Like John Kelly and Jim Mattis, Bill Taylor probably thought he’d seen some bad things on account of having been to war.
All three men have since learned that working for Donald Trump is the next worst thing to being shot at. And there’s no medal for making it through a tour of duty in the Trump administration. Instead, the best you can hope for is to be allowed to resign as opposed to being fired by tweet and publicly derided by a reality TV show host who scored five deferments.
Taylor’s testimony in the impeachment inquiry last month was widely seen as the most damaging account of the Ukraine scandal for the White House to date. His 15-page prepared statement was positively devastating for the president.
It was Taylor, you’ll recall, who, on September 9, told EU ambassador Gordon Sondland that in his assessment, it was “crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign”.
Sondland was forced to revise his own testimony following Taylor’s account to lawmakers. The transcript of Sondland’s deposition (released on Tuesday) included an admission that there was, in fact, a quid pro quo that made the disbursement of some $400 million in congressionally-approved military aid to Ukraine contingent upon investigations into the Bidens and Democrats.
On Wednesday, House investigators released the transcript of Taylor’s testimony. As you might imagine, it isn’t good for the president.
“And when you say that, this was the first time I heard that the security assistance—not just the White House meeting—was conditioned on the investigation, when you talk about conditioned, did you mean that if they didn’t do this, the investigations, they weren’t going to get that, the meeting and the military assistance?”, House lawmakers inquired of Taylor.
“That was my clear understanding, security assistance money would not come until the President [of Ukraine] committed to pursue the investigation”, Taylor stated.
“So if they don’t do this, they are not going to get that was your understanding?”, Taylor was asked. “Yes, sir”, he said.
“Are you aware that quid pro quo literally means this for that?”, House investigators wondered. “I am”, Taylor responded.
That about sums it up, but just in case you need more convincing, you can find additional excerpts below and do note that Taylor, a West Point graduate and Vietnam veteran, will testify publicly, on television, next week.
Next week, the House Intelligence Committee will hold its first open hearings as part of the impeachment inquiry.
On Wednesday, November 13, 2019, we will hear from William Taylor and George Kent.
On Friday, November 15, 2019, we will hear from Marie Yovanovitch.
More to come.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) November 6, 2019
Rudy Giuliani, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, and Ambassador Kurt Volker operated “an irregular, informal channel of U.S. policymaking with respect to Ukraine.” (Page 23-24)
At the same time, however, there was an irregular, informal channel of U.S. policymaking with respect to Ukraine, one which included then-Special Envoy Kurt Volker, Ambassador Sondland, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, and as I subsequently learned, Mr. Giuliani. I was clearly in the regular channel, but I was also in the irregular one to the extent that Ambassadors Volker and Sondland included me in certain conversations. Although this irregular channel was well connected in Washington, it operated mostly outside of official State Department channels.
Taylor said it was Giuliani’s idea to have Ukraine’s president commit to the political investigations. (Page 260-261):
I think the origin of the idea to get President Zelensky to say out loud he’s going to investigate Burisma and 2016 election, I think the originator, the person who came up with that was Mr. Giuliani.
It was “well-known” within the State Department that Ambassador Sondland, Secretary Perry, and Ambassador Volker were directed “to do something with regard to Ukraine policy” at their meeting with President Trump on May 23, 2019. (Page 285)
Q: Did you ever receive any indication when you relayed any concerns to the State Department about this irregular policy group that anyone in the Department actually took any steps to resolve anything?
A: There was some discomfort within the State Department with Ambassador Sondland’s role in Ukraine. Of course, Ukraine is not in the EU. But it was wellknown that, in that famous May 23rd meeting in the Oval Office, that Ambassador Sondland was given direction, with Secretary Perry and Ambassador Volker, to focus on Ukraine, to do something with regard to Ukraine policy.
National Security Advisor John Bolton abruptly ended a meeting with Ukrainian officials on July 10, 2019, after Ambassador Sondland raised “investigations,” which “triggered Ambassador Bolton’s antenna, political antenna, and he said, we don’t do politics here.” (Page 163-164)
Q: Have you ever had a readout from Volker about what happened in the July 10 meeting? Or is your only information coming from Dr. Hill and Lieutenant Colonel Vindman? A: It might just be from that source of information. I don’t remember having a conversation—
Q: Okay. A: —about these other ones. Danyliuk was, obviously, in that meeting. Yermak was in that meeting. And I’ve had multiple conversations with them, more often than, actually, with—
Q: Did anyone relate to you that Danyliuk was getting way into the weeds with Ambassador Bolton and it was not a long meeting in— A: No, no. Actually, it was—no. What I heard from Vindman and Hill was that the first part of that meeting went well. Substantive discussions: security, national security, both sides, energy security. And, apparently, according to them, their boss, John Bolton was appreciating the substance of that meeting. And, in their description, when Ambassador Sondland raised investigations in the meeting, that triggered Ambassador Bolton’s antenna, political antenna, and he said, we don’t do politics here. Q: Uh-huh. A: And so he ended the meeting.
