A major US envoy to Ukraine, William B. Taylor Jr., testified that Trump and his team indeed did try to condition aid to Ukraine in return for Ukraine investigating former Vice President Joe Biden. notes written by Taylor himself.
The testimony referred to government sources and notes he had written during his conversations with various figures. The notes are held by the State Department, who refuse to give them up to Congress, even though a subpoena has been issued against them. Taylor said that Gordon D. Sondland, both the US ambassador to the EU and a campaign donor to Trump, implied quid pro quo behavior from Trump during a conversation with Taylor.
In his opening statement, Taylor mentions that an “irregular, informal channel of U.S. policy-making with respect to Ukraine” was formed alongside a formal channel. This channel included, “then-Special Envoy Kurt Volker, Ambassador Sondland, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, and as I subsequently learned, Mr. Giuliani.” It also included Taylor himself “to the extent that Ambassadors Volker and Sondland included [him]… in certain conversations.”
Taylor said he noticed unusual behavior transpiring and that the goals of the formal and informal channels seemed to diverge. Examples of unusual behavior include Ambassador Sondland telling Taylor not to include regular participants in a call with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy. Sondland also did not want anybody “transcribing or monitoring” during the call.
The odd behavior culminated in a hold being placed on security assistance to Ukraine. When asking the National Security Council’s Director of European Affairs about the hold, the director said that the President did not want to provide assistance. The Director also told Taylor about a conversation between Ambassador Sondland and Andriy Yermak, President Zelenskyy’s assisant, in which, “Ambassador Sondland told Mr. Yermak that the security assistance money would not come until President Zelensky committed to pursue the Burisma investigation.” Taylor followed this issue up with Sondland who told Taylor that “President Trump had told him [Sondland] that he wants President Zelenskyy to state publicly that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.”
Taylor told Sondland to tell Trump not to condition the aid to Ukraine on a promise to investigate Trump’s opponents, but Sondland said his efforts to convince Trump had failed. “President Trump said it was not a ‘quid pro quo.’ Ambassador Sondland said that he had talked to President Zelenskyy and Mr. Yermak and told them that, although this was not a quid pro quo, if President Zelenskyy did not ‘clear things up’ in public, we would be at a ‘stalemate.’ [Taylor] understood a ‘stalemate’ to mean that Ukraine would not receive the much-needed military assistance. Ambassador Sondland said that this conversation concluded with President Zelenskyy agreeing to make a public statement in an interview with CNN.”
Taylor states, “Before these text messages, during our call on September 8, Ambassador Sondland tried to explain to me that President Trump is a businessman. When a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, he said, the businessman asks that person to pay up before signing the check. Ambassador Volker used the same terms several days later while we were together at the Yalta European Strategy Conference. I argued to both that the explanation made no sense: the Ukrainians did not ‘owe’ President Trump anything, and holding up security assistance for domestic political gain was ‘crazy,’ as I had said in my text message to Ambassadors Sondland and Volker on September 9.”