William Taylor, the US acting ambassador to Ukraine, testified before Congress in a public hearing on Wednesday. He said that President Donald Trump inquired about “the investigations” during a telephone conversation with EU Ambassador Sondland.
That may be a direct link between Trump and unofficial foreign policy towards Ukraine, led by his personal lawyer.
EU ambassador Sondland had just had a meeting with the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky. He would have replied to Trump that “the Ukrainians were ready to take the next step”.
According to the witness, the employee of Taylor who allegedly picked up the telephone conversation then asked Sondland what President Trump thought of Ukraine.
Taylor said, “Ambassador Sondland said that President Trump cares more about the Biden investigations.”
Trump would have required Zelensky to announce an investigation into the Bidens. The US president is said to have frozen nearly $ 400 million in military support to Ukraine as a means of pressure and also to use a proposed meeting between him and Zelensky in the White House.
Military aid to Ukraine was made available again when senators from both sides complained to the White House about the freeze and threatened to challenge it with new legislation.
In addition to Taylor, George Kent, senior official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in charge of Ukraine, also testified. The first part of the hearing contained considerably more spectacle than the sequel.
Both Taylor and Kent confirmed what they said last month during interrogation behind closed doors: that the White House pursued a shadow policy towards Ukraine that went beyond regular channels and was led by Trumps personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who has no official role within the government.
The shadow policy initially seemed to be in sync with the US Department of Foreign Affairs’ regular Ukraine policy, but the two witnesses were concerned when it became clear that Giuliani was pressuring Ukraine to announce investigations into Trump’s political rivals. In addition, the Ukrainian desire for a White House meeting between Trump and Zelensky and an amount of almost $ 400 million in military aid was used as means of pressure.
Taylor came with a new revelation
Taylor’s revelation about the telephone conversation his employee picked up was new; this information did not come out during a private hearing last month. He learned the story of his employee only afterwards, he says.
The statement contradicts that of Sondland, who testified behind closed doors that he had not spoken to Trump about the investigations.
Taylor also contradicts Donald Trump himself, who has said he barely knows Sondland, and invalidates Trumps Republican defenders’ assertion that the president was not involved in the work of his lawyer Giuliani in Ukraine.
EU ambassador Sondland appears during a public hearing next week. A staff member from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, David Holmes, will be heard behind closed doors, the House of Representatives intelligence committee announced Wednesday during Taylor’s testimony. Allegedly Holmes is the employee who told him about the telephone conversation between Trump and Sondland.
Top diplomat Taylor was also hard in his opinion about the unofficial Ukraine policy of the White House. He drew a link between the freezing of military aid and the death of Ukrainian soldiers at the front in Eastern Ukraine, which he recently visited himself. “I and others were stunned,” he said about the moment he discovered that the funds were frozen.
“Ukrainians were fighting against Russians and counted not only on training and weapons, but also on the confirmation of American support. I realized in an instant that one of the pillars of our strong support to Ukraine was threatened. The irregular policy channel immediately went against the goals of the long-held US policy. “
During the interrogation, the Republicans put all their sails into shifting attention to allegations of Ukraine’s election interference in 2016. They seemed to want to divert attention from the subject of the impeachement hearings, namely Trump’s attempts to get Ukraine. to help him with an investigation against his political opponent.
Republicans emphasized during the interrogation that Taylor did not listen in on the telephone conversation between Trump and Zelensky, never spoke to the Ukrainian president about Trump’s requests and heard much of his information from others.
The American president himself said through his spokesperson that he would not look at the interrogations. But a quick glance at Trump’s Twitter feed once again suggests that the president is a little more involved with the events in the House than his spokesperson claimed earlier today. Among other things, the president posted two new campaign videos: an attack on the impeachment process and a broader attack on the Democrats.
The American media are divided about the testimony against Trump. Critical commentators praise the clarity of the testimonies. William Taylor in particular has emerged as a strong witness, who explains a particularly damaging story for the American president, they think. On the right-hand side, the standard Republican defense strategy is followed.
The big question is and remains whether the public hearings can convince the ordinary American. This Friday it is Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador in Ukraine, who claims that she was fired when she refused to cooperate with Giuliani.
During the public hearings, the Democrats will probably give room to witnesses such as Alexander Vindman, a high-ranking soldier who did listen in on the telephone conversation between Trump and Zelensky and thus formed the direct reason for the deposition investigation.