians came to his defense in the use of the comparison,

Yup. Lynching is an insane comparison:

UPDATE: Bill Taylor’s testimony this morning did not disappoint…

UPDATE #2 — Oh, this is really bad:

The senior U.S. diplomat in Ukraine said Tuesday he was told release of military aid was contingent on public declarations from Ukraine that it would investigate the Bidens and the 2016 election, contradicting President Trump’s denial that he used the money as leverage for political gain.

“Was contingent on” — that’s a quid pro quo.

Acting ambassador William B. Taylor Jr. testified behind closed doors in the House impeachment probe of Trump that he stands by his characterization that it was “crazy” to make the assistance contingent on investigations he found troubling.

Upon arriving in Kyiv last spring he became alarmed by secondary diplomatic channels involving U.S. officials that he called “weird,” Taylor said, according to a copy of his lengthy opening statement obtained by The Washington Post.

Taylor walked lawmakers through a series of conversations he had with other U.S. diplomats who were trying to obtain what one called the “deliverable” of Ukrainian help investigating Trump’s political rivals.

Here’s the quid pro quo again…

“Amb. Sondland also told me that he now recognized that he had made a mistake by earlier telling the Ukrainian officials to whom he spoke that a White House meeting with President Zelensky was dependent on a public announcement of investigations — in fact, Amb. Sondland said, ‘everything’ was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance,’” Taylor told House investigators.

“He said that President Trump wanted President Zelensky ‘in a public box’ by making a public statement about ordering such investigations.’

Taylor was called to testify before committees considering whether to impeach Trump because he had raised alarms about Trump administration interactions with Zelensky.

“It was just the most damning testimony I’ve heard,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said in an interview partway into Taylor’s testimony.


“He drew a very specific direct line from President Trump to the withholding of foreign aid and the refusal of a meeting,” between Trump and the new Ukrainian leader, Wasserman Schultz said, “directly related to both insisting on Zelensky publicly say that he’ll have an investigation, that they will investigate.”

And if there are meticulous contemporaneous notes, ugh.

UPDATE #3. Washington Post got its hands on his opening statement: