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Impeachment Hearings: Diplomat Reveals Overheard Phone Call

from Associated Press reports
Updated: November 13, 2019 11:53 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) - William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, said that a cellphone conversation his aide overheard between another diplomat and President Donald Trump in July shows that the president cares more about investigations into Democrat Joe Biden than he does about Ukraine.

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In Democrats’ first public impeachment hearing, Taylor said “yes, sir” when House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff asked him if the importance of that overheard conversation was that Trump cared more about the politically motivated probes he was requesting from Ukraine than he did about the East European ally itself.

Taylor told lawmakers that the unnamed aide had told him about the cellphone conversation he overheard between European Union Ambassador Gordan Sondland and Trump on July 26.

He said he didn’t know about that call when he first testified behind closed doors Oct. 22, saying staff members recently told him about the call.

Taylor said some of his staff were at a restaurant with Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland on the day after the July 25 call between Trump and new leader of Ukraine.

Taylor told the committee that Sondland called Trump from the restaurant and the staff could hear Trump on the phone asking about “the investigations.”

Sondland told the president that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.

The House is looking into allegations that Trump asked Ukraine to dig up dirt on the son of his Democratic rival Joe Biden and potential interference in the 2016 presidential elections.

Trump has said he did nothing wrong.

Taylor: 'Crazy' to make aid contingent on investigations

Taylor said he thought it was “crazy” and “illogical” for the Trump administration to make military aid contingent on Ukraine announcing investigations into political rival Joe Biden.

Taylor made the statements in response to questioning from Daniel Goldman, the investigations chief for Rep. Schiff.

Taylor said the security assistance was important not only to Ukraine but to America’s own military interests. He said “it made no sense” to withhold that money and was “counterproductive to all of what we had been trying to do.”

Goldman showed Taylor text messages he sent to other diplomats explaining his belief that it was “crazy” to withhold the military aid for political gain.

Taylor: Envoys invoked Trump's business background

Taylor said two other envoys invoked President Donald Trump’s history as a businessman in trying to explain the U.S. relationship with Ukraine.

Taylor described for lawmakers a September phone call in which Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told him that Trump is a businessman and that businessmen ask people who owe something to pay up before they write out a check.

He said Kurt Volker used the same language several days later while they were together at the Yalta European Strategy Conference in Ukraine.

Taylor said he told both that the explanation made no sense and that the Ukrainians did not owe Trump anything and that holding up security assistance for domestic political gain was “crazy.”

Taylor says he was told aid linked to investigation announcement

Taylor said he was told that military aid to Ukraine and a White House visit for the new leader were contingent on a public announcement of investigations.

Taylor said another diplomat, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, said “everything” was dependent on whether Ukraine’s president publicly announced investigations into Joe Biden’s son and potential interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Taylor said he was told Trump wanted the Ukrainian leader “in a public box” by making the statement.

But no statement was ever released.

Taylor testifies to 2 channels in Ukraine policy

Taylor told House lawmakers investigating impeachment that he noticed there were two policy channels operating with Ukraine, a “regular” and an “irregular” one.

William Taylor said the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was guiding requests through the irregular channel, which was unaccountable to Congress.

Taylor said it slowly became clear to him that conditions were placed on Ukraine’s new president.

He had to order investigations into possible Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, and also look into Joe Biden’s son Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.

Kent testifies on Burisma and Biden’s son

A top State Department official said he never saw any effort by U.S. officials to shield from scrutiny a Ukrainian natural gas company where Hunter Biden sat on the board.

George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state, testified Wednesday in the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

Hunter Biden sat on the board of the Ukrainian gas company called Burisma. Kent said he raised concerns in 2015 that his status could create the perception of a conflict of interest.

But Kent said he never saw any attempt to shield Burisma from scrutiny because of Biden’s connection to the company.

Kent said that he does not believe the U.S. should ask other countries to engage in “selective, politically associated investigations.”

Kent said such “selective actions” undermine the rule of law regardless of the country.

Political clash over whistleblower protection

There was an early clash at the first public impeachment hearing over the identity of the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the inquiry.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said he would do everything necessary to protect the whistleblower’s identity. Schiff said he would “not permit the outing of the whistleblower.”

Republican Rep. Mike Conaway asked Schiff to subpoena the whistleblower to appear behind closed doors. Schiff said he would consider the request after two diplomats appearing before the committee on Wednesday conclude their public testimony.

The impeachment inquiry was sparked after the whistleblower’s complaint about President Donald Trump’s July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy alleged that Trump pressured the Ukrainian leader to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden's family.

Schiff said he does not know the whistleblower’s identity.

Credits

from Associated Press reports

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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