Impeachment Update: Oct 22nd 2019

What happened today….

New York Times – Impeachment Report
October 22, 2019
By Noah Weiland


Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, told impeachment investigators that President Trump held up security aid and withheld a White House meeting with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, until Mr. Zelensky agreed to publicly announce that he would investigate Mr. Trump’s political rivals.

Mr. Taylor told lawmakers that Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, said “everything,” including the military aid, was dependent on such an announcement. “He said that President Trump wanted President Zelensky ‘in a public box’ by making a public statement about ordering such investigations.”

Mr. Taylor, who referred to detailed notes he took throughout the summer, told investigators about a budget official who said during a secure National Security Council call in July that she had been instructed not to approve the $391 million security assistance package for Ukraine, and that “the directive had come from the president.”

In his own words
My colleague Sharon LaFraniere highlighted six key parts of Mr. Taylor’s opening statement. Here are three of the most compelling passages:

1. Mr. Taylor described an explicit quid pro quo.

There appeared to be two channels of U.S. policy-making and implementation, one regular and one highly irregular … By mid-July it was becoming clear to me that the meeting President Zelensky wanted was conditioned on the investigations of Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. It was also clear that this condition was driven by the irregular policy channel I had come to understand was guided by [Rudy] Giuliani.
2. Mr. Taylor was told Ukraine had to ‘pay up.’

Before these text messages, during our call on September 8, Ambassador Sondland tried to explain to me that President Trump is a businessman. When a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, he said, the businessman asks that person to pay up before signing the check.
3. Mr. Taylor said Ukrainians would die as a result of the delay in military aid.

Ambassador Volker and I traveled to the front line in northern Donbas to receive a briefing from the commander of the forces on the line of contact … Ambassador Volker and I could see the armed and hostile Russian-led forces on the other side of the damaged bridge across the line of contact. Over 13,000 Ukrainians had been killed in the war, one or two a week. More Ukrainians would undoubtedly die without the U.S. assistance.

The scene in the Capitol
My colleague Nick Fandos was standing outside of the secure room where Mr. Taylor was being interviewed. Here’s what he told me about the scene.

Nick, it was just a few hours into Mr. Taylor’s interview that you started to sense something big was happening. What was going on outside the room?

You had dozens of reporters standing in wait of any word from inside the closed hearing room. One by one, Democrats started coming out. They made clear that the testimony Mr. Taylor had given was on another level from what they had been hearing. To a person, they said: “You’ve got to read the opening statement.” At the same time, you had a Republican come out — Representative Mark Meadows — and say he didn’t think he learned anything new today.

Why were the Democrats so taken aback? Representative Andy Levin said that in his 10 months in Congress, this was his “most disturbing day.”

These lawmakers don’t know what they’re going to hear ahead of time in any of these depositions. They seemed more genuinely surprised by this testimony, in part because there had been so much anticipation about Mr. Taylor, going back a few weeks. From what I understand, it took Mr. Taylor quite a while to read this opening statement. It ate up the better part of an hour.

What are lawmakers allowed to say?

In a private deposition of this nature, members are not supposed to come out and discuss any details of the testimony. They can offer takeaways or general impressions. Today, members were coming out in real time, caught off guard, saying, “We can’t tell you what we heard, but you’ve got to hear what we heard.” Only until a few hours later were we able to put the whole picture together.

What else we’re following
Who is Bill Taylor? The former Army officer has served in every administration of both parties since 1985, and is known for his credibility. “If Bill Taylor says it happened,” said one former ambassador, “it happened.”

Mr. Trump described the impeachment investigation as “a lynching,” a fraught term that invokes the racist murder of black people. Even some top Republicans condemned the president’s words. “That’s not appropriate in any context,” Senator John Thune said.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, denied telling Mr. Trump that a phone call the president had with Mr. Zelensky in July was “innocent,” as Mr. Trump has claimed. “You’d have to ask him. I don’t recall any conversations with the president about that phone call,” Mr. McConnell told CBS News.

In his breakdown of a new poll, CNN’s Harry Enten highlighted some historical context: More Americans want to remove Mr. Trump from office now than they did Bill Clinton or Richard Nixon at this point in their impeachment hearings.

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