The first public impeachment hearing of President Trump begins Wednesday at 10 a.m., and as with Robert Mueller’s testimony earlier this year, it will require observers to remember an intimidating number of names and backchannel exchanges. To help keep track of who thinks it’s okay for Trump to demand personal favors from foreign leaders and who’s already copped to the quid pro quo in Ukraine, Intelligencer is providing a daily rundown of the hearings’ most important characters. Though day one starts slowly with just two witnesses, the House committees leading the impeachment inquiry announced that eight more administration staffers will appear next week — testing Trump’s claim that Democrats are relying on “second and thirdhand” information as they attempt to prove that he has abused his executive power.
A career diplomat and the acting ambassador to Ukraine, Taylor expressed his concerns over the president’s quid pro quo in September, saying, “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign” in text messages to U.S. ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland.
Who Is He According to Team Trump?
“He’s a Never Trumper and his lawyers are Never Trumpers,” the president said of Taylor on the White House lawn in October. The president claims the career-government man, who has worked for both Democratic and Republican administrations in his five-decade career, was part of the movement within the GOP to derail his 2016 campaign. When Trump was asked why Mike Pompeo brought Taylor back to the State Department earlier this year, he answered: “Everybody makes mistakes.”
There is no evidence of Taylor belonging to the tepid GOP opposition, and he has never donated to a candidate running for federal office, according to Federal Election Commission data.
Level of Devotion to Trump
Inconsequential. In his texts to Gordon Sondland in September, the public servant adamantly disagreed with the plan to withhold aid in exchange for a political favor. In addition to being a comic highlight of this debacle, New York’s Max Read wrote last month that Taylor’s condemnatory texts suggest he wanted no part of Trump’s unconstitutional behavior: “Sometimes you want to take notes on a criminal conspiracy, if, for example, you want to get out of the criminal conspiracy.”
His Bombshell Revelation
In his testimony before the House impeachment inquiry in October, Taylor confirmed that Rudy Giuliani had set up a backchannel to pressure Kiev into investigating Hunter Biden. “It is a rancorous story about whistle-blowers, Mr. Giuliani, side channels, quid pro quos, corruption, and interference in elections,” Taylor said before the House. The bureaucrat also confirmed that the official channel — represented by Energy Secretary Rick Perry, NATO Ambassador Kurt Volker, and Gordon Sondland — also leaned on Ukraine’s President Zelensky. Taylor claimed he had a “clear understanding” that “security assistance money would not come until [President Zelensky] committed to pursue the investigation.”
“The body language of the people hearing it was, ‘holy shit’ — seriously,” Harley Rouda, a Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, told Politico.
What Was the Takeaway From His Testimony?
In his opening statement, Taylor provided a crucial new piece of information: A member of his staff overheard a July 26 call between Trump and Gordon Sondland in which the U.N. ambassador told the president that Kiev was willing to move forward with “the investigations,” referring to probes into the Bidens, as well as a conspiracy theory about election hacking in 2016 in favor of the Democrats. According to Taylor’s source, Sondland said “Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden,” suggesting that he was acting on direct orders from Trump when he was pressuring Ukraine to investigate the former veep and his son.