Oct 22, 2019

U.S. envoy: Trump tied Ukraine aid to Biden, DNC investigations

Bill Taylor arrives for his testimony on Tuesday. Photo; Alex Wong/Getty Images

Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, told House investigators on Tuesday that President Trump conditioned the release of military aid on the Ukrainian president's willingness to promise to investigate natural gas company Burisma and alleged interference in the 2016 election, according to a copy of Taylor's opening statement obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: Taylor's explosive testimony, which relies largely on his conversations with U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland, draws a direct line from congressionally approved military aid to Ukrainian interference in domestic U.S. politics — the quid pro quo that Trump and his allies have long denied.

The big picture: Taylor, a career diplomat who has served in multiple administrations, expressed concerns that there were two channels of U.S. policymaking toward Ukraine — one official channel and one "irregular, informal" channel operated by Rudy Giuliani, special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Sondland.

  • Taylor told lawmakers in a lengthy statement that by early September, he was informed by Sondland that both security assistance and a White House visit for Zelensky were conditioned on a public statement by the Ukrainian president ordering the investigations into Burisma — on whose board Joe Biden's son served — and allegations of interference in the 2016 election.

Key excerpts:

  • "I sensed something odd when Ambassador Sondland told me on June 28 that he did not wish to include most of the regular interagency participants in a call planned with President Zelenskyy later that day. … Ambassador Sondland said that he wanted to make sure no one was transcribing or monitoring as they added President Zelenskyy to the call."
  • "In a regular NSC secure video-conference call on July 18, I heard a staff person from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) say that there was a hold on security assistance to Ukraine but could not say why. "
  • "Toward the end of an otherwise normal meeting, a voice on the call — the person was off-screen — said that she was from OMB and that her boss had instructed her not to approve any additional spending of security assistance for Ukraine until further notice. I and others sat in astonishment. ... All that the OMB staff person said was that the directive had come from the President to the Chief of Staff to OMB."
  • "There followed a series of NSC-led interagency meetings, starting at the staff level and quickly reaching the level of Cabinet secretaries. At every meeting, the unanimous conclusion was that the security assistance should be resumed, the hold lifted."
  • "[On Sept. 1], Ambassador 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 Zelenskyy was dependent on a public announcement of investigations—in fact, Ambassador Sondland said, 'everything' was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance. He said that President Trump wanted President Zelenskyy 'in a public box' by making a public statement about ordering such investigations."
  • "[O]n September 8, Ambassador Sondland ... said he had talked to President Trump as I had suggested a week earlier, but that President Trump was adamant that President Zelenskyy, himself, had to 'clear things up and do it in public.' President Trump said it was not a 'quid pro quo.'"
  • "Ambassador Sondland said that he had talked to President Zelenskyy and Mr. Yermak and told them that, although this was not a quid pro quo, if President Zelenskyy did not 'clear things up' in public, we would be at a 'stalemate.' I understood a 'stalemate' to mean that Ukraine would not receive the much-needed military assistance."

Read the full statement:

Go deeper

Sondland "does not recall" Ukraine aid threat, lawyer tells WashPost

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland (C) arrives at the Capitol on Oct. 17. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland disputes aspects of congressional testimony by the top American diplomat in Ukraine and he "does not recall" anything about threatening Ukraine over aid, his attorney told the Washington Post Wednesday.

Why it matters: Acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor testified Tuesday that Sondland communicated to Ukrainian officials that President Trump wanted military aid to Ukraine to be conditional on them agreeing to investigate natural gas firm Burisma, for which former Vice President Joe Biden's son worked, and alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. election in a quid pro quo, which Trump has long denied.

Go deeperArrowOct 24, 2019

WSJ: Sondland told House panels Trump's Ukraine action was quid pro quo

Gordon Sondland. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland told House investigators last week the actions of President Trump and his allies over Ukraine "amounted to a quid pro quo," his attorney told the Wall Street Journal Saturday.

Why it matters: The issue of alleged quid pro quo involving Trump and Ukraine is central to the House inquiry into his possible impeachment. The president and his allies have long denied any quid pro quo took place.

Go deeperArrowOct 27, 2019

Top diplomat testifies Ukraine quid pro quo was his "clear understanding"

Bill Taylor arrives for his testimony on Capitol Hill. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday released the transcript of its closed door interview with Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine.

Why it matters: In his opening statement, Taylor told House investigators that he understood President Trump to be conditioning the release of military aid on the Ukrainian president's willingness to announce investigations into Trump's political rivals, including Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Nov 6, 2019