Bill Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, told the House impeachment inquiry Wednesday that President Trump was more interested in getting Ukraine to announce an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden than he was in helping the country fight its war with Russia.
Taylor recounted a July 26 phone conversation between the president and Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, that was overheard and reported to him by a member of his staff. In the call, which took place one day after Trump asked the president of Ukraine to look into Biden and his son, Trump followed up with Sondland, according to Taylor’s testimony.
“In the presence of my staff at a restaurant, Ambassador Sondland called President Trump and told him of his meetings in Kyiv,” Taylor testified. “The member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone, asking Ambassador Sondland about ‘the investigations.’ Ambassador Sondland told President Trump that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.”
At the time, the administration had put a hold on nearly $400 million in security aid to Ukraine, which was fighting Russian-backed separatist militias. Taylor said he was dismayed that the aid, which had been allocated by Congress, had not been delivered.
“Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which [Trump’s lawyer Rudy] Giuliani was pressing for.”
The impeachment inquiry centers on Trump’s months-long effort to persuade Ukrainian officials to announce an investigation of a political rival. The president’s defenders have argued that because the Trump administration eventually released its hold on the funds without having secured a commitment to investigate the Bidens, Trump’s conduct was not impeachable.
Taylor testified that he reported what he had learned about the call between Trump and Sondland “to the State Department’s legal adviser.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff followed up on Taylor’s account of the call.
“So your staff member overhears the president asking about the investigations, meaning Burisma and the Bidens and 2016, and Ambassador Sondland told President Trump that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward?”
“He did,” Taylor replied.
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