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'Damning' Testimony from Taylor in Impeachment Inquiry, as Trump Refers to Inquiry as a 'Lynching'

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'Damning' Testimony from Taylor in Impeachment Inquiry, as Trump Refers to Inquiry as a 'Lynching'

2019-10-22 21:44:081 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Bill Taylor (Image source: Screenshot)

The impeachment inquiry is chugging along with what was described as "damning" testimony from Acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor. While he was testifying, Donald Trump was referring to the inquiry as a "lynching." 

The impeachment inquiry was begun after the whistleblower complaint became known. The complaint described a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, where the U.S. president implied that he'd supply military aid if his Ukrainian counterpart would conduct investigations on Trump's former and current opponents.

Taylor is just the latest to sit in the witness chair, giving a deposition behind closed doors. After a career in the military, he entered into politics, first as directing the Department of Energey's Office of Emergency Preparedness 

After working for Sen. Bill Bradley (D-NJ), Taylor worked as an advisor to the Defense in a few different positions and later started working in ambassador offices in multiple locations.

He became the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in 2006 under former President George W. Bush and stayed on for a few months under former President Barack Obama. 

He became the acting ambassador of Ukraine again in June after Marie Yovanovitch was chased out by Trump and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

On the stand on Tuesday, he testified he'd been told Trump would withhold military aid to Ukraine unless it announced publicly that it was launching the investigations Trump was looking for to help his reelection campaign. 

This included an investigation of Burisma, the company Hunter Biden worked for, as well as Ukraine allegedly interfering in the 2016 election. Both of these claims had already been proven to be false.

In his opening statement, Taylor meticulously detailed the meetings he had with senior U.S. officials. He learned about Trump and Giuliani pushing Ukraine to conduct the two investigations. 

He testified that Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told him he'd made a mistake by saying a White House meeting was depending on the public announcement of the investigations.

"In fact, Ambassador Sondland said, 'everything' was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance," the acting ambassador testified. 

He was told by a National Security Council official that Trump told Sondland he'd insisted the Ukrainian president "go to a microphone and say he is opening investigations of [former Vice President Joe Biden] and 2016 interference."

"Ambassador Sondland said that he had talked to President Zelensky and Mr. Yermak and told them that, although this was not a quid pro quo, if President Zelensky did not 'clear things up' in public, we could be at a stalemate.' " 

Taylor added, "I understood 'stalemate' to mean that Ukraine would not receive the much-needed military assistance."

He also stated that Sondland explained the situation to him by stipulating Trump was a businessman. "When a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, he said, the businessman asks that person to pay up before signing the check," Taylor recalled on the stand, while noting Volker used the same phraseology with him. 

'I argued to both that the explanation made no sense: the Ukrainians did not 'owe' President Trump anything, and holding up security assistance for domestic political gain was crazy,' as I had said in my text message to Ambassaodrs Sondland and Volker on September 9," he testified.

"All I have to say is that in my 10 short months in Congress ... it's my most disturbing day in congress so far," said Rep. Andy Levin {D-MI) after Taylor's testimony. 

"The testimony is a sea change. I think it could accelerate matters," said Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA). "This will, I think, answer more questions than it raises. Let's put it that way."

Lawmakers also said that Taylor's testimony was inconsistent with Sondland's earlier testimony yet didn't explain the inconsistencies.  

"I think Gordon Sondland may very well have to come back. He's got some explaining to do," said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA).

As Taylor was testifying, Trump complained that the impeachment inquiry was a lynching and was condemned by Democrats for doing so.  

"All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here," tweeted Trump, "a lynching. But we will WIN!"

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