Trump Tied Ukraine Aid to Politically Motivated Probe: US Envoy

The United States Senior Envoy to Ukraine William Taylor testified Tuesday he was told that President Donald Trump made the release of security aid to Ukraine if Kiev would publicly declare it would carry out politically motivated investigations against presidential candidate Joe Biden, according to a copy of his statement to lawmakers.

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The top U.S. diplomat gave closed-door testimony to the three Democratic-led House of Representatives committees leading an impeachment inquiry against Trump. The Washington Post posted a copy of Taylor’s opening statement online.

“During that phone call, Ambassador Sondland told me that President Trump had told him that he wants President Zelenskiy to state publicly that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election,” Taylor told lawmakers, according to the copy of his opening statement.

Taylor’s appearance marked another key development in the main happening unfolding in Washington that threatens Trump’s presidency even as he pursues re-election.

This comes as the initial whistleblower from within the U.S. intelligence community lodged a complaint with an internal watchdog about Trump’s conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

The July 25 call, which was later released by the White House, confirmed that the U.S. president asked Zelenskiy to investigate his political rival in coordination with the U.S. attorney general and Trump’s personal lawyer,  which in turn occurred after Trump had ordered a freeze of nearly US$400 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine, which the administration only later released.

Trump has denied he did this to get leverage or blackmail Zelenskiy. Federal election law prohibits candidates from accepting foreign help in an election.

“What those notes reflect is a classic Mafia-like shakedown of a foreign leader,” said Democrat Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee after the summary was released.

Following the scandal, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry of Trump, adding the “the actions revealed the dishonorable fact of the President's betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections." 

Under the U.S. Constitution, the House has the power to impeach a president for “high crimes and misdemeanors” and the Senate then holds a trial on whether to remove the president from office. No president has ever been removed from office through impeachment. Democrats currently control the House and Republicans control the Senate.

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