The House Intelligence Committee held its first public impeachment hearing with Ambassador Bill Taylor as the first witness.
Taylor is the acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, provided testimony last month to the House Intelligence Committee. His written statement was released as well.
I don’t find his testimony alone particularly compelling other than it put the spotlight on Ambassador Gordon Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, because his testimony coupled with the testimony of Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman, National Security Council Director of European Affairs, contradicted what Sondland originally told the committee.
Interesting, worth exploring, but I wouldn’t consider it a silver bullet by any stretch of the imagination.
Outside of the written statement we don’t know what was said to the committee in his first hearing behind closed doors.
Today, the public did get to hear from Ambassador Taylor where he reiterated on two occasions that his understanding came only through people he spoke with.
Republicans given the opportunity to cross-examine pushed back. U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, pointed out that what Taylor said in an earlier statement was his “clear statement” did not come to pass.
“Were you wrong when you said that you had a ‘clear understanding’ that President Zelensky had to commit to an investigation of the Bidens before the aid got released and the aid got released and he didn’t commit to an investigation?” Jordan asked.
“I was not wrong about what I told which is what I heard that’s all I’ve said, I told you what I heard,” Taylor answered.
“And that’s the point,” Jordan responded. “What you heard did not happen. It didn’t happen. You had three meetings with the guy (Zelensky) he could have told you. He didn’t announce he was going to do an investigation before the aid happened. It’s not just could it have been wrong, the fact is it was wrong because it didn’t happen. The whole point was that you had a clear understanding that aid will not get released unless there was a commitment. Not maybe, not I think the aid might happen, it’s my hunch it’s going to be released. You used clear language, clear understanding and commitment and those two things didn’t happen.”
He was also questioned by U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, who pointed out that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s insistence to the world media that he was not feel pressured to investigate the Bidens.
Taylor said he had no reason to doubt Zelensky when he said that. Watch:
Ultimately this boils down to Sondland again. Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent who testified later about how they were disturbed by the “irregular” policy channel used with Ukraine.
I don’t like it either. I don’t think the President’s personal attorney should be involved in foreign policy. I think it’s wise to loop in the U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine.
All of that is irrelevant to the question at hand: Was there quid pro quo? Did President Trump want a Ukrainian investigation into the Bidens in exchange for releasing military aid?
Democrats have a long way to go to demonstrate that. They may get there, but today was a weak start. The Republicans playing the role of defense attorneys cross-examining Ambassador Bill Taylor during the impeachment hearing effectively raised doubts.