Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, said during Wednesday’s public impeachment inquiry that President Trump’s request to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden in return for U.S. military aid was “wrong.”
In an exchange with Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., Taylor was asked about acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s assertion that the Trump administration made such quid pro quo requests of foreign governments “all the time.”
“The president conditioning security assistance on an investigation into his political opponent — prior to this administration is that something we would ‘do all the time’?” Swalwell asked Taylor.
“No, sir,” Taylor replied.
“Why not?” Swalwell asked.
“We condition assistance on issues that will improve our foreign policy, that serve our foreign policy, ensure that taxpayers’ money is well spent,” Taylor responded.
“You describe in your text messages how engaging in a scheme like this is ‘crazy.’ Can we also agree that it’s just wrong?” Swalwell asked.
“Yes,” Taylor replied.
“Why is it wrong?”
Until that point in Wednesday’s hearing, Taylor had sought to avoid being dragged into rendering an opinion on the president’s behavior.
“Again, our holding up of security assistance that would go to a country that was fighting aggression from Russia for no good policy reason, no good substantive reason, no good national security reason, is wrong,” Taylor said.
Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee largely steered clear of the question of whether seeking an investigation into Biden from Ukraine’s government was improper. Instead, they noted that no such investigation had ever taken place. Moreover, Trump’s defenders pointed out that Kyiv eventually received the nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid that Democrats alleged was used as a bargaining chip to procure an investigation of the president’s political rival.
Swalwell also asked Taylor about Mulvaney’s assertion on Oct. 17 that critics who pointed to a quid pro quo linking military aid for politically motivated investigations should “get over it.” Trump’s reelection campaign seized on Mulvaney’s words, plastering them on T-shirts for sale on the campaign website.
“Ambassador Taylor, should we ‘get over it’?”
“If we’re talking about political influence meaning attempts to get information that is solely useful for political campaigns, we should not get used to that.”
Under orders from the president, Mulvaney, who had a central role in withholding military aid to Ukraine, has refused to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry.
Swalwell noted that Trump had tweeted “NEVER TRUMPERS!” Wednesday morning ahead of the first impeachment hearing, then asked of career foreign service officer George Kent, “Are you a Never Trumper?”
“I am a career nonprofessional [sic] who serves whatever president is duly elected and carries out the foreign policies of that president of the United States, and I have done that for 27 years for three Republican presidents and two Democrat presidents.”
“Ambassador Taylor, are you a Never Trumper?” Swalwell asked.
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