USA envoy ties aid for Ukraine to probe request in new testimony

Donald Trump is facing an impeachment inquiry

Donald Trump is facing an impeachment inquiry

A deeply divided US House of Representatives took a major step on Thursday (31 October) in the effort to impeach President Donald Trump when lawmakers approved rules for the next, more public, stage in the Democratic-led inquiry into Trump's attempt ...

Republicans on the panel, however, noted that Taylor didn't have firsthand contact with President Trump or lawyer Rudy Giuliani, just U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, and former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker.

In his new statement, he said that by the beginning of September, "in the absence of any credible explanation", he concluded that the withheld aid was linked to Mr Trump's demand that Ukraine publicly acknowledge an investigation.

House Democrats announced that the impeachment inquiry is moving to a new phase next week - public hearings.

He told the impeachment investigators he based his testimony on text messages he exchanged with the USA ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, and Kurt Volker, the former special US envoy to Ukraine, Ukrainian officials and other USA officials, as well as "careful" contemporaneous notes he kept of conversations and telephone calls.

He corroborated Taylor's account that Ukraine was told US military assistance would resume only if investigations that could be damaging to former vice president Joe Biden commenced.

They will testify on November 13 and 15, said Adam Schiff, the committee's Democratic chairman who wrote on Twitter that there was "More to come".

The three committees that have been leading the investigation appear to be wrapping up the closed-door testimony this week.

Democrats in Congress argue that such a quid pro quo would be bribery, a specific crime listed in the constitution as an "impeachable offence". That is true. In this case, here you had an instance where everyone that I spoke with in the policy side of the administration - you know, Pentagon, military, civilian, State Department, National Security Council - they all thought this is really important to provide this assistance, ' he said.

Kent told investigators that that was his understanding of what Trump wanted Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to say in public, based on conversations relayed to him by others in the administration who were in contact with Ambassador Gordon Sondland.

They are also investigating any alleged interference by Ukraine in the 2016 election.

A State Department envoy told lawmakers it was his "clear understanding" the USA government meant to withhold military aid from Ukraine until the country committed to investigations sought by President Donald Trump, including into a political rival, according to a transcript of the closed-door interview released Wednesday.

The transcript of Taylor's closed-door testimony before the three House committees leading the impeachment inquiry into Trump - the latest in a series of witness transcripts made public - confirms NBC News' reportingabout his more than nine hours of testimony last month.

"It was becoming clear to the Ukrainians that, in order to get this meeting that they wanted, they would have to commit to pursuing these investigations", Taylor testified.

Nearly immediately, Donald Trump's Republican allies were quick to cite Sondland's testimony as powerful evidence in the White House's favor.

Hale was reportedly planning to tell investigators that the state department's leadership decided that battling Giuliani and the White House over Yovanovitch would expend political capital it needed to persuade Trump to restore the military aid.

On Wednesday, the State Department's third-ranking official is expected to tell Congress that political considerations were behind the agency's refusal to deliver a robust defence of the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. "I will have Mr Giuliani give you a call", Mr Trump said, according to a rough transcript released by the White House.

A top anti-Trump witness for House Democrats admitted he wasn't on the July 25 phone call and had never even spoken with Trump about Ukraine military aid.

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