'Hard to overstate' how badly Taylor's testimony damaged Trump: Ex-federal prosecutor
Donald Trump (Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

On Wednesday, former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti wrote for Politico Magazine that the testimony of Ukraine envoy William Taylor was devastating for President Donald Trump — and that if he keeps trying to deny wrongdoing, it will only get worse and maybe even force Senate Republicans' hand against him.

"It’s hard to overstate how much damage the testimony of Ukraine envoy William Taylor inflicted on President Donald Trump’s defense in the ongoing impeachment inquiry," wrote Mariotti. "On its face, Taylor’s testimony Tuesday established the quid pro quo that Trump has denied for weeks. But more importantly, Taylor’s detailed notes of the 'highly irregular' policy-making that he witnessed over the summer provide a roadmap to future testimony that could be even more harmful. Republicans have already begun to retreat from their 'no quid pro quo' line, but they will have to keep retreating because Taylor has almost single-handedly decimated the few witnesses who have provided some testimony that is favorable to Trump."

"If I were one of the president’s lawyers, I would counsel him to admit the obvious — essentially to plead guilty and admit this was, in fact, a quid pro quo — and try and convince Congress and the public that it is not as bad as it looks," added Mariotti. "In my experience, defendants who stubbornly try to deny the obvious in the face of overwhelming evidence rarely convince anyone."

Taylor, noted Mariotti, was "crystal clear" that Trump's Ukraine conduct was improper. "He testified that U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland — a hotel tycoon and major Trump donor — told him that Trump wanted to put Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky 'in a public box' by forcing him to make a public statement ordering investigations of Ukraine’s alleged role in the 2016 U.S. election as well as the gas company, Burisma, where Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, was a board member. 'Everything,' Taylor said he was told, was dependent on that public announcement."

In addition to implicating Trump, Mariotti wrote, this testimony contradicts that of Sondland and former NATO Ambassador Kurt Volker, and also implicates Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to whom Taylor wrote a cable warning of the Ukraine scheme on the advice of former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

"It is clear from Taylor’s testimony that more is to come," wrote Mariotti. "A smart defense team would get ahead of this by admitting that there was a quid pro quo, falling back to the argument advanced by some on the right like Tucker Carlson — that the conduct was wrong but that impeachment is too severe of a remedy."

"If Republicans quickly admitted what Trump did but insisted that they wanted the American people to decide Trump’s fate in December, they might reduce the damage and move past this episode, assuming they had the votes in the U.S. Senate to prevent conviction," concluded Mariotti. "If Trump refuses to allow them to adopt that strategy, he becomes Republicans’ own worst enemy. Because if Taylor’s testimony is any guide, they will reach that point eventually, and the road getting there will be rocky for the administration."

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