Anyone familiar with what Chargé d’Affaires Bill Taylor and George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, told lawmakers in October during closed-door testimony knew Wednesday’s public hearings would reflect poorly on Donald Trump.
Taylor’s 15-page prepared statement was positively devastating for the president last month, and the transcript of his testimony was even worse. 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”.
As for Kent, the transcript of his testimony revealed that in one exchange with lawmakers, he said it was his understanding that “POTUS wanted nothing less than [Ukraine’s] President Zelensky to go to [the] microphone and say ‘investigations’, ‘Biden’, and ‘Clinton'”.
Between their testimony and that of nearly a dozen other witnesses, there is now no doubt as to whether Trump and Rudy Giuliani worked through Sondland, Kurt Volker, Rick Perry and Mick Mulvaney to effectively extort the Zelensky government, using nearly $400 million in congressionally-approved military aid as leverage to secure investigations into Trump’s political rivals.
Wednesday’s first public hearings underscored that assessment.
Taylor, for example, testified that Trump cared more about “investigations of Biden” than he did about Ukraine. Specifically, Taylor said one of his staff heard a phone call between Sondland and Trump, where the two spoke of “the investigations”.
“The Ukrainians were ready to move forward”, Sondland allegedly told the president. Taylor’s aide then asked Sondland about Trump’s feelings towards Ukraine. The ambassador “responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for”.
That is new information, and he shared it with Congress (and the public) for the first time on Wednesday.
Taylor also reiterated that according to Sondland, “everything” (where that means a White House visit for Zelensky and the military aid) was contingent upon Ukraine investigating Democrats and the Bidens.
As for Kent, he was asked by the Democratic counsel whether there was “any factual basis to support the allegations” against Joe Biden. His answer was unequivocal: “None whatsoever”.
“When vice president Biden acted in Ukraine, did he act in accordance with official US policy”, the counsel asked. “He did”, Kent responded.
If you’re wondering how things went for the GOP, the following exchange – which finds Taylor trying his best to be helpful as the Republican counsel conjures conspiracy theories – tells you pretty much everything you need to know.
All you can do is laugh.