Of the series of witnesses that have appeared in front of the House Intelligence Committee hearing that we are not allowed to know about — except for selective leaks by Chairman Adam Schiff that are damaging to President Trump — the testimony of Ambassador William B. Taylor, Jr., is purportedly the most damning and the sure fire thing that will cause Trump to be impeached. We don’t know exactly what he said, but John Cassidy of the New Yorker stated “He has removed the automatic presumption that Trump will survive an impeachment trial.” To the extent we can, let’s look at what Taylor said.
Taylor released a very detailed 15-page opening statement. The question from the Adam Schiff hand-picked lawyers could not have gotten much since they were never going to challenge Taylor. They only have asked “Was it really as bad as you say?” “Oh, it was really, really bad.” The Taylor statement is very detailed and provides a good roadmap for what he believed was very, very bad behavior.
Ambassador Taylor returned to the position after serving in Ukraine for three years under President George W. Bush. Taylor did lay out a long history of his commitment to the Ukrainians in the past ten years including his letter joined in with a couple other diplomats protesting Obama’s non-existent reaction to the Russian invasion on August 22, 2014. He does not detail in his letter the absence of military aid being provided to the beleaguered Ukrainians by the U.S. government for the remaining 2.5 years of the Obama Administration. Taylor skips over to his taking charge on June 17, 2019, and, in his mind, walking into a near living hell. He states at the end of page three he returned to Kiev to find “a weird combination of encouraging, conflicting, and ultimately alarming circumstances.”
That is because of two things. Taylor was very upset there was a second group of people working on Ukrainian policy. The second group of people were all very legitimate participants in our government with the only questionable person being President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Taylor says on page four he oversaw the regular, formal diplomatic channel and then there was irregular, informal channel. Just his description gives you clarity on why he was upset. He thought he would be in total charge and here come these interlopers to challenge his control. By the way, he then lists three very formal individuals: Special Envoy Kurt Volker, Ambassador Sondland and Energy Secretary Rick Perry who were running the “informal and irregular operation.”
Taylor never dips into why that second group was looking into Ukraine and how it operated. The country had been a disaster for an extended period with apparently a very corrupt operation which has never been of doubt by anyone in the American government. It had a new president that provided some hope that things would get better. But with a country that had corruption in its bones it would take more than changing a few people at the top to root that out. There were long standing assertions of that corruption bleeding over to our 2016 election with the limited research into it by the “formal channel” except for into the activities of Paul Manafort. It was quite apparent that President Trump did not trust the “formal channel” to gain cooperation from the Ukrainian government with a formal U.S. investigation into that corruption by Attorney General William Barr and special prosecutor John Durham as to how it impacted the 2016 election.
The other issue that Taylor was fixated on was a meeting between President Trump and President Zelenskyy. This was first broached in a congratulatory letter on May 29. For some reason Taylor took the invite really, really seriously. To be accurate, President Trump regularly meets with world leaders at the White House. It is also clear that our President is always extended invitations to world leaders to visit America and world leaders reciprocate in kind. Sometimes those things happen and sometimes they don’t. Taylor should know that and be aware a face-to-face meeting is not a blockade to moving forward with good relations. Taylor goes back to this issue multiple times.
On page six he makes this statement “By mid-July it was becoming clear to me that the meeting President Zelenskyy wanted was conditioned on the investigations Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.”
This was obviously a big point in his memo because there has been a clear argument that there is an investigation through the U.S. Attorney General’s office. Some are already calling that investigation into question because it has become a criminal investigation in the hands of U.S. Attorney John Durham. That entire issue can be debated politically and whether there is any meat on the bone of the Crowdstrike issue or other matters broached in the Trump phone call with Zelenskyy.
What really set the world aflame and may have startled the whistleblower (we may never know as that person has been sequestered by Adam Schiff) is the mention of the Bidens and Hunter Biden’s work with Burisma. Taylor now states that there would be no meeting between the leaders without the investigation. This part of the letter became the focus of the press and repeated continuously. For Example, John Cassidy in the New Yorker states “Trump and his sidekick Rudy Giuliani were demanding that the recently elected President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, launch a pair of investigations—one into Ukraine’s possible involvement in the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign, the other into Burisma.”
