Read Bill Taylor's full opening statement
Top diplomat Bill Taylor says Ukraine aid was linked to Trump demands of Biden, 2016 probes
WASHINGTON — The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, told members of Congress Tuesday that President Donald Trump directed officials to tie foreign aid to Ukraine to demands that the country open an investigation into the Biden family as well as the 2016 election.
According to a copy of his opening statement provided to NBC News, Taylor said that E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland told him that while Trump was not requesting a "quid pro quo," he insisted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy publicly announce investigations into the Bidens and matters relating to the 2016 presidential election.
Taylor said that Sondland told him, "President Trump was adamant that President Zelenskiy, himself, had to "clear things up and do it in public." President Trump said it was not a "quid pro quo." Ambassador Sondland said that he had talked to President Zelenskiy and [Zelenskiy adviser Andriy] Yermak and told them that, although this was not a quid pro quo, if President Zelenskiy did not clear things up public, we would be at a stalemate."
"I understood a stalemate mean that Ukraine would not receive the much-needed military assistance," Taylor added.
Read more of Taylor's testimony here.
Sondland willing to testify again if asked
As of Tuesday afternoon, E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland has not been asked to come and testify again before the House, according to a person with knowledge of Sondland’s plans. But if they do ask, he is willing to do so, that person said.
Ukraine envoy Bill Taylor's testimony on Tuesday raised questions about Sondland's past statements.
McConnell weighs in on Trump's 'lynching' tweet, Ukraine call claim
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., weighed in on the backlash over the president's Tuesday morning tweet comparing the impeachment inquiry to a "lynching."
"Given the history in our country, I would not compare this to a lynching." McConnell said when asked about the president's remark. "That was an unfortunate choice of words." He added, "It is an unfair process, and a better way to characterize it would to be to call it an unfair process, and inconsistent with the kinds of procedural safeguards that are routinely provided for people in this kind of situation, either in court or in an impeachment process in our country."
McConnell also denied Trump's claim that the majority leader had said his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was "innocent."
"I haven't — we've not had any conversations on that subject," McConnell said when asked about Trump's claim. Pressed on whether the president had been untruthful, the senator responded, "You'll have to ask him. I don't recall any conversations with the president about that phone call."
When asked earlier this month about what McConnell was telling him about the GOP's take on impeachment, Trump claimed that the senator had said, "That was the most innocent phone call that I've read."
Top diplomat Bill Taylor gave 'disturbing,' 'explosive' testimony on Trump's Ukraine dealings, Democrats say
WASHINGTON — The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, offered a "disturbing" portrayal of President Donald Trump's Ukraine dealings during his closed door testimony to impeachment investigators on Tuesday, according to House Democrats.
Democrats described Taylor’s testimony as crucial, saying that he not only filled in many of the holes created by previous testimonies and depositions but is also drawing a "direct line" between the president's demand for an investigation by the Ukrainians into his political rivals and U.S. military aid.
"Without question the most powerful testimony," Rep. Steven Lynch, D-Mass., said, because Taylor has "first-hand knowledge” of all the conversations that were had.
Taylor’s opening statement is described by members as long, as many as 15 pages, according to Rep. Harley Rouda, D-Calif. Two Democrats also said that Taylor took "meticulous" personal notes but those have not yet been handed over to the committee.
Read more about Taylor's testimony and Democrats' reaction here.
Senate Democrats seek details on Trump's business in Turkey
Senate Democrats are asking the Trump Organization for details on how much it collects in business dealings from Turkey.
In a letter sent to President Donald Trump's company on Tuesday, four senators — Tom Udall of New Mexico, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — said they need information regarding the company's licensing agreement for Trump Towers-Istanbul to understand whether the president's foreign policy decisions "are being influenced by potential conflicts of interest."
Trump's moves to withdraw U.S. troops out of northern Syria at Turkey's request and to delay action in a money laundering case involving a Turkish bank are among the decisions the four Democratic lawmakers cite.
The letter notes that Trump himself acknowledged he could have "a little conflict of interest" when it comes to Turkey in a 2015 interview, and that the Trump Organization has pulled in between $1.2 million in royalties from the Trump Towers project since Trump took office.
The letter seeks answers about how much the company has made from its licensing agreement for Trump Towers Istanbul-Sisli, whether the Turkish government has the power to revoke the license, and whether there have been any communications between the Trump Organization and the Turkish government about U.S.-Turkey government relations.
The letter asks for a response by Nov. 12. It comes one day after NBC News reported that House Democrats are zeroing in on the framework of an "abuse of power" narrative for their impeachment case against the president.
A representative for the Trump Organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Wasserman Schultz: Taylor drew 'very direct line' between Ukraine funds and Trump favors
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fl., shared her impressions so far from the ongoing deposition with Bill Taylor. She said she "has not seen a more credible witness." Schultz directly added, "I do not know how you would listen to today's testimony by the ambassador, Ambassador Taylor, and draw any other conclusion, except that the President abused his power and withheld foreign aid and, a meeting with a vital diplomatic partner, that is directly related to keeping Russia's incursion at bay in exchange an in an attempt to exchange and extract political assistance for his reelection campaign. It's a direct line."
The congresswoman said, "He drew a very direct line in a series of events he described as being President Trump's decision to withhold funds, and refuse a meeting with Zelenskiy unless there was a unless there was a public pronouncement by him of investigations of Burisma and the so-called 2016 election."
In terms of how this fits with the inquiry and what else they have heard she said, "it's like if you had 1000 piece puzzle, on a table. And these, you know subsequent depositions have really started to fill in pieces where at the beginning you know it’s not clear how everything is connected and this this filled in a lot of pieces of the puzzle and added others who I think would be worthy of questioning, some of them we were already probably planning to question and bring in for questioning anyway."
The congresswoman added, "This drew a straight line. I mean, it was straight line with documented timelines, individuals conversations."
She also said she has had several disturbing days in congress but this was "one of the most" disturbing days she’s had in Congress.
Democratic Rep. departs Taylor deposition saying it is his most disturbing day in Congress
Freshman Democratic Rep. Andy Levin told reporters as he was departing the closed door deposition with Ambassador Bill Taylor that today is his "most disturbing day in Congress" but wouldn’t elaborate further as to why he felt that way.
He said, "All I have to say is that in my 10 short months in Congress — it’s not even noon, right? — and this is the, my most disturbing day in the Congress so far. Very troubling."
Michael Steele, first black RNC chair, responds to Trump's 'lynching' remark
Lawmakers outraged over Trump's 'lynching' remark
Lawmakers reacted with outrage Tuesday after Trump compared the impeachment inquiry to "a lynching," calling the remark offensive and saying the president should retract it.
"You think this impeachment is a LYNCHING?" Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., tweeted. "What the hell is wrong with you? Do you know how many people who look like me have been lynched, since the inception of this country, by people who look like you. Delete this tweet."
"Using this term draws up some of America’s darkest history — Trump is yet again a disgrace and massively offensive," Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., tweeted. "Nobody is above the law, including him. He has abused his power — and he’s been caught. Do not get caught up in his latest distraction tactic."
Asked about the president's tweet, Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., told reporters, "I resent it tremendously. I think that what we see here, once again, is this president attempting to change the narrative using what I consider to be real, caustic terms, in order to change the conversation. To compare the constitutional process to something like lynching is far beneath the office of the president of the United States."
Read the full story here.