Bill Taylor, the top diplomat in Kyiv, testified Tuesday that on separate occasions each of President Trump’s two main emissaries on Ukraine used the same odd analogy in justifying his holdup of congressionally approved security aid.
In his opening statement, Taylor said that U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and former Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker had claimed President Donald Trump’s Ukraine scheme was kosher because he was a “businessman.”
Taylor’s testimony was one of the most highly anticipated in House Democrats’ widening impeachment probe against President Trump. The House committees are investigating Trump’s efforts to leverage the federal government for his own political gain.
Taylor described to Congress the events that took place before an explosive text exchange between Sondland and himself, during which Taylor told Sondland it was “crazy” to withhold the aid for help with a political campaign. The text exchange was released earlier this month and centered around Sondland and Volker working to convince the Ukrainian government to pledge to investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter in exchange for a White House meeting.
According to Taylor’s testimony, Sondland had rationalized the aid holdup by explaining to him in a phone call that Trump is “a businessman.”
Taylor quoted Sondland as saying, “When a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, the businessman asks that person to pay up before signing the check.”
It wasn’t the last time Taylor got a message like that.
Volker had “used the same terms several days later” while discussing the matter, Taylor told Congress. Volker made the reference when he and Taylor were together at a conference in Kyiv.
In his testimony, Taylor said he pushed back against Sondland and Volker’s excuse.
“I argued to both that the explanation made no sense: the Ukrainians did not ‘owe’ President Trump anything, and holding up security assistance for domestic political gain was ‘crazy,’ as I had said in my text message to Ambassadors Sondland and Volker on September 9,” Taylor said.
Taylor was referring to the text he had on September 9 telling Sondland and Volker, “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”