A veteran U.S. diplomat is set to appear before lawmakers Tuesday in the House of Representatives impeachment inquiry of allegations that President Donald Trump held up military aid to Ukraine unless it opened an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.
William Taylor, the top official at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, will testify behind closed doors about a series of text messages with other officials expressing concerns about the White House’s actions. Taylor wrote that it was “crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”
Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Laura Cooper, who has worked on Russia and Ukraine policy at the Pentagon, is scheduled to testify in Wednesday.
The Democratic-led inquiry was set off when an intelligence whistleblower expressed concern to the inspector general about Trump’s July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in which he appeared to urge Zelenskiy to open an investigation into the former vice president, who is running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
Trump has alleged that Biden threatened to withhold loan guarantees to Ukraine unless an earlier corruption probe into a gas company that employed his son Hunter was stopped.
No evidence of wrongdoing by Joe or Hunter Biden has surfaced. But reaching out to a foreign government to dig up dirt on a rival is considered to be interference in a presidential election and an impeachable offense.
Trump has insisted there was no “quid pro quo” involved in his call to Zelenskiy, describing the conversation as “perfect” and accusing the Democratic-led House of a witch hunt.
But that assertion was bungled just last week by Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s acting chief of staff. Mulvaney admitted to reporters that Trump froze $400 million in aid to Kyiv because of the president’s concerns over corruption in Ukraine and suspicions it was involved in the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee e-mails in 2016.
Mulvaney defiantly said there will always be political influence over foreign policy and told people to “get over it.” He later issued a statement attempting to clarify his comments.
After Trump urged Republican lawmakers to “get tougher and fight” the probe Monday, they appeared to respond by introducing a resolution censuring California Democrat Adam Schiff, who is leading the inquiry as chairman of the Intelligence Committee. The resolution failed by a vote of 218-185.