Washington (AP) - US President Donald Trump is under increasing pressure in the Ukraine affair: According to the executive US ambassador to Kiev, William Taylor, Trump has withheld US military aid for Ukraine and ultimately his political rival Joe Biden harm.
This is clear from Taylor's inaugural statement at a US Senate confidential hearing held Tuesday by the New York Times and the Washington Post. The Democrats are likely to provide the statements of the top diplomats new ammunition for their intended impeachment Trump.
Trump has demanded that Taylor's new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj publicly order investigations against Biden's son Hunter. Hunter Biden was a board member of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma last April, and Trump accuses him and his father of corruption. Joe Biden is among the most promising candidates for the presidential candidacy of the Democrats in the November 2020 election - in which Trump will stand for re-election for the Republicans.
Trump has insisted for weeks that there was no "quid pro quo" - that is, no requirement for Selenskyj to initiate investigations into Hunter Biden in exchange for US military aid. According to Taylor, Trump wanted Selensky to publicly announce such investigations. "Everything" is dependent on a public announcement, the US Ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, told him in consultation with Trump in early September: not only a visit to the White House by Selensky, but also the release of US military aid for the Ukraine.
Taylor was ambassador to Kiev from 2006-2009. In May, he was asked by Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo if he wanted to return to the post. Earlier, Ambassador Masha Yovanovitch had been recalled, and she recently made serious allegations against the Trump administration at a recent hearing. Taylor made it clear on Tuesday that he had not made the decision to return easy. The decisive factor was Pompeo's promise that strong US support for Ukraine would continue.
In his 15-page statement, Taylor wrote that after his return to Kiev, he found a "confusing and uncommon" construct in which US policy on Ukraine ran in two parallel channels: a regular and a "highly irregular" one. Part of the latter were, inter alia, Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and the US ambassador to the EU, Sondland.
Sondland had donated one million dollars to the Trump team and then became ambassador. Taylor, on the other hand, is a highly respected career diplomat and Vietnam veteran. In his statement in the House of Representatives he made it clear on Tuesday that he was concerned for the good of the United States and Ukraine - and that party-political intrigues in diplomacy had no place in his conviction.
In previous hearings on the Ukraine affair, text messages had become public among others between Taylor and Sondland. In one of them, Taylor wrote on September 8 that it was "crazy" to withhold military aid for election purposes, which would benefit Russia and endanger the lives of Ukrainians. On Tuesday Taylor emphasized that he stood by this assessment.
Taylor also described how Sondland purportedly tried to explain Trump's behavior - after all, the president was a businessman. And before a businessman issues a check to someone who owes him anything, he demands a return from him. He - Taylor - had pointed out that the explanation made no sense, because the Ukrainians Trump owed nothing.
Taylor said he learned on July 18 that nearly $ 400 million in military aid would be withheld from Trump's orders - he did not know the reason. On 8 September, Sondland told him that Selenskyj had agreed to make a public announcement in an interview with US broadcaster CNN. On September 11, he - Taylor - then learned that the military aid had been released. He strongly advised Selenskyj to abstain from the planned CNN interview afterwards.
Trump's spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham insisted in a statement on Tuesday night (local time) that Trump had not done anything wrong. It was a "coordinated hate campaign" by left-wing MPs and radical bureaucrats, she criticized. Even before Taylor's testimony Trump had tried his own defense - and promptly triggered new outrage. He called the targeted impeachment trial a "lynching" - using a term historically associated with the racially motivated killings of thousands of blacks in the US.
Tweet by Trump
Civil rights activist NAACP on the subject of lynchings, English
Museum in the US state of Alabama on the subject of lynchings, English
Report on the reaction of Republican Senator Thune, English
Taylor's inaugural statement to The New York Times