House Democrats have released the latest in the series of heavily-redacted transcripts of the secret hearings they had undertaken in recent weeks - that of Bill Taylor - the top US diplomat in Ukraine - ahead of his public testimony next week.
As The Hill notes, Taylor is viewed as a key witness who previously testified in meticulous detail about what he considered an effort by Trump and his allies to pressure Ukraine into opening investigations that would benefit Trump politically.
In leaked copies of his 15-page opening statement, Taylor voiced concerns that the Trump administration had withheld nearly $400 million in aid as leverage to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open investigations into interference in the 2016 election and former Vice President Joe Biden, one of his leading 2020 political rivals.
Key excerpts include:
Republican counsel Steve Castor asked Taylor whether he knew the individual who is rumored to be the whistleblower, dropping his name:
Taylor admits Ukraine's criminal justice system is "flawed"...
Isn't that a good reason to hold up aid to ensure that it is not corruptly flowing to the wrong entities?
Taylor also testified that his knowledge of the phone call between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymr Zelensky wasn’t first-hand knowledge.
“And this isn’t firsthand. It’s not secondhand. It’s not thirdhand,” Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., said to Taylor. “But if I understand this correctly, you’re telling us that Tim Morrison told you that Ambassador Sondland told him that the president told Ambassador Sondland that Zelensky would have to open an investigation into Biden?”
“That’s correct,” Taylor admitted.
“So do you have any other source that the president’s goal in making this request was anything other than The New York Times?” Zeldin asked.
“I have not talked to the president,” Taylor said. “I have no other information from what the president was thinking.”
Additionally, as The Federalist notes, under questioning from Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, Taylor also testified that the Ukrainian government wasn’t aware U.S. military funding had been temporarily suspended until late August, and then only after the information was leaked to the news media, meaning an alleged quid pro quo would have been impossible.
“So, if nobody in the Ukrainian government is aware of a military hold at the time of the Trump-Zelensky call, then, as a matter of law and as a matter of fact, there can be no quid pro quo, based on military aid,” Ratcliffe, a former federal prosecutor, said.
“I just want to be real clear that, again, as of July 25th, you have no knowledge of a quid pro quo involving military aid.”
“July 25th is a week after the hold was put on the security assistance,” Taylor testified. “And July 25th, they had a conversation between the two presidents, where it was not discussed.”
“And to your knowledge, nobody in the Ukrainian government was aware of the hold?” Ratcliffe asked.
“That is correct,” Taylor responded.
The Democrats may need a better witness.
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