The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine testified on Tuesday he was told that President Donald Trump made the release of security aid to Ukraine contingent on Kiev publicly declaring it would carry out politically motivated investigations that he sought, according to a copy of his statement to lawmakers.
William Taylor, who as the charge d’affaires is the senior American envoy in Ukraine, gave closed-door testimony to the three Democratic-led House of Representatives committees leading an impeachment inquiry against Trump. The Washington Post posted a copy of Taylor’s opening statement online.
Taylor testified he was told by Gordon Sondland, the U.S. envoy to the European Union, that Trump had made the release of the withheld aid contingent on Kiev making public declarations that it would investigate domestic political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden as well as an issue related to the 2016 election over an allegation that a Democratic National Committee (DNC) computer server is in Ukraine.
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The House inquiry is focusing on Trump’s request during a July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that he investigate the Bidens. Joe Biden, the former vice president, is a leading contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination to face Republican Trump. Hunter Biden had served on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma.
The contents of the phone call was revealed by a whistleblower, who submitted a report stating Trump pressured Zelenskiy to advance his personal political interests. Trump also publicly asked China to investigate the Bidens. Federal election law prohibits candidates from accepting foreign help in an election.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and accused Democrats of trying to oust him to prevent him from being re-elected.
Trump made his request, which Democrats say was an improper invitation for foreign interference in an American election, after withholding $391 million in security aid approved by the U.S. Congress to help combat Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Zelenskiy agreed to the request. The aid was later released.
Trump has denied that there was a quid pro quo – a Latin term meaning a favor for a favor – though his acting chief of staff last week acknowledged that the aid was contingent on Ukraine investigating the DNC server issue.