One of the first witnesses called to testify publicly in the House Democrats' impeachment inquiry is a career diplomat who expressed alarm in text messages over U.S. ambassadors pushing Ukraine to commit to investigating President Donald Trump's political opponents as a condition for a White House visit.
Bill Taylor, a former ambassador to Ukraine, told Congress he was asked to return to lead the embassy in Kyiv in May by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. It's a post his wife "strongly" opposed him taking, he previously told Congress.
His own initial reservations, he testified, included the poor treatment of ousted U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch after she was "caught up in a web of political machinations both in Kyiv and in Washington" and what he had heard about the role of President Donald Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
"Ambassador Taylor makes clear why this military aid and continued bipartisan support for Ukraine are so critically important — and why these efforts to undermine U.S. foreign policy for domestic political reasons were so damaging," the Democratic committee chairs overseeing the inquiry said in a statement when his deposition testimony was released.
Here's what you need to know about the 72-year-old Taylor:
- He's a West Point graduate who spent six years as an Army infantry officer, including in Vietnam.
- Worked on Senate staff, NATO and the departments of Energy and State.
- Served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in the George W. Bush administration from 2006-2009. He left the State Department in 2013.
- Taylor and two other former ambassadors to Ukraine wrote an article in 2014 criticizing the Obama administration for not doing more to support the country after Russia annexed Crimea.
- In text messages former U.S. special representative for Ukraine negotiations Kurt Volker provided to Congress, Taylor is the diplomat included in the exchanges who voiced concern that the Trump administration was conditioning a coveted White House visit and military aid to Ukraine announcing investigations. In a text to Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, Taylor wrote, “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”
What did Taylor say in closed-door testimony Oct. 22?
- He told Congress that he learned from a White House Office of Management and Budget official during a July 18 inter-agency meeting that Trump had ordered a hold on Congress-approved military aid to Ukraine.
- Taylor came to believe there was a quid pro quo involved. "That was my clear understanding, security assistance money would not come until the president [of Ukraine] committed to pursue the investigation," Taylor testified.
- While Sondland told him that Trump assured him there was no "quid pro quo," Taylor testified that Sondland informed him that the almost $400 million in aid would not be released until Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy announced investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, and Ukraine's role in the 2016 election.
- Taylor said he told another diplomat that the "nightmare" scenario for him would be if Ukraine committed to the investigations and Trump didn't free the cash. "The Russians love it. And I quit," he said, according to the transcript of his deposition.