WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. diplomat Bill Taylor admitted in the impeachment inquiry Wednesday that “he has no reason to doubt” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s repeated denials that there was pressure, conditions, or blackmail to investigate his political rivals proposed by President Donald Trump during the July 25 that triggered the probe.
The admission by U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Taylor contradicts allegations that he himself promoted, suggesting that Trump pressured Zelensky to investigate White House hopeful Joe Biden and his son’s relation to corruption-linked Ukrainian company Burisma.
Some Democrats, however, are beginning to argue that Trump’s so-called quid pro quo campaign evolved beyond the July 25 call, a convenient assertion by the president’s detractors to make sure that something sticks hard enough to embolden efforts to remove him from office.
Taylor and top State Department official George Kent testified in the first public impeachment probe hearing this week.
Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) acknowledged that the House Democrats’ relentless impeachment probe — mainly based on the July 25 call for now — deems Zelensky a liar by default because the Ukrainian president has repeatedly denied that Trump did anything wrong or illegal.
Ratcliffe noted during the hearing:
The Ukrainian president stood in front of the world press and repeatedly consistently, over and over again interview after interview said he had no knowledge of military aid being withheld, meaning no quid pro quo, no pressure, no demands, no threats, no blackmail, nothing corrupt.
The Texas Republican proceeded to ask witness Taylor, “Do you have any evidence to assert that President Zelensky was lying to the world press when he said those things?”
“I have no reason to doubt what the president said,” the Democrat’s so-called star witness Taylor responded.
Taylor then proved unable to respond to Ratcliffe’s question about whether contents of the Trump-Zelensky conversations during the July 25 call amounts to an “impeachable offense.”
Neither Taylor nor Kent responded when asked, “Are either of you here today to assert there was an impeachable offense in that call?”
A July 25 call described in a complaint by an allegedly partisan intelligence community “whistleblower” accused Trump of engaging in a quid pro quo in which he coerced Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in exchange for aid. The complaint triggered the impeachment probe.
Zelensky, Trump, and some impeachment probe witnesses have denied the allegations. Other impeachment witnesses, based on rumor, have presumed that a quid pro quo took place, although the U.S. ultimately released the aid to Ukraine without the country having to do anything in return. Under the Foreign Assistance Act that governs American assistance to allies, the U.S. president has the authority to condition security assistance.
House Democrats are trying to show that Trump abused his power via engaging in a quid pro quo during a July 25 call in which he attempted to pressure Zelensky to investigate the Bidens in exchange for aid.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) detailed Zelensky’s denial that nothing wrong took place during the call:
On October 10, President Zelensky held a press marathon with over 300 reporters where he said repeatedly and consistently, over hours and hours that he was not aware of a military hold during the July 25 call. In fact, in his official press release from the Ukrainian government available on his website that I will be introducing into the record, he said, our phone conversation bears no relations to arms. They blocked the provision of military assistance prior to our telephone conversation, but the issue had not been discussed during our conversation. I mean, I didn’t even know.
So now, in addition to confirming that because he had no knowledge of it, there was no quid pro quo involving military aid during that call, President Zelensky went on to confirm a number of things, that there was no pressure, that there were no conditions, that there were no threats on military aid. There were no conditions or pressure to investigate Burisma or the 2016 election, that there was no blackmail, that there was no corruption of any kind during the July 25 call. Again, from his official press release.
Therefore, there was no blackmail because it was not the subject of our conversation with the president of the United States. There were no conditions on the investigation either because of arms or the situation around Burisma company. He told Reuters there was no blackmail. He told the LA Times there was no pressure or blackmail from the United States. He told Japan’s Kyoto (SP) news I was never pressured and there were no conditions being imposed. He told ABC News and the BBC I’m against corruption. This is not corruption. It was just a call.
Taylor and Kent could not answer Rep. John Ratcliffe’s (R-TX) question as to whether the July 25 call constituted an impeachable offense.
House Democrats are essentially deeming Zelensky “a liar” by continuing to pursue the impeachment probe after the Ukrainian president repeatedly said there was nothing wrong during the July 25 call – that he felt no pressure to do anything.
The U.S. released aid to Ukraine without the Eastern European country meeting any of the conditions as part of the “quid pro quo” at the heart of the impeachment probe.
Based on testimony from top State officials George Kent and Catherine Croft, there were merits to Trump’s concerns that Hunter Biden’s employer Burisma was corrupt.
The Obama Administration ignored them, as they have ignored Zelensky’s repeated assertions that Trump did nothing wrong during their July 25 call.