Taylor says a meeting to discuss the hold on aid was hard to schedule because of the N.S.C.’s focus on Greenland.
Page 132-133: Taylor: “I think this was also about the time of the Greenland question, about purchasing Greenland, which took up a lot of energy in the N.S.C.”
Schiff: “Okay. That’s disturbing for a whole different reason.”
Taylor: “Different story. Different story.”
Mr. Taylor briefly brings together two Trump administration controversies. Mr. Taylor told House investigators that Mr. Bolton was trying to get the hold on Ukraine aid removed and tried to organize a meeting with the C.I.A. director, Gina Haspel; Mr. Pompeo and the defense secretary, Mark T. Esper. One reason Mr. Taylor offered was that the National Security Council was focused on Mr. Trump’s desire to buy Greenland. The testimony suggests that not only was Mr. Trump serious about buying Greenland, which was known, but also that his national security staff was dedicating serious time to the matter.
— Julian E. Barnes
Top Ukraine diplomat hesitated to rejoin State Department because of a ‘snake pit.’
Pages 49-54: “All to say that I was concerned that there was, I think I put it, a snake pit in Kyiv and a snake pit here, and I was not sure that I could usefully serve in that context.”
“This was part of the one of the two snake pits, this is the Washington snake pit that I was concerned I would be stepping into if I were to accept the offer. So this made me less interested, this made me concerned, it troubled me that this is what was affecting U.S. policy towards Ukraine.”
Under questioning, Mr. Taylor told House investigators that he considered declining the offer to be the top diplomat in Ukraine in part after reading an article that described the efforts by Mr. Giuliani trying to pressure Ukraine’s government to investigate Mr. Trump’s political rivals.
Asked about the article, Mr. Taylor characterized Mr. Giuliani’s role in making Ukraine policy as one of the two “snake pits” he was concerned about. He later said that he sought assurances from Mr. Pompeo and one of his top advisers that if he returned to service, the State Department would continue to pursue the “well-established” Ukraine policies from the past.
— Michael D. Shear
Taylor kept detailed notes about his conversations on Ukraine.
Page 45-46: “I’ve always kept careful notes, and I keep a little notebook where I take notes on conversations, in particular when I’m not in the office. So, in meetings with Ukrainian officials or when I’m out and I get a phone call and I can — I keep notes.”
Later saying, “Handwritten notes that I take on a small, little spiral notebook in my office of phone calls that take place in my office.”
Mr. Taylor has become one of the star witnesses for the Democratic-led impeachment effort, appearing first in public hearings that will begin next week. That is partly because in his closed-door testimony, Mr. Taylor referred repeatedly to notes and memos, bolstering investigators’ confidence in his recollections. Those documents could provide new and potentially explosive avenues of investigation for Democrats as they march toward writing articles of impeachment.
— Michael D. Shear
Taylor said the embassy tried to avoid dealing with Giuliani.
Page 102: “What the embassy tries to do, as a general rule, is stay out of either our domestic or Ukraine internal politics. So we have not we have tried to avoid dealing certainly with Mr. Giuliani and the kind of efforts that he was interested in. So that’s, again, for we don’t get involved in election campaigns on either side.”
Mr. Giuliani’s Ukraine campaign appeared to be viewed as a matter of American domestic politics from the moment Mr. Taylor arrived in Ukraine. During his deposition, the Republican counsel for the House investigators asked Mr. Taylor if he knew about the concerns “folks aligned with the president” had about Ukrainian influence in the 2016 election. Mr. Taylor repeatedly expressed disappointment about Ukrainians taking sides in American politics and said he similarly advised his diplomats to avoid dealing with Mr. Giuliani. The comment also shows the tightrope Mr. Taylor walks in his post in the embassy in Ukraine.
— Julian E. Barnes
Taylor said when he first arrived in Kiev, he thought the ‘irregular’ foreign policy for Ukraine might be helpful.
Page 109 “I didn’t think it was a problem in the beginning. And, actually, it could have been helpful, because Ambassador Sondland is able is able to call the president, and that’s a valuable thing, if you want to try to move our U.S.-Ukraine relations.”
The shadow foreign policy run by Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Sondland and Kurt D. Volker, the special envoy on Ukraine, has been at the heart of Ukrainian foreign policy. In his testimony, Mr. Taylor makes clear that when he first arrived in Kiev, he thought the high-level interest by people who have Mr. Trump’s ear might actually improve relations. But Mr. Taylor’s view quickly changed and he testified that “the Giuliani factor” affected Mr. Volker, diverting his focus away from the most important issues involving Ukraine.
— Julian E. Barnes
There was ‘discomfort’ in the State Department over Sondland’s role in Ukraine.
Page 285: “There was some discomfort within the State Department with Ambassador Sondland’s role in Ukraine. Of course, Ukraine is not in the E.U. But it was well known that, in that famous May 23rd meeting in the Oval Office, that Ambassador Sondland was given direction, with Secretary Perry and Ambassador Volker, to focus on Ukraine, to do something with regard to Ukraine policy.”
Mr. Taylor described discomfort at the State Department regarding Mr. Sondland serving as a go-between for the Ukrainian government and the White House. Fiona Hill, Mr. Trump’s former adviser on Russia and Europe, had also feared that his inexperience would make him a vulnerable target for foreign spies.
— Lara Jakes