As Democrats emerge from this morning’s impeachment inquiry featuring acting ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor, they are describing testimony that is both shocking and a confirmation of the worst fears expressed in the whistleblower’s complaint about Trump’s now-infamous call to Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
In a 15-page opening statement, Taylor provided some of the most incriminating evidence yet against the president and reportedly inspired “sighs and gasps” in the hearing chamber as he described “how pervasive the efforts were to tie an investigation of Burisma and 2016 election ‘interference’ to a White House meeting and aid being released.”
Burisma is the Ukrainian energy company that employed Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, and the target of Trump’s attempts to illegally gather opposition research through a quid pro quo exchange with the Ukraine government.
Legislators gave their unvarnished reactions to Taylor’s testimony to reporters as they spoke during breaks in the proceedings.
“Today’s testimony was explosive,” Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) described the hearing.
Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) was unequivocal in her assessment of the acting ambassador’s statement.
“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,” she said.
Congressman Andy Levin (D-MI) called today’s closed-door hearing “my most disturbing day in Congress so far, very troubling.”
Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) characterized Taylor’s testimony as “incredibly damaging to the president.”
GOP first tried a hearsay defense. Then a process defense. Then they attacked Schiff.
Based on the reporting below on the statement of Bill Taylor, my prediction is that some Republicans will now say quid pro quo is okay. And then they will lose their last shreds of integrity. https://t.co/kzzsNUrPp5
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) October 22, 2019
Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) told CNN that “The arrows continue to point in one direction,” in confirming the allegations included in the complaint from the intelligence community whistleblower about Trump’s call to President Volodymyr Zelensky and its aftermath.
“The body language of the people hearing it was ‘holy s—,’ seriously,” said Congressman Harley Rouda (D-CA).
Congressman Steven Lynch (D-MA) said that Taylor’s testimony was “without question” the most powerful heard to date because the acting ambassador has “first-hand knowledge” of all the relevant conversations surrounding the administration’s efforts. He added that the revelations were a “sea change” that “could accelerate” the House’s impeachment investigation.
Representative Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) said that Taylor’s account of the administration’s actions was “the most thorough accounting we’ve had of the timeline” to date.
“I’ll tell you, as a former State Department political appointee, in my experience the difference between career folks and political appointees is the career folks take very good notes,” Malinowski said, raising the expectations that Taylor provided corroboration to back up his memories of the events in question.
Among the topics that Taylor discussed in his testimony are the text messages that he exchanged with other senior diplomats in the Trump administration that worried about Ukraine being “used as an instrument” to gain political advantage in the 2020 elections and questions about his text that read: “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”
Ambassador Taylor appeared to verify the accounts of the existence of a quid pro quo between the release of American military aid to Ukraine and that country’s launch of an investigation into the Bidens, in a statement that attendees considered “damning” to the president.
“During that phone call, Amb. Sondland told me that President Trump had told him that he wants President [Volodymyr] Zelensky to state publicly that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election,” Taylor said in his opening statement.
The ambassador apparently gave the attendees of the hearing new information about that phone call with U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland in his testimony as Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) said after hearing it: “After today, Mr. Sondland is going to have some explaining to do.”
Mr. Sondland won’t be the only one with some explaining to do after today’s confirmation of the administration’s criminal behavior.
We can expect even more panicky denials and clumsy attempts to discredit his accusers from a surely rattled Donald Trump after today’s developments.
You can read the transcript of acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor’s testimony before congress here: Taylor Congressional Testimony
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Original reporting by and at The Washington Post, by Mark Sumner at Daily Kos, by Andrew Desiderio and Kyle Cheney at Politico, and by Rebecca Shabad, Leigh Ann Caldwell, Alex Moe, and Haley Talbot at NBC News.
Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.