Impeachment investigators on Wednesday released the much-anticipated deposition transcript of William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine.
In his bombshell testimony last month, Taylor said he learned that “everything” — including hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance and an Oval Office meeting with Trump — was contingent upon Ukraine’s President Volodymr Zelensky launching the investigations President Donald Trump demanded, and linked Trump directly to an attempted quid pro quo. He also described how he “sensed something odd” when a political appointee with direct ties to the president asked to exclude other officials from a phone call with Zelensky.
Trump has denied wrongdoing. But evidence against him is mounting as more witnesses trudge to Capitol Hill to testify, and as investigators release their testimonies in full. Taylor’s Oct. 22 deposition — nuggets of which are posted below — was said to be so detailed and astonishing that it elicited gasps from those in the room. But critics note that Taylor was often relying on what others had told him, not what he saw himself.
Next Wednesday, Taylor will be among the first witnesses to testify in open hearings, the investigating committees announced.
Check back for updates.
There was no escaping Rudy.
Taylor described how, over the course of months, he grew increasingly aware of and uncomfortable with the existence of what he described as an “irregular channel” of people engaged in Ukraine policy.
And Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, was smack dab in the middle of it.
Not only did Trump relay to top administration officials that “they needed to work with Rudy Giuliani,” but Ukrainian officials would at times share the results of what they’d heard about Giuliani’s role, too.
In one case, top Ukrainian officials told Taylor that they’d learned, through another Ukrainian official who was in touch with Giuliani, that the former New York City mayor said Trump was unlikely to hold a phone call with the new president in Kyiv, Volodymyr Zelensky.
Over time, Taylor said, he “came to believe” that the irregular channel’s interests were diverging from those of the regular, official diplomatic channel. He acknowledges that, at first, he saw the situation “naively.”
“I was still of the view that I was on—I was part of a team that might have several parts but we were moving in the same direction,” Taylor told lawmakers.
Taylor was serious about quitting.
Taylor comes across as incensed at the policy implications of Trump’s political demands, not least of which is the potential humiliation of Ukraine.
He was livid that Moscow would end up benefiting, and indicated that he was serious when he wrote in a now-famous text that he would quit his position if it came to that.
“The Russians are paying attention. The Russians are paying attention to how much support the Americans are going to provide the Ukrainians. The Russians are leaning on Ukraine,” he told lawmakers.
He added later: “And they, the Russians want to know how much support the Ukrainians are going to get in general, but also what kind of support from the Americans. So the Russians are loving, would love, the humiliation of Zelensky at the hand of the Americans, and would give the Russians a freer hand, and I would quit.”
Taylor does not speak Latin.
In what comes across as one of the funnier moments of the deposition, Taylor concedes that he can’t go into the fine points of what constitutes a “quid pro quo” under the law because he’s not a lawyer.
“I am definitely not in the position,” he says, adding, “I don’t speak Latin.”
Later, though, when he’s asked “Are you aware that quid pro quo literally means this for that?” he says, “I am.”
Taylor kept receipts.
One reason Taylor’s testimony was considered so groundbreaking was that it was so detailed, with specific dates and basics on individual conversations.
That’s largely because he, like other veteran diplomats, is accustomed to documenting everything. In his case, that includes keeping lots of notebooks.
“I keep a little notebook where I take notes on conversations, in particular when I’m not in the office,” Taylor told lawmakers. “So, in meetings with Ukrainian officials or when I’m out and I get a phone call and I can — I keep notes.”
He added that he also kept “handwritten notes that I take on a small, little spiral notebook in my office of phone calls that take place in my office.”
Taylor tried to get Trump to back off.
Taylor has spent 50 years in government service, and he’s no shrinking violet. But he didn’t have the access to Trump that some others in the “irregular channel” did.
That included another envoy, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who was named to the post after donating $1 million to Trump’s inauguration.
In at least one case, Taylor indicated that he hoped Sondland’s access to the president would prove useful. In a Sept. 1 phone call, Taylor found himself having to urge Sondland to put U.S. policy back in the box.
“I told Ambassador Sondland that President Trump should have more respect for another head of state and that what he described was not in the interest of either President Trump or President Zelensky,” Taylor testified. “At that point, I asked Ambassador Sondland to push back on President Trump’s demand. Ambassador Sondland pledged to try.”
It’s not known if Sondland did try, or had any luck.
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