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Taylor: Giuliani’s Dealings with Ukraine Focused on Biden ‘Irrespective’ of Broader Corruption Concerns

Acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor arrives to testify at a closed-door deposition as part of the House of Representatives impeachment inquiry led by the House Intelligence, House Foreign Affairs, and House Oversight and Reform Committees in Washington, D.C., October 22, 2019. (Carlos Jasso/Reuters)

William Taylor, the former top American diplomat in Ukraine, testified last month to Congress that the “informal” channel of communication between U.S. officials regarding Ukraine policy focused heavily on investigating Joe Biden “irrespective” of whether prioritizing that would contribute to solving Ukraine’s corruption problem.

“The irregular channel seemed to focus on specific issues, specific cases, rather than the regular channel’s focus on institution building,” Taylor said during a closed-door hearing, according to the transcript of his testimony released Wednesday. “So the irregular channel, I think under the influence of Mr. Giuliani, wanted to focus on one or two specific cases, irrespective of whether it helped solve the corruption problem, fight the corruption problem.”

Taylor testified as a witness for the impeachment probe on October 22, appearing before the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committees. During his testimony, Taylor accused Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani of orchestrating a campaign to pressure Ukraine into investigating Democratic 2020 candidate Joe Biden as well as probing Ukraine’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election.

President Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which he asked Zelensky to investigate the Bidens’ business connections to Ukrainian gas company Burisma, has become the focus of the impeachment probe against him. The Trump administration was meanwhile holding up much-needed U.S. military aid to Ukraine.

Taylor clarified that the two cases Giuliani focused on were the Bidens and Burisma as well as Ukrainian election meddling.

“Those were both individual investigations that were sought by Mr. Giuliani because he believed it would help his client, the president of the United States, right?” Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff asked Taylor.

“That’s my understanding,” Taylor responded.

Taylor said he became “increasingly concerned” about the diverging objectives of the regular channel, which had “strong bipartisan support,” and the informal channel guided by Giuliani, which also included former Ukraine special envoy Kurt Volker, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

“[A]s I understood the reason for investigating Burisma was to cast Vice President Biden in a bad light,” Taylor told lawmakers.

Taylor also stated that by July he had realized that the Ukrainian president’s White House visit was contingent on Ukraine’s willingness to investigate both Burisma and Ukraine’s alleged election meddling.

According to texts between Taylor and other diplomats that House Democrats published last month, Taylor even threatened to resign in July if the “nightmare scenario,” in which Trump continued to withhold military aid even after coercing Ukrainian officials to investigate Biden, materialized.

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