A newly released transcript of top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine William “Bill” Taylor’s testimony on Capitol Hill showed Taylor walking through precisely what he meant when he texted “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign” to U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland on Sept. 9.
The explanation came on page 270 of the transcript. The text, it should be noted, was sent two days before the Trump Administration released congressionally appropriated military aid to Ukraine that had been held up for reasons that were not so clear at the time.
Rep. Sean Maloney (D-N.Y.) began by referring to Taylor’s opening statement, in which Taylor acknowledged the Sept. 9 text. The relevant excerpt of Taylor’s opening statement:
“So, on September 8th, there is the call between Sondland and Volker and you, and you recount this expression about how when a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, the businessman asks that person to pay up before signing the check. And then, of course, you mention that Ambassador Volker used the same term several days later,” Maloney began. “And you go on to say that holding up security assistance for and you use the words ‘domestic political gain’ was, quote, crazy.”
“And the day before excuse me, the day after that, on September 9th, it comes before in your testimony a couple paragraphs up, but it’s actually the next day is when you write the famous text: I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” Maloney continued, before getting to the point. “And so my question, sir, is, when you use phrases like ‘domestic political gain’ or a ‘political campaign,’ I want to understand what you meant by that, because, of course, we’re not just talking now about whether or not an investigation was launched or whether or not it would be appropriate or not to do that. I’m curious about why you connected it up to, quote, a domestic political gain and, quote, a political campaign?”
Taylor responded that it had become clear to him that the purpose of investigating the Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma, the company on which Hunter Biden was a board member, was to “cast Vice President Biden in a bad light.”
“That would be the domestic political gain?” Maloney asked.
“Yes,” Taylor responded.
“To cast Vice President Biden in a bad light?” Maloney asked again.
“Right,” Taylor answered.
“And the political campaign would be what political campaign?” Maloney asked.
“A political campaign for the reelection of President Trump,” Taylor said.
Taylor also said in his testimony that getting Ukraine to announce an investigation of Burisma was orchestrated by Rudy Giuliani for President Trump’s interests.
Recall that Ambassador Sondland did not respond to the “I think it’s crazy” text for roughly five hours. When Sondland did respond, he downplayed Taylor’s concerns. Sondland responded that Trump had been “crystal clear: no quid pro quo’s of any kind”:
Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind. The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign I suggest we stop the back and forth by text If you still have concerns I recommend you give Lisa Kenna or S a call to discuss them directly. Thanks.
Sondland admitted, however, that this response was dictated by the president and may not have been truthful.
The transcript of Sondland’s testimony released on Tuesday also directly addressed his call with the president. Sondland said he asked President Trump what he wanted from Ukraine and Trump said “I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. I want Zelensky to do the right thing.”
“There were a lot of rumors swirling around as to why the aid had been held up, including they wanted a review, they wanted Europe to do more. There were all kinds of rumors,” Sondland said. “And I know in my few previous conversations with the President he’s not big on small talk so I would have one shot to ask him. And rather than asking him, ‘Are you doing X because of X or because of Y or because of Z’ I asked him one open-ended question: ‘What do you want from Ukraine?’”
“And as I recall, he was in a very bad mood. It was a very quick conversation. He said: ‘I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. I want Zelensky to do the right thing,’” Sondland continued. “And I said: ‘What does that mean?’ And he said: ‘I want him to do what he ran on.’ And that was the end of the conversation. I wouldn’t say he hung up on me, but it was almost like he hung up on me.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the impeachment inquiry on Sept. 24. The White House released a memo of the July 25 Trump-Zelensky call the next day. The whistleblower complaint went public the day after that. In it, the complainant alleged that President Trump solicited interference from a foreign country in the 2020 election.
[Image via Alex Wong/Getty Images]
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