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Key witness in Ukraine probe to speak with House impeachment investigators

Jennifer Haberkorn, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine will testify before House investigators Tuesday as Democrats move forward with a shortened schedule this week on their impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

William B. Taylor, who came out of retirement to lead the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, has already provided Democrats with what they consider some of the most damning evidence that Trump was engaged in a quid pro quo with Ukraine.

He and U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland exchanged text messages in July in which Taylor expressed concern about whether a delay in sending congressionally approved aid to Ukraine was linked to Trump's demand that the new Ukrainian government open an investigation into whether that nation interfered in the 2016 election.

"As I said on the phone, I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign," Taylor wrote in a text message.

About four hours later, Sondland texted Taylor that Trump "has been crystal clear, no quid pro quos of any kind."

Sondland told House investigators last week that Trump personally told him in a short phone call that there was no quid pro quo.

But on Thursday, White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney confirmed that Trump's decision to withhold about $400 million in aid was in part due to his desire for Ukraine to look into claims that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election. Mulvaney later tried to walk back his comments, insisting there was no quid pro quo.

There has been no evidence that Ukraine intervened. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's report confirmed the conclusion reached by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the presidential election to help Trump.

 

Taylor came out of retirement to take the job in Ukraine shortly after Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was removed from the post. She testified earlier this month that she was removed for political reasons.

Trump administration officials have said they would not cooperate in the House's impeachment investigation.

House Democrats had originally planned up to seven depositions this week but they are now expected to hold as few as two because of the recent death of House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.). He will lie in state in the U.S. Capitol National Statuary Hall on Thursday and his funeral will be Friday.

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