WASHINGTON, Nov. 6 - The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine gave the House impeachment inquiry a detailed look at escalating efforts by a core group of President Donald Trump’s advisers to pressure Ukraine to open a politically motivated investigation, Bloomberg reported.
William Taylor, who took charge of U.S. embassy in Ukraine after the former ambassador was ousted in May, told House committees that he initially thought a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy “sounded like a good idea” as Ukraine sought to strengthen its fight against Russian-backed separatists.
But as the date approached, Taylor became concerned by the efforts of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to involve Ukraine in an investigation of one of Trump’s political rivals, according to a transcript of the diplomat’s testimony released Wednesday.
“Yes, it would be fine to have the two presidents talk, but if President Zelenskiy, in order to get that meeting were going to have to intervene in U.S. domestic policy or politics by investigated -- by announcing an investigation that would benefit someone in the United States, then it wasn’t clear to me that that would be worth it,” Taylor said in his Oct. 22 closed-door testimony.
Taylor, a career diplomat, is scheduled to be one of the first two witnesses when the House Intelligence Committee begins public hearings next week in the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry of Trump. He is scheduled to testify Nov. 13 along with State Department official George Kent.
Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who Taylor replaced, will testify Nov. 15.
The testimony from career public servants raises the political risk for Trump, who is running for re-election in 2020. The president has sought to de-legitimize the impeachment process and dismiss the witnesses as “Never Trumpers” who want to see him removed from office.
The transcript shows Taylor told the House committees that over the first several months in his post he grew increasingly concerned that much-needed security assistance for Ukraine was being held hostage to White House demands for politically motivated investigations.
Ukrainian officials also were worried that they were being dragged into the 2020 election campaign, he said.
Taylor said he was mostly outside an informal channel on Ukraine policy led by U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, special Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker and Energy Secretary Rick Perry and overseen by Giuliani. However he said he was included in some conversations by Volker and Sondland, and he was in contact with other officials in the White House. (om/ez)