WASHINGTON (CN) - The House committees conducting the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Wednesday released the full transcript of testimony a top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine gave in which he said he understood a $400 million military aid package hinged on Ukraine announcing an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, his son and the 2016 presidential election.
The senior Ukraine ambassador, William Taylor, provided some of the most critical testimony to date in the inquiry led by the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees when he went in for a closed-door hearing on Oct. 22.
At the time, Taylor’s opening remarks and the reports of his testimony trickling out of the closed hearing painted a picture of a pressure campaign on Ukraine facilitated by the involvement of the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.
According to the transcript of Taylor’s testimony released Wednesday, he repeatedly expressed concerns that Giuliani played an outsized role in U.S.-Ukraine foreign policy and was actively gunning for the Ukrainian government to investigate Biden, Trump’s potential opponent in the 2020 election, as well as Biden’s son Hunter and Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian energy firm where the younger Biden sat on the board.
During his deposition, Taylor told House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff about a conversation he had with Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, in which Sondland lamented “a mistake” he made when telling Ukrainian officials that a White House meeting for Ukraine President Volodomyr Zelensky was dependent upon a public announcement of investigations into the Bidens and Burisma.
“In fact, Ambassador Sondland said, ‘everything’ was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance,” Taylor testified.
The transcript shows Schiff seized on the statement and asked Taylor to clarify.
“Meaning that he had understated the matter before? Am I right?” Schiff asked, referring to Sondland’s comments.
Indeed, Sondland realized it was a mistake to condition it only on the meeting, Taylor told the committee.
Schiff continued, “The military assistance was also going to be conditioned on the commitment by Ukraine to do these two political investigations?”
“Yes,” Taylor replied.
The willingness to put Ukraine’s military assistance on the line in exchange for political favors so unsettled Taylor that he told investigators he was prepared to quit his post in September if it seemed that Ukraine would not have its funding by October.
Taylor made his feelings clear to officials: he refused to defend actions and policy towards Ukraine pushed by Giuliani.
“I would say bad things about it. And you wouldn’t want me out there doing that. So I’m going to come home on that,” Taylor told lawmakers after recalling a text message he sent to Sondland where he threatened to quit if a “nightmare” scenario for Ukraine came to pass.
That scenario was the Ukrainians acquiescing to the Trump administration’s request that Zelensky announce the launch of investigations into the Bidens and Burisma, and Zelensky subsequently getting himself “in big trouble” both in the United States and in his home country with the military aid ultimately being withheld altogether.
The move also would have weakened Ukraine’s posture in the eyes of its neighbor and frequent aggressor Russia, Taylor said.