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Morning Joe panel breaks down ‘staggering’ corruption revealed by ambassador: ‘Bribery or extortion?’

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Panelists on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” agreed former Ukraine ambassador Bill Taylor had revealed criminal wrongdoing directed by the White House — but the only question was which crimes the president should be impeached over.

The career foreign services office testified about efforts directed by President Donald Trump to hold up congressionally approved aid to Ukraine to pressure the U.S. ally to announce an investigation of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

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“Well, he certainly has the elements of an exchange of something for something else of value — that’s usually called bribery,” said Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. “We’ll leave it to the House to decide how they want to assess the specific charges. (Tuesday’s) testimony, as we read it, had the feeling for me of a tipping point. It just was of a different character of what we’ve seen before.”

Ignatius was struck by Taylor’s writing in a 15-page opening statement, which prompted “sighs and gasps” from lawmakers as he read it onto the congressional record as part of an impeachment inquiry.

“As you can see from the pictures, he’s a mild-mannered kind of classic foreign service officer,” he said. “I think there are two things. First, he wrote it almost as a detective story. He arrives in Kyiv not understanding that there’s this second, as he calls it, irregular channel that’s really running things. So through this narrative, he learns more and more and begins to see that these other people are running a policy that has nothing to do with our stated policy that Congress has voted (on).”

“Then the second thing that’s in these 15 pages,” Ignatius adds, “is a tone of moral outrage. Here are Ukrainians literally on the front lines against Russia, fighting an undeclared war in the east. Taylor goes in the front to see it, and he writes with real conviction that more Ukrainians will die because President Trump is withholding this military assistance for political purposes. He doesn’t say so, but he’s outraged, and I think that comes through and will come through for anybody who reads this.”

Analyst Mike Barnicle was appalled, as well.

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“When you read the testimony and you think about what was in the testimony, what is in the testimony, does it fit under the definition of bribery or extortion?” Barnicle said.

Host Mika Brzezinski and Associated Press White House correspondent Jonathan Lemire agreed Taylor had made clear that an ally’s lives were on the line, held up by the U.S. president’s political considerations.

“Ukrainians could die,” Lemire said. “That’s the first time we’ve heard that.”

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“It’s so staggering and really makes you take into account everything this president has said,” Brzezinski added. “He’s serious, he means it, and he doesn’t care if lives are on the line. This has been proven, and by the way, which is the White House’s account of what happened in the very first memo that the White House put out, and their only defense at this point given so many things that are on the record and so many people who are going on the record is to say, yeah, get over it.”

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