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Donald Trump allies pressured Ukraine for political gains, say diplomats

William Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, described his shock when he was informed that the President through acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney had ordered a hold on assistance to Ukraine on July 18.

Bloomberg|
Nov 13, 2019, 11.42 PM IST
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In a new revelation in the inquiry, Taylor described a call that took place one day after Trump’s July 25 call to Zelenskiy that the diplomat said he wasn’t aware of when he testified behind closed doors last month.

Washington: Two senior State Department officials said attempts by President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and others to instigate politically motivated investigations in Ukraine and denigrate US diplomats were damaging to both US and Ukraine. William Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, described his shock when he was informed that the President through acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney had ordered a hold on assistance to Ukraine on July 18 — a week before a telephone call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that has become a central focus of the House impeachment inquiry.

“I and others sat in astonishment — the Ukrainians were fighting the Russians and counted on not only the training and weapons, but also the assurance of US support,” Taylor said as the first public hearing in the impeachment probe got underway Wednesday. “In an instant, I realised that one of the key pillars of our strong support for Ukraine was threatened.” Taylor also outlined an “irregular, informal channel” for US policy regarding Ukraine that included Mulvaney, Rudy Giuliani and US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. In a new revelation in the inquiry, Taylor described a call that took place one day after Trump’s July 25 call to Zelenskiy that the diplomat said he wasn’t aware of when he testified behind closed doors last month. The call was made in the presence of a member of Taylor’s staff who could hear Trump on the phone, “asking Ambassador Sondland about ‘the investigations,” Taylor said.

“Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine,” Taylor said. “Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for.”

Another witness, George Kent, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, testified that Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, was working with corrupt Ukrainians and their proxies to attack US diplomats as well as to pressure Zelenskiy.

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