Ambassador Taylor: Until Late August, Nobody in Ukraine Gov't was Aware of Hold on U.S. Military Aid

By Susan Jones | November 7, 2019 | 7:52am EST
President Donald Trump meets with Ukraine President Zelensky in September. (Photo by Saul Loeb via AFP/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump meets with Ukraine President Zelensky in September. (Photo by Saul Loeb via AFP/Getty Images)

( - In his opening statement to the House intelligence committee on Oct. 22, Ambassador William Taylor -- the charge d'affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine -- testified that nobody in the Ukraine government was aware of the hold on U.S. military aid at the time of the July 25 Trump-Zelensky call.

Although Taylor heard about the hold before July 25 (see below), he testified that "news of the hold on security assistance did not leak out until August 29th."

Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) asked Taylor about that at the closed-door hearing:

"It sounds like, from your statement today, that you were aware of the hold and troubled by it but that President Zelensky was not aware of it at that point in time" (on August 27, when Zelensky met with then-National Security Advisor John Bolton in Ukraine).

"That is correct," Taylor agreed.

"Okay," said Ratcliffe. "So, based on your knowledge, nobody in the Ukrainian government became aware of a hold on military aid until two days later, on August 29th.

"That's my understanding," Taylor said.

"That's your understanding," Ratcliffe repeated. "And that would have been well over a month after the July 25th call between President Trump and President Zelensky.

"Correct," said Taylor.

Ratcliffe noted that Taylor is not a lawyer. "Okay. So the idea of a quid pro quo is, it's a concept where there is a demand for action or an attempt to influence action in exchange for something else. And in this case, when people are talking about a quid pro quo, that something else is military aid.

"So, if nobody in the Ukrainian government is aware of a military hold at the time of the Trump-Zelensky call, then, as a matter of law and as a matter of fact, there can be no quid pro quo, based on military aid. I just want to be real clear that -- again, as of July 25th, you have no knowledge of a quid pro quo involving military aid.”

Taylor responded, "July 25th is a week after the hold was put on the security assistance. And July 25th, they had a conversation between the two Presidents, where it was not discussed."

"And to your knowledge, nobody in the Ukrainian government was aware of the hold?" Ratcliffe asked Taylor.

"That is correct," Taylor said.

"Great," Ratcliffe concluded. "Thank you for clarifying."

For the record, Taylor told the committee he learned about the hold on congressionally-approved military aid for Ukraine in "regular" conference call with the National Security Council on July 18th, six days before the July 25 Trump-Zelensky call.

"I heard a staff person from the Office of Management and Budget say that there was a hold on security assistance to Ukraine but could not say why," Taylor testified. Taylor said the staff person "said that she was from OMB and her boss had instructed her not to approve any additional spending of security assistance for Ukraine until further notice...All that the OMB staff person said was that the directive had come from the President to the Chief of Staff to OMB."

In a phone call the next day, July 19, two National Security Officials (Fiona Hill and Alexander Vindman) "did confirm that the hold on security assistance for Ukraine came from Chief of Staff Mulvaney and that the Chief of Staff maintained a skeptical view of Ukraine," Taylor testified.

0n July 25th, President Trump and President Zelensky had their now-famous phone call. Taylor said he received no read-out of the phone call. But, said Taylor, "During a previously planned July 25th meeting, President Zelensky told Ambassador Volker and me that he was happy with the call, but he did not elaborate."

Taylor noted that on August 27th, Ambassador John Bolton came to Kiev and met with President Zelensky: "During their meeting, security assistance was not discussed,” Taylor said.

“Amazingly, news of the hold on security assistance did not leak out unti1 August 29th. I, on the other hand, was all too aware of and still troubled by the hold."


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