That is not what happened what was stated. Taylor does not identify the source of his information or when he found out that the presidential meeting was conditioned on Burisma. In fact, the statement by Taylor sticks out like a sore thumb for another reason. Up until this moment on the first five-plus pages, Taylor had been very specific with dates and names of people. Over and over again. He then lurches into this comment with no specific date and no identification of anyone mentioning that Burisma was involved. It just jumps off the page. Specific, Specific, Specific then nebulous. Why would that be? Was it just opinion? Who told him that? He had no reason to not be specific on this.
You may say maybe he declares it in his testimony to the committee. Why then would everything up until that point be specific and then this nebulous statement. Then he goes back to specifics for the next eight-plus pages. It would seem to me that any attorney other than Adam Schiff would zero in on this point and dismantle any tie to Burisma.
Taylor goes on detailing his position including saying that the two major issues, a meeting with Trump and release of the monies were contingent upon investigations.
The next mention of Burisma comes on page nine in which the representative from Ukraine, Yermak, asked Volker for an official U.S. request to investigate Burisma. He refers in the same paragraph to Ambassador Volker but does not say that Volker made the request nor ever intended to do such or even brought up the issue. He never has any confirmation that any American discussed Burisma with the Ukrainians at this time other than the statement near to the end of the phone call between Trump and Zelenskyy which Taylor states he was not made aware of until it became public over a month later.
It was not until after September 1st (45 days later) that Taylor identifies any actual conversation (with Ambassador Sondlund) that Trump wanted investigations into everything including Burisma. This was after as Taylor stated Vice-President Pence (Trump had cancelled to stay home on hurricane watch) met with Zelenskyy. Taylor conveys from that meeting “The Vice-President stated that Trump wanted the Europeans to do more to support Ukraine and he wanted Ukraine to do more to fight corruption.” This was a meeting at the highest level and Taylor validates what Trump has stated, after the whistleblower brought the entire matter public, that the U.S. was seeking these matters with no mention of Burisma.
Taylor goes on to speak of other concerns and other meetings. He then states on page 13 that on September 11th the funds were released. That is all he says about that and he goes on to detail other matters.
He does not write at all about what conditions were met before the release of the funds. Taylor seems to skip over that. He does not mention that to this day no one can state that investigations have begun on either Burisma, Crowdstrike or any other matter by Ukraine. We don’t know what the official AG’s investigation may have uncovered. We know Giuliani has stated he has obtained information. We don’t know if he turned that over to the AG. We do know this: the funds were delayed but released after a maximum 47-day hold from the date of the presidential phone call until the release. Zelenskyy had meetings with Pence and Trump. Everything seems to be full steam ahead and leaders of Ukraine have repeatedly stated there was no coercion. This was with a country that had a major change of government where there had been a long history of corruption.
That has not stopped the enlightened class from making mistaken statements. On the PBS Newshour, David Brooks a columnist for the NYT stated “I think we have learned this was a three-month coordinated campaign, with a whole series of meetings, a lot of people involved, to try to get Ukraine to help Trump’s reelection bid.” Mr. Brooks needs to actually read the Taylor statement. If there was such Taylor certainly was not aware of anything because he was told ten days before the funds were released. They will not stop them from prattling on with misinformation.
There is one other matter. There has been a lot of people wringing their hands including some conservatives about the fact that Trump even broached an investigation into the Bidens. There is no question the behavior of the Bidens stinks to high hell but we don’t know there was anything illegal, just unethical. Obama never looked at it. Trump could not do anything for over two years because an investigation was begun on him that turned up nothing. Trump is cleared and then he brings up the smelly dealings of Biden and Biden is exonerated simply because he is running for office. There is a word for that and it begins with horse.
Read in detail for yourself the 15-page letter or take my word for it. There is not much here. That is before Taylor is cross-examined and others have a chance to tell their story like Sondland to refute Taylor. If this is what Schiff and his gang our hanging their hats on, then their hats will end up on that horse.