House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) indicated in an interview with the Washington Post Tuesday morning that his committee might be interested in hearing from the U.S. diplomat who objected to what appeared to be a quid pro quo during the early stages of the ever-evolving Ukrainian scandal.
“We certainly do have an interest in speaking with him,” Schiff told the Post on Tuesday morning, referencing U.S. Charges D’affaires for Ukraine Bill Taylor, whose text message exchange with U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland “provide some suggestions” that Trump might have withheld military aid from Ukraine while pressuring the government to help him politically. “We think that Ambassador Taylor is a potentially important witness on the subject,” Schiff added, declining to comment further to the Post.
In the trove of text messages released last week it was primarily revealed that two U.S. ambassadors played an active role in helping Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani with their campaign to pressure Ukraine to open probes politically advantageous to Trump. It was also revealed that Taylor repeatedly objected to the ambassadors’ efforts, which appeared to amount to a quid pro quo involving the military aid, security assistance and a meeting with the White House.
“Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?” he asked on Sept. 1.
“Call me,” Sondland replied.
On Sept. 9, Taylor texted Sondland again. “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”
“Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions,” Sondland replied. “The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s (sic) of any kind. The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign.”
Trump has pointed to Sondland’s denial of a quid pro quo as fodder for his defense against the impeachment inquiry, which was opened in response to the call he had with the Ukrainian president in July in which Trump openly asked President Volodymyr Zelensky for a “favor” in exchange for a certain type of military defense weapon.
Schiff’s comments come just as news broke that the State Department had blocked Sondland from appearing for his testimony before the House committees leading the impeachment charge Tuesday morning. Sondland’s attorney lamented the State Department’s decision, saying the U.S. envoy was “profoundly disappointed” by the decision.