U.S. response on Ukraine sidelined by 'Greenland question,' testimony reveals

Trump sparked a diplomatic row with Denmark in August after he proposed that the U.S. buy Greenland.

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By Yuliya Talmazan

As senior security officials tried to get a meeting with President Donald Trump to convince him to release the hold on military aid to Ukraine, the administration's attention was elsewhere, according to newly released evidence.

A 324-page transcript of closed-door testimony of Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, released Wednesday revealed that the meeting was difficult to arrange partly because the president's national security advisors and Cabinet officials were busy dealing with his desire to buy Greenland.

Taylor, in testifying last month before the three House committees leading the impeachment inquiry, said that it was his "clear understanding" that security assistance money for Ukraine would be withheld until the country’s president committed to investigating the son of Trump's political rival Joe Biden.

But buried among allegations of the White House's attempted quid pro quo with Ukraine was a reference to an earlier diplomatic row, involving the world’s biggest island.

In his testimony, Taylor was asked about his remark that the secretaries of defense and state, the CIA director and the national security adviser had sought a joint meeting with Trump to change his mind on withholding military aid from Ukraine, but that such a meeting was “hard to schedule.”

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He said one reason was the president’s interest in buying Greenland from Denmark.

“I think this was also about the time of the Greenland question, about purchasing Greenland, which took up a lot of energy" in the National Security Council, Taylor told the lawmakers.

“That’s disturbing for a whole different reason,” House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., responded to Taylor, according to the transcript.

Trump sparked a diplomatic row with Denmark in August after he expressed interest in buying Greenland.

The Danish government adamantly rejected the idea, saying the autonomous territory was not for sale. Greenlanders mocked Trump, and he ended up canceling a visit to Denmark.

Taylor has served as chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine since June. He served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009.

His testimony is part of a rolling release of documents in the impeachment inquiry against Trump, stemming from the president's dealings with Ukraine that included the decision to withhold $400 million in security and military aid as it was embroiled in a conflict with Kremlin-backed separatists.

Trump has repeatedly denied any allegations of a quid pro quo with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

On Tuesday, impeachment investigators released the transcript of the testimony of U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and of Kurt Volker, former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine.

The transcript of testimony from Marie Yovanovitch, the ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, was released on Monday.

Taylor is slated to be one of the witnesses testifying in the first open impeachment inquiry hearing next week.

Adam Edelman and Associated Press contributed.