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Testimony by top diplomat Bill Taylor on Trump and Ukraine elicits disturbed responses from members of Congress

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Taylor was told in July that Ukraine would not receive military aid unless President Volodymyr Zelensky publicly launched an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden

“Explosive” closed-door testimony on Tuesday from William Taylor, a career diplomat who questioned the Trump administration’s attempts over the summer to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, could begin a “sea change” in House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry against the president, according to lawmakers who were in the room.

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Taylor gave a detailed account to the House Oversight, Intelligence, and Foreign Affairs committees of the administration’s “pervasive” attempts to convince Ukrainian officials to investigate Biden, his son Hunter’s position at a Ukrainian oil company, and a debunked conspiracy theory regarding Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.

“The body language of the people hearing it was ‘holy shit,’ seriously.”
—Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Calif.)

In a July phone call with Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the E.U., in July, Taylor was told that a failure of Ukrainian President Volodymyr to publicly announce that he would launch the investigation would set off a deterioration of U.S.-Ukraine relations. Zelensky would not be invited to the White House and military aid would be withheld, Sondland said, unless he made the statement.

“Amb. Sondland said, ‘everything’ was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance,'” Taylor testified to committee members on Tuesday. “He said that President Trump wanted President Zelensky ‘in a public box’ by making a public statement about ordering such investigations.”

Read Taylor’s full opening statement here.

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Nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid for Ukraine was put on hold around the time of the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky that’s at the center of the impeachment inquiry.

Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) told Politico that Taylor provided “the most thorough accounting we’ve had of the timeline” and suggested the envoy had provided the committees with corroborating evidence.

“This testimony is a sea change,” Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) told Politico. “I think it could accelerate matters. This will, I think, answer more questions than it raises.”

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Gasps were reportedly heard from lawmakers throughout Taylor’s testimony, which began after House Democrats issued a subpoena following the State Department’s attempt to block Taylor from speaking.

“The body language of the people hearing it was ‘holy shit,’ seriously,” Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Calif.), a member of the Oversight Committee, told Politico.

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“This testimony is a sea change. I think it could accelerate matters. This will, I think, answer more questions than it raises.”
—Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.)

“All I have to say is that in my 10 short months in Congress—it’s not even noon, right—and this is my most disturbing day in Congress so far,” Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.) told reporters. “Very troubling.”

The progressive advocacy group Stand Up America said that following the testimony, Republicans in Congress are “out of excuses” and must vote to impeach Trump.

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“Today’s bombshell testimony proves without a shadow of a doubt that Donald Trump used military aid to pressure Ukraine into investigating a political rival,” said Sean Eldridge, president of the group. “Republicans in Congress must do their jobs and uphold their oath to defend our Constitution by voting to impeach and remove Donald Trump.”

“No one—including the criminal in the White House—is above the law,” he added.


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Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan to give up royal titles — ‘the hardest #Megxit possible’

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Britain's Prince Harry and his wife Meghan will give up their royal titles and public funding as part of a settlement with the Queen to start a new life away from the British monarchy.

The historic announcement from Buckingham Palace on Saturday follows more than a week of intense private talks aimed at managing the fallout of the globetrotting couple's shock resignation from front-line royal duties.

It means Queen Elizabeth II's grandson Harry and his American TV actress wife Meghan will stop using the titles "royal highness" -- the same fate that befell his late mother Princess Diana after her divorce from Prince Charles in 1996.

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GOP senator tells home-state press that impeachment trial must be ‘viewed as fair’: report

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Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) spoke to local reporters on Saturday about her role in the upcoming Donald Trump impeachment trial.

Murkowski explained she would likely vote with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on an initial vote on whether to allow witnesses. However, she left the door open to voting for witnesses after House impeachment managers make their opening case.

"I don't know what more we need until I have been given the base case," she said. "We will have that opportunity to say 'yes' or 'no' ... and if we say 'yes,' the floor is open."

Overall, Murkowski said it was important for the trial to been viewed as fair.

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White House press secretary urged to do her job: ‘We don’t pay you to be a Twitter troll’

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White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham was blasted on Saturday over the confusion resulting from her refusal to hold daily press briefings.

CNN senior media reporter Oliver Darcy was alarmed that Grisham's assistant, Hogan Gidley, was forcing reporters to refer to his remarks as coming from a "sources close to the President's legal team."

Darcy noted that Trump had repeatedly questioned the veracity of unnamed sources, making it problematic for Gidley to demand to be quoted as such.

https://twitter.com/oliverdarcy/status/1218704788432572422

Grisham responded to the criticism and asked Darcy to "stop with the righteous indignation.

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