The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, William Taylor, delivered what some lawmakers described as damaging testimony Tuesday in the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
According to a copy of his statement, Taylor told lawmakers that the president made the release of security aid to Ukraine contingent on Kiev publicly declaring it would carry out politically motivated investigations that he sought.
In his closed-door testimony, Taylor said he was told by Gordon Sondland, the U.S. envoy to the European Union, that Trump was withholding aid until Kiev made public declarations that it would investigate Joe Biden and his son, as well as an issue relating to the 2016 election.
That would contradict Trump’s claim that the aid was not tied to investigations, and that there was no quid pro quo when he asked Ukraine's president to investigate his political rival.
Though White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney himself said last week the withheld aid was tied to investigating the 2016 campaign.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF MICK MULVANEY SAYING:
“The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried in corruption in that nation.”
MULVANEY LISTENING AS REPORTER (OFF CAMERA) SAYS, "What you just described is a quid-pro-quo. It is funding will not flow unless the investigation into the into the Democratic server happened as well.”
(SOUNDBITE) (English) ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF MICK MULVANEY SAYING: "We do we do that all the time with foreign policy."
Mulvaney later recast his statement and did not admit there was a quid pro quo.
Taylor was the diplomat in text messages released earlier this month by House committees that documented, in real time, his apparent concern that Trump may have been withholding aid to Ukraine in exchange for politically beneficial investigations. Writing to ambassador Sondland in September, “Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?”
To which Sondland replied “Call me.”
A week later, Taylor writes, “as I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”
Hours later, after Sondland reportedly spoke to Trump, he writes "the president has been crystal clear: no quid pro quo's of any kind."
As Democrats amass testimony from a slate of concerned diplomats, House Republicans are condemning the impeachment process.
SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) REP. STEVE SCALISE, SAYING:
“Every American ought to be alarmed that they’re literally trying to reverse the results of the 2016 election behind closed doors in secret.”
House Democrats Tuesday defended their method of investigating the president, and said the evidence was mounting against him.
SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES, SAYING: “He betrayed the American people, abused his power and undermined our national security. No one is above the law.”
Two other witnesses are expected to give testimony this week in the House impeachment inquiry.