Ambassador Sondland explicitly “connected ‘investigations’ with an Oval Office meeting for President Zelensky” during the meeting with Ukrainian officials on July 10, 2019. (Page 133-134)
Q: You go on to say, a couple paragraphs later, “In the same July 19 phone call, they gave me an account of the July 10 meeting with the Ukrainian officials at the White House. Specifically, they told me”—and I believe you’re referring to Dr. Hill and Mr. Vindman, I believe— A: Yes. Q: —“that Ambassador Sondland had connected ‘investigations’ with an Oval Office meeting for President Zelensky, 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.” Again, is this going to the conditionality of Ukraine having to do these investigations if they wanted the Oval Office meeting? A: That was the implication of that connection, of the connection between the meeting and investigations.
Ukrainian official “believed that opening those investigations, in particular on Burisma, would have involved Ukraine in the 2020 election campaign.” (Page 135-136)
Yes. I think it was becoming clear to the Ukrainians that, in order to get this meeting that they wanted, they would have to commit to pursuing these investigations. And Mr. Danyliuk, at least, understood—and I’m sure that he briefed President Zelensky, I’m sure they had this conversation—believed that opening those investigations, in particular on Burisma, would have involved Ukraine in the 2020 election campaign. He did not want to do that.
On July 18, 2019, Ambassador Taylor and others “sat in astonishment” as an OMB official revealed during an inter-agency call that President Trump ordered a hold on military assistance to help Ukraine counter Russian aggression. (Page 27-28, 131)
A: In a regular, NSC secure video conference call on July 18th, I heard a staff person from the Office of Management and Budget say that there was a hold on security assistance to Ukraine but could not say why. Toward the end of this otherwise normal meeting, a voice on the call, the person who was off screen, said that she was from OMB and her boss had instructed her not to approve any additional spending of security assistance for Ukraine until further notice. I and the others on the call sat in astonishment. The Ukrainians were fighting the Russians and counted on not only the training and weapons but also the assurance of U.S. support. All that the OMB staff person said was that the directive had come from the President to the Chief of Staff to OMB. In an instant, I realized that one of the key pillars of our strong support for Ukraine was threatened. The irregular policy channel was running contrary to the goals of longstanding U.S. policy. …
Q: What did you mean by that? A: Longstanding goal of U.S. policy would be to support Ukraine in its attempt to defend itself against the Russians. Part of that was security assistance. Security assistance had been very effective. It was weapons, it was training, it was the communications equipment, it was sustainables. It allowed Ukrainian soldiers to actually defend themselves. That was longstanding U.S. policy. Even in the previous administration, the previous administration did not provide lethal weapons, but they did provide all this other—so that was longstanding policy. To stop it, to hold it, for no apparent reason that I could see, was undercutting the longstanding U.S. policy.
President Trump told Ambassador Sondland that “he wants President Zelensky to state publicly that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.” (Page 35-36, 141-142, 36-37)
A: I was hopeful that, at the bilateral meeting or shortly thereafter, the White House would lift the hold, but this was not to be. Indeed, I received a readout of the Pence-Zelensky meeting over the phone for [sic] Mr. Morrison, during which he told me President Zelensky had opened the meeting by asking the Vice President about security cooperation. … A: During this same phone call I had with Mr. Morrison, he went on to describe a conversation Ambassador Sondland had with Mr. Yermak at Warsaw. Ambassador Sondland told Mr. Yermak that the security assistance money would not come until President Zelensky committed to pursue the Burisma investigation. I was alarmed by what Mr. Morrison told me about the Sondland–Yermak conversation. This was the first time I had heard that security assistance, not just the White House meeting, was conditioned on the investigations. …
Q: You go on, at the end of that paragraph, top of page 11: “This was the first time I had heard that the security assistance—not just the White House meeting—was conditioned on the investigations.” So both of these things you now had learned were conditioned on these two political investigations, right? A: That’s correct, sir.