A top US diplomat says President Trump made the release of military aid to Ukraine conditional on a pledge that a political rival would be investigated. Ambassador Bill Taylor testified before an impeachment inquiry that he was told Mr Trump wanted Ukraine to probe ex-Vice-President Joe Biden's dealings.
The acting US ambassador to Kyiv has provided congressional committees conducting impeachment hearings a detailed account of how Donald Trump repeatedly sought to make a summit meeting and military aid to Ukraine conditional on its government launching investigations into the president’s political opponents.
Bill Taylor’s testimony was the latest in a series of depositions by serving and former administration officials, as part of the impeachment inquiry, about Trump’s use of the presidency to put pressure on the Ukrainian government to procure compromising information on his political rivals. And it was the most detailed and damning to date.
Taylor, who took over as acting ambassador in June, presented his testimony behind closed doors on Capitol Hill but copies of his opening statement soon leaked.
The veteran diplomat said that soon after arriving in Kyiv, he became concerned “our relationship with Ukraine was being fundamentally undermined by an irregular informal channel of US policymaking, and by the withholding of vital security assistance for domestic political reasons”.
Taylor said this irregular channel was run by Trump through several emissaries: the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, the departing energy secretary, Rick Perry, the ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, and the special Ukraine envoy, Kurt Volker.
They became focused solely on persuading the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to announce investigations that would damage Democrats and especially Joe Biden, the former vice-president and leading contender to the be the 2020 Democratic nominee.