The closed-door testimony of U.S. diplomat William Taylor, considered to be one of the bombshell witnesses to appear in Rep. Adam Schiff’s kangaroo court thus far, is now out.
The New York Times’ headline was a pretty good synopsis of what the media takeaway from it was: “Top Ukraine Diplomat Testified Giuliani Spearheaded Pressure for Investigations.”
In the testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Taylor “identified Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, as the instigator behind the drive to get Ukraine’s president to announce investigations into Mr. Trump’s political rivals, telling impeachment investigators last month that Mr. Giuliani was acting on behalf of the president,” The Times’ Nicholas Fandos reported.
Taylor’s testimony, along with that of others, “portrayed a president determined to enlist Ukraine in publicly undermining his political rivals, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.”
And where did Taylor get the idea that the Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani wanted dirt from the Ukrainians on former Vice President Joe Biden and on a theory (admittedly questionable) that hacking during the 2016 election originated from Ukraine and not from Russia?
According to Taylor’s testimony, it came from The New York Times.
That part, for reasons unbeknownst to me, didn’t make it into The Times’ story.
The revelation came during a line of questioning from New York Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin, according to an excerpt of Taylor’s testimony Zeldin published in a Twitter post Wednesday.
Zeldin focused on interest in Burisma Holdings, the Ukraine energy company that paid Biden’s son, Hunter, $50,000 a month to serve on its board.
“Would you like to tell us what your position is on it?” Zeldin asked Taylor. “What was the goal of requesting investigations into 2016 election and Burisma?”
“As I understand it from one of the — maybe the article in The New York Times about Mr. Giuliani’s interest in Burisma, in that article, he describes, and I think he quotes Giuliani at some length, that article indicates that Giuliani was interested in getting some information on Vice President Biden that would be useful to Mr. Giuliani’s client,” Taylor responded.
“I think that’s what he says. He says he’s got one client, and he’s useful to the client.”
“And then it’s your inference that Mr. Guliani’s goal would be the president’s goal?” Zeldin said.
“Yes,” Taylor responded.
“And your source is The New York Times?” Zeldin asked, to which Taylor answered affirmatively.
“So do you have any other source that the president’s goal in making this request was anything other than The New York Times?” Zeldin asked.
“I have not talked to the president. I have no other information from what the president was thinking.”
Star witness? Taylor said in depo he believed reason POTUS wanted Ukraine to investigate Ukrainians' interference w/ the 2016 election & Burisma was just to get dirt on Biden. He later admitted to me his sole source of info was…wait for it…The NY Times. pic.twitter.com/Yj6DUlkit7
— Lee Zeldin (@RepLeeZeldin) November 6, 2019
Well, that’s comforting.
This wasn’t the only issue Zeldin highlighted from Taylor’s testimony, mind you. He also tweeted that he got Taylor to admit “that his ONLY substantive claim from his opening statement referencing Biden not only isn’t first hand…it’s not even second hand.”
This "evidence" would be thrown out of court so quickly for all of the right reasons. Here Taylor concedes to me that his ONLY substantive claim from his opening statement referencing Biden not only isn't first hand…it's not even second hand: pic.twitter.com/akYOz8jBi3
— Lee Zeldin (@RepLeeZeldin) November 7, 2019
The issue had to do with a phone conversation between U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and President Donald Trump.
“This is the only reference in your opening statement to Biden other than your one reference to the July 25th call,” Zeldin said.
“And this isn’t firsthand. It’s not secondhand. It’s not thirdhand. But if I understand this correctly, you’re telling us that Tim Morrison told you that Ambassador Sondland told him that the president told Ambassador Sondland that [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky would have to open an investigation into Biden?”
“That’s correct,” Taylor answered.
House investigators have released the deposition of acting Ambassador William Taylor, who has been a central witness in the Ukraine affair.
Read his testimony here 👇https://t.co/WHFrvU372Z
— NPR (@NPR) November 6, 2019
Taylor’s testimony has to be considered in toto. But it’s not particularly promising for Trump opponents that Taylor’s most substantive bit of testimony was apparently hearsay and his information about Giuliani’s attempts to investigate Burisma simply to get dirt on Joe Biden were derived from an article in The New York Times.
On the last count, it certainly doesn’t get a whole lot more incestuous than that.
There’s a whole world of difference between the president investigating Ukrainian corruption because his administration was concerned about Ukrainian corruption and investigating it because he wanted to inflict damage on Joe Biden’s campaign.
Taylor’s testimony was supposed to show this by laying out the mephitic influence Rudy Giuliani had when it came to dealing with Kiev and a potential Burisma investigation. What it proved instead was that he got a lot of information in the matter from The New York Times.
Taylor, who served as ambassador to Ukraine from 2006-2009 and is now the acting ambassador for the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, is one of the witnesses scheduled to testify publicly when hearings begin next week.
One might assume this snippet of testimony gets a bit more attention from Republicans than it did from the media when the Taylor transcripts were released. Maybe, between now and then, The New York Times can churn out another story Taylor can use to counter this line of questioning.
After all, if this is where he gets significant chunks of his views on Ukraine from, surely they can do him a public service and save him from embarrassment twice.