WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine and a senior State Department official testify Wednesday at the first public hearing in the House of Representatives’ impeachment probe into President Donald Trump.
Both William Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, and George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state overseeing European and Eurasian affairs, testified in earlier closed-door hearings into allegations that Trump abused his power by improperly pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rivals. Here are highlights of their previous testimony:
Taylor described learning that Trump’s officials or agents conditioned nearly $400 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine and a White House meeting on Ukraine conducting political investigations.
“By mid-July it was becoming clear to me that the meeting (Ukraine) President (Volodymyr) Zelenskiy wanted was conditioned on the investigations of Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections,” Taylor testified on Oct. 22.
Burisma is a Ukrainian company where Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son Hunter served on the board. Trump sought to pursue the debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the 2016 U.S. elections.
“I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” Taylor recalled telling U.S. officials.
Taylor stopped short of directly implicating the president, saying he believed the push for political investigations was coming from Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, but had not spoken to Giuliani or Trump about it.
“I think it was coming from Giuliani,” he said, referring to Trump’s lawyer. “I don’t know what was in the president’s mind.” Trump has said he did nothing wrong.
Kent testified on Oct. 15 that he had been alarmed by efforts by Giuliani and others to pressure Ukraine into investigating the Bidens and the 2016 election.
“POTUS wanted nothing less than President Zelenskiy to go to (a) microphone and say ‘investigations,’ ‘Biden,’ and ‘Clinton,’” Kent said he had heard from other officials, using an acronym for President of the United States.
Kent said Giuliani ran a successful campaign to push U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch out of her post.
“Giuliani…had been carrying on a campaign for several months full of lies and incorrect information about Ambassador Yovanovitch, so this was a continuation of his campaign of lies.”
“After Giuliani attacked me … in his late May interview, I was told to keep my head down and lower my profile in Ukraine.”
Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Scott Malone