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Democrats Say Ambassador William Taylor's Testimony On Ukraine Is 'Disturbing'

Ambassador William Taylor is escorted by U.S. Capitol Police as he arrives to testify before House committees as part of the Democrats' impeachment investigation of President Trump at the Capitol on Tuesday.
J. Scott Applewhite AP
Ambassador William Taylor is escorted by U.S. Capitol Police as he arrives to testify before House committees as part of the Democrats' impeachment investigation of President Trump at the Capitol on Tuesday.

Longtime U.S. diplomat William Taylor is testifying on Capitol Hill Tuesday as part of the House impeachment inquiry, and Democrats say his insight is bolstering their case against President Trump.

Freshman Rep. Andy Levin, D-Mich., said Taylor's private testimony before the intelligence, foreign affairs and oversight committees made today his "most disturbing" day serving in Congress so far.

"All I have to say is, in my 10 short months in Congress, it's not even noon and this is my most disturbing day in Congress so far," Levin said. "Very troubling."

While the specifics of Taylor's testimony are not yet public, it's clear Democrats believe that his account squares with allegations that there was some type of quid pro quo that Trump wanted from Ukraine in order to give the country promised foreign aid, including cooperating with investigations into the 2016 campaign and help digging up dirt on Joe Biden, the former vice president who is running for the 2020 Democratic nomination.

"I want to be careful about characterizing testimony," said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. "I will say this — nothing I've heard contradicts the underlying narrative. Quite the contrary, it further corroborates that narrative in virtually all respects."

Taylor became acting ambassador to Ukraine after Marie Yovanovitch was abruptly withdrawn, having faced a smear campaign from the White House.

In text messages released by House committees, Taylor wrote to European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland: "I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign."

According to intelligence committee member Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., Taylor's testimony did not undercut the concerns raised in the text message exchange with Sondland.

"I think it's fair to say that I left with the impression that nothing said was inconsistent with his text messages," Krishnamoorthi said.

He also added that Taylor's comments contradicted accounts offered by Sondland, who testified as part of the inquiry last week. Sondland told the committee that Trump told him to talk to Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, about Trump's concerns regarding Ukraine, bypassing typical foreign policy channels. He also said he didn't know about Trump's request to Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

"I walk away with the impression that Mr. Sondland's going to have some explaining to do," Krishnamoorthi said.

The Illinois Democrat also said he wouldn't be surprised if House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., calls Sonldand for public testimony. Schiff declined to comment to reporters about Taylor's testimony as he exited the hearing.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., dismissed Taylor's testimony, saying there was "nothing new here."

"I think for all of us, we're trying to see if any witness has a connection between foreign aid and pausing the foreign aid as it relates to the quid pro quo. We haven't had any witness suggest that," the staunch Trump ally said.

Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif., called Taylor's testimony "candid" and pointed to his "long and distinguished career serving this country." Taylor is an Army veteran and a longtime foreign service officer who has worked in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Ukraine.

In co-written op-eds, he called for the U.S. to start providing defensive weapons to the Ukrainians, which the Trump administration did, and made other proposals that apparently did not go down well in the Russian media.

Taylor has been praised by friends and colleagues for the role he seems to have played this year when Trump temporarily delayed military aid while Giuliani pressed Ukraine to open investigations into Trump's political rivals.

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