On Wednesday, the first round of public impeachment hearings begins with two career diplomats, each with ties to Ukraine, set to testify.
William Taylor, the chief of mission in Ukraine, and George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, are to appear before the House Select Committee on Intelligence to testify a second time, this time while broadcast on national cable and network television channels.
Former Ukraine ambassador Marie "Masha" Yovanovitch will appear Friday before the committee.
All three have testified that they believe President Donald Trump linked military aid and a White House meeting with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to Zelensky agreeing to investigate allegations that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 presidential election to aid Hillary Clinton and that former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, peddled influence for a seat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
A complaint by a whistleblower over a July phone call between Trump and Zelensky sparked an impeachment inquiry that led to several weeks of closed-door testimony. Wednesday’s hearing is the first to be held in public.
Here is a look at the three people who are testifying this week.
Who is Taylor:
- Taylor, 72, is a West Point graduate who served for six years as an Army infantry officer. He served in Vietnam in the 101st Airborne Division.
- He served a post at the United States Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Brussels. From there, he went on to a 30-year diplomatic career that took him through the Middle East and Europe.
- Taylor has served in every administration of both parties since 1985.
- He coordinated American assistance to the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe for 10 years from 1992 to 2002.
- He served as the American ambassador to Ukraine between 2006 and 2009 in the President George W. Bush administration.
- Before accepting the job of chief of mission in Ukraine earlier this year, he served as the executive vice president of the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, an “independent, nonpartisan conflict management center created by Congress to prevent and mitigate international conflict without resorting to violence.”
- Kurt Volker, who was special envoy for Ukraine, recommended to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Taylor be made the top Ukraine diplomat when Ukrainian ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was recalled from her position in May. Taylor was named chief of mission in Ukraine because if he had been named ambassador, he would have had to go through the confirmation process, and that could have taken months.
From his closed-door testimony
According to the transcript of his testimony, Taylor said:
- The U.S. aid to Ukraine had been explicitly tied to Ukraine's willingness to investigate Trump's political rivals.
- There was an "irregular channel" of policymaking that included Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer; Secretary of Energy Rick Perry; Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union; and Kurt Volker, a former special envoy to Ukraine.
- The "irregular, informal channel of U.S. policymaking" was used to force Ukraine to open an investigation into Hunter Biden’s role as a board member for Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, and allegations of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
- He heard an official from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) say there had been a hold placed on money for military aid to Ukraine. According to Taylor, the OMB official said the order came "from the President to the Chief of Staff to OMB.” Taylor did not say he heard the order first hand.
- He expressed concern over the aid but was told by Sondland and Volker that Trump is a businessman and was getting something in advance of giving Ukraine officials "something" (military aid).
- He said he didn’t understand this because, “The Ukrainians did not owe President Trump anything, and holding up security assistance for domestic political gain was crazy.”
Who is George Kent?
- Kent is the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs.
- He has been a diplomat for 27 years.
- He oversees policy for Ukraine and other eastern European nations.
- From 2015 to 2018, he was deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. Prior to 2015, part of his job was to form anti-corruption policy in the region.
- From his closed-door testimony
According to the transcript of his testimony, Kent said:
- Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, had told him that Trump "wanted nothing less than President Zelensky to go to [a] microphone and say 'investigations, Biden and Clinton.'"
- He was so concerned about what he believed was going on that he wrote a memo about "his concerns that there was an effort to initiate politically motivated prosecutions that were injurious to the rule of law, both in Ukraine and the U.S."
- Catherine Croft, who was a special adviser on Ukraine, asked him, "Have we ever asked the Ukrainians to investigate anybody?" He said he gave her a general answer about investigating crimes but went on to say, "If you're asking me, 'Have we ever gone to the Ukrainians and asked them to investigate or prosecute individuals for political reasons,' the answer is, I hope we haven't, and we shouldn't because that goes against everything that we are trying to promote in post-Soviet states for the last 28 years, which is the promotion of the rule of law."
Marie "Masha" Yovanovitch
Who is Marie Yovanovitch?
- Yavnovitch is the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
- She graduated from Princeton with a degree in history and Russian studies. She earned a master's degree from the National War College.
- She went into the foreign service in 1986. She served in ambassadorships under three presidents.
- She was named ambassador to Ukraine in August 2016. In May, Trump requested she be removed from her post in Kyiv.
- According to Yovanovitch, she was accused by Rudy Giuliani of trying to undermine Trump. She said that was not true.
From her closed-door testimony
- According to the transcript of her testimony, Yovanovitch said:
- Giuliani had her removed from her post because he believed she was against the 2016 election interference and Biden investigations.
- She, too, knew of what she considered an "irregular" back channel that she believed was led by Giuliani and Trump.
- She said she believed that both men had a desire for Ukraine to investigate anything that could benefit Trump in his bid for reelection.
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