Teresa Hanafin, writer of the Boston Globe’s daily Fast Forward, succinctly summarizes the state of the impeachment inquiry. If you think it is wrong to use foreign aid as a weapon to gather dirt on your election opponents and then lie about it, this will disturb you. If you think it’s okay, it won’t.


So I’m not sure how many times we have to hear it, but just in case there’s anyone left out there who still doesn’t think that Trump refused to give Ukraine desperately needed military funds until it launched an investigation into his political rivals: Just read the opening statement delivered yesterday by Ukraine ambassador William Taylor, a highly respected career diplomat, to the House committees holding an impeachment inquiry.

The bottom line: He directly implicated Trump personally in an effort to withhold military aid until Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, agreed to publicly announce investigations of Trump’s rivals.

Important point: Trump didn’t really care whether Ukraine actually carried out those investigations; he just wanted Zelensky to make a public statement that he could use against Joe Biden on the campaign trail. He also showed no concern about any other corruption in Ukraine.

So how will Congress, particularly Republicans, respond today? Here’s an explanation of Taylor’s testimony:

> First, his street cred: Taylor, 72, graduated from West Point and was an Army infantry officer for six years, including with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. He has served in every administration of both parties since 1985. All of which makes the attempt by White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham to trash him as one of those “radical unelected bureaucrats waging war on the Constitution” pretty insulting.

> He had left government service when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked him to replace Marie Yovanovitch as ambassador to Ukraine in June after Trump’s henchman, Rudy Giuliani, had smeared her and gotten Trump to fire her when she refused to go along with his Biden scheme. Taylor, upset about Yovanovitch’s shoddy treatment, hesitated to take the job, but eventually agreed after a trusted Republican mentor advised him, “If your country asks you to do something, you do it — if you can be effective.” (I bet he regrets listening to that guy.)

> He soon realized that in addition to normal diplomatic channels, there was a “highly irregular” policymaking process being run off the books by Gordon Sondland, the big-money Trump donor who was rewarded with the EU ambassadorship; Kurt Volker, a special representative to Ukraine; Energy Secretary Rick Perry; and Giuliani.

> He discovered that the oddball group was focused on just one thing: Making sure that Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, publicly announced that his government was going to investigate Joe Biden’s son Hunter, who had been on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father was VP. He also was being pressured to say that he would look into a bizarre conspiracy theory that held that despite what every US intelligence agency had concluded, it wasn’t actually Russia that had tried to interfere in the 2016 election to help Trump; it really was Ukraine, and it was trying to help — you guessed it — Hillary Clinton.

> By July, Taylor realized that Trump was withholding millions in military aid that Ukraine needed to fight off attacks from Russian-backed troops because Zelensky still hadn’t agreed to make that public statement about Trump’s political rivals. Around that time, he visited the front lines of Ukraine fighting, where he saw “armed and hostile Russian-led forces.” In one of the more poignant parts of his statement, he said he realized that “more Ukrainians would undoubtedly die without the U.S. assistance” that Trump was holding up to boost his personal political goals.

> In September, Sondland told Taylor that Trump had told him that he wanted Zelensky to state publicly that Ukraine would investigate Burisma, the company where Hunter Biden had sat on the board of directors, and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 US election.

Sondland also said he had been wrong when he said that a White House visit was contingent on such an announcement. In fact, “everything” was dependent on a public statement, including security assistance. This upset Taylor so much that he threatened to quit.

> At the end of his statement, Taylor pleaded with lawmakers to continue to “support Ukraine in its fight against its bullying neighbor. Russian aggression cannot stand.”

He also spoke of two Ukraine stories: One a positive, bipartisan story about “a young nation, struggling to break free of its past, hopeful that [a] new government will finally usher in a new Ukraine.” But the other story dominating the past several months is much darker: a “rancorous story about whistleblowers, Mr. Giuliani, side channels, quid pro quos, corruption, and interference in elections.”