••• The International Writers Magazine - Our 20th Year: Reality Check - Impeachment
The Bill Taylor Angle
How a Lifetime Ambassador Frames the Trump/Ukraine Scandal
I could see the armed and hostile Russian-led forces on the other side of the damaged bridge across the line of contact. Over thirteen-thousand Ukrainians had been killed in the war, one or two a week. To this day, that continues. More Ukrainians would undoubtedly die without U.S. assistance.
- Ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor’s opening statement to congress impeachment hearings,
November 13, 2019
While there is clearly enough evidence to impeach the president of the United States for trying to extort a foreign nation into making public announcements on investigating a political rival and relitigating Russian interference into the 2016 election – it’s pointless trying to argue against this anymore – the testimony of Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor this past week provided a key element missing in all of this; the congressionally allocated weapons aid to Ukraine withheld by Donald Trump from June until September of this year. The Democrats are holding Trump responsible for his reasoning. The Republicans are trying to mitigate his reasoning. However, what Mr. Taylor repeated again and again was the dangerously irresponsible measure of simply withholding funds congress passed, the president signed, and the American public funded. Period.
Taylor, who admitted in his testimony that he had considered quitting over “major concerns” that the United States was openly reneging on a deal that at the time was six-months overdue, referred to an anxious August 29 cable he sent directly to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in which he described “the folly I saw in withholding military aid to Ukraine at a time when hostilities were still active in the east and when Russia was watching closely to gauge the level of American support for the Ukrainian government.” Taylor concluded, “The Russians, as I said at my deposition, would love to see the humiliation of President Zelensky at the hands of the Americans. I told the Secretary that I could not and would not defend such a policy. Although I received no specific response, I heard that soon thereafter, the Secretary carried the cable with him to a meeting at the White House focused on security assistance for Ukraine.”
Pompeo, acting less as secretary of state and more like Trump’s enforcer throughout this growing scandal, predictably did not answer the cable and instead proceeded to demand anyone in his employ not cooperate with congress in the ensuing investigation. But what Taylor was seriously worried about was not why Trump would play around with not releasing what amounts to war funds to protect the interests of the U.S. and its foreign policy – whether personal gain or, as Republicans are trying in vain to convey, to investigate corruption – but that he was doing it at all.
In wrapping up his opening statement, Taylor made clear: “There is another Ukraine story—a positive, bipartisan one. This one is about young people in a young nation, struggling to break free of its past, hopeful that their new government will finally usher in a new Ukraine, proud of its independence from Russia, eager to join Western institutions and enjoy a more secure and prosperous life. This story describes a nation developing an inclusive, democratic nationalism, not unlike what we in America, in our best moments, feel about our diverse country—less concerned about what language we speak, what religion if any we practice, where our parents and grandparents came from; more concerned about building a new country.”
These are not sentiments of a politician, a Trump attacker or apologist. William Taylor sounds like a professional who has given his life and work to the sovereignty of a country threatened by its enemy, an enemy that infiltrated an American election that his president has denied ever happened, to the point of trying to shift blame on the very country he works in America’s interests to protect. His passion reverberates in every word of the above statement. And, for whatever reasons, Trump fucked with all of that. No one is disputing that much. That, I argue, and I think Taylor’s tone and testimony concurred, is an abuse of power and a shirking of the constitutional duties of the presidency and therefore enough for impeachment. And that is, as Taylor asserts, a forgotten angle to all this political back and forth that has and will transpire during these historical impeachment hearings.
In the nearly nine months (Trump released the funds on September 11 after severe and vociferous bi-partisan bitching by