A top diplomat told impeachment investigators that the Trump administration “conditioned” U.S. aid to Ukraine on the president of the Eastern European country publicly announcing an investigation into Joe Biden.
The comments from Acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor came during his deposition in the House impeachment probe.
Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, pushed back against Taylor’s allegations, saying in a statement:
President Trump has done nothing wrong — this is a coordinated smear campaign from far-left lawmakers and radical unelected bureaucrats waging war on the Constitution. There was no quid pro quo. Today was just more triple hearsay and selective leaks from the Democrats’ politically-motivated, closed-door, secretive hearings. Every day this nonsense continues more taxpayer time and money is wasted. President Trump is leading the way for the American people by delivering a safer, stronger, and more secure country – the do-nothing Democrats should consider doing the same.
In the transcripts of his opening remarks prepared for his deposition Tuesday and obtained by the New York Times, Taylor said:
According to Mr. [Tim] Morrison [from the White House National Security Council], President Trump told Ambassador [to the European Union Gordon] Sondland that he was not asking for a “quid pro quo.” But President Trump did insist that [Ukrainian] President [Volodymyr] 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.
He also said that a meeting between Trump and Zelensky was contingent upon Ukraine launching an investigation into corruption allegations against a company linked to Biden and his son Hunter.
By mid-July  it was becoming clear to me that the meeting President Zelenskyy wanted was conditioned on the investigations of Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. It was also clear that this condition was driven by the irregular policy channel I had come to understand was guided by [Trump’s private lawyer Rudy] Giuliani.
Then-VP Biden pushed Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor in 2016 who had investigated corruption allegations against Burisma. At the time, Hunter Biden was serving on the company’s board of directors, prompting the allegations. Biden took the position in 2014.
George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state, recently told impeachment investigators that he warned the Obama administration that Burisma was corrupt when Hunter was working there. The Obama administration, however, dismissed his concerns.
A “whistleblower” complaint accusing Trump of pressuring Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son Hunter in exchange for aid is at the center of the impeachment probe. Trump and Zelensky have denied the accusation.
Taylor testified that he expressed concern that “an irregular, informal channel” was driving U.S. policy in Ukraine. He said the irregular channel included Sondland, Giuliani, former U.S. Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.
Taylor said in his opening remarks:
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. … I found a confusing and unusual arrangement for making U.S. policy towards Ukraine. There appeared to be two channels of U.S. policy-making and implementation, one regular and one highly irregular.
Taylor explained that he had authority over the regular diplomatic processes, which he said Congress supported in a bipartisan manner:
I was clearly in the regular channel, but I was also in the irregular one to the extent that Ambassadors Volker and Sondland included me in certain conversations. Although this irregular channel was well-connected in Washington, it operated mostly outside of official State Department channels.
Volker and Sondland have testified that they worked with Giuliani on pushing Ukraine to investigate Burisma, not Biden. The former VP’s son, however, is linked to the company.
“I had come to understand well before then that ‘investigations’ was a term that Ambassadors Volker and Sondland used to mean matters related to the 2016 elections, and to investigations of Burisma and the Bidens,” Taylor testified.