Democrats are hailing testimony from senior State Department official Bill Taylor on Tuesday as their “smoking gun” to prove that President Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine unless they investigated former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
Rep. Lacy Clay (D-MO) tweeted, “I was in the room. Jaws dropped, heads shook in disbelief, this president and his enablers willfully put #NationalSecurity at risk to benefit his political campaign. This wasn’t just a smoking gun, it was a smoking cannon.”
Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI) told reporters it was his “most disturbing day in the Congress so far.”
However, Republicans said Taylor, the top U.S. official at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, produced no smoking gun and only recounted hearsay.
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who is on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and was present for Taylor’s interview, told Breitbart News on Wednesday that Taylor had no direct knowledge of any alleged quid pro quo.
“There’s only two references in Bill Taylor’s opening statement to Joe Biden. One of those references is just a reference to the July 25 call transcript. But the other reference is this reference on page 12 — it’s the only other reference to Joe Biden. This is fourth-hand information — this isn’t first-hand, second-hand, or third-hand,” he said.
“This is [National Security Council Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs] Tim Morrison telling Taylor that [United States Ambassador to the European Union Gordon] Sondland told Morrison that the president told Sondland that the president told [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky that he wanted an investigation into the Bidens,” Zeldin said.
“Really that’s the best that the Democrats can do to try to make their quid pro quo charge?” he said.
Indeed, according to Taylor’s opening statement — which was not released but obtained and posted online by several news outlets, he said:
On September 7, I had a conversation with Mr. Morrison in which he described a phone conversation earlier that day between Ambassador Sondland and President Trump. Mr. Morrison said he had a ‘sinking feeling’ after learning about this conversation from Ambassador Sondland.
According to Mr. Morrison, President Trump told Ambassador Sondland that he was not asking for a ‘quid pro quo.’ But President Trump did insist that President Zelenskyy go to a microphone and say he is opening investigations of Biden and 2016 election interference, and that President Zelenskyy should want to do this himself.
Zeldin said there was more during Taylor’s testimony that followed, but that lawmakers are not allowed to talk about the proceedings under House ethics rules. He also argued that the evidence shows there was never any quid pro quo.
“You know what Ukraine had to do to get the money released? Nothing,” he said. “Ukraine didn’t have to do anything in order to get the hold on aid released.”
He also noted that Zelensky himself has said there was no quid pro quo, there was no demand or pressure. “Democrats wants to ignore everything that absolutely doesn’t fit in their narrative,” he said. “Unfortunately those inconvenient facts are facts that can’t be ignored.”
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