US envoy to Ukraine worsens Trump’s impeachment woes

By James Reinl

NEW YORK

A top U.S. diplomat has given evidence in the impeachment investigation against President Donald Trump suggesting that the commander-in-chief did indeed pressure Ukraine to help him by dishing dirt on a political rival.

In a 15-page opening statement delivered Tuesday to an impeachment inquiry on Capitol Hill, former U.S. ambassador William Taylor testified that he was told Trump wanted Ukraine to probe former Vice President Joe Biden.

Taylor, a career diplomat who has been the U.S. envoy to Ukraine since June and the latest to give evidence in a Democratic-led impeachment case, said ties with the eastern European country had been hurt by the incident.

“In August and September of this year, I became increasingly concerned that our relationship with Ukraine was being fundamentally undermined by an irregular, informal channel of U.S. policy-making and by the withholding of vital security assistance for domestic political reasons,” Taylor said in the statement.

Taylor referred to a Sept. 9 message he sent to fellow U.S. diplomat Ambassador Gordon Sondland that “withholding security assistance in exchange for help with a domestic political campaign in the United States would be ‘crazy’.”

“I believed that then, and I still believe that,” Taylor told the inquiry.

Democratic lawmakers in the House of Representatives launched an impeachment inquiry against Trump on Sept. 24 following claims by a whistleblower that the president had sought to pressure Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 U.S. presidential elections.

In a July 25 phone call, Trump allegedly made military aid contingent on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky launching a probe into Biden and his son, Hunter, a businessman, over unsubstantiated corruption allegations.

The elder Biden is a leading candidate in the race to win the Democratic nomination and challenge Trump in 2020. Trump, a Republican, has accused Democrats of time-wasting and says the inquiry amounts to a “lynching.”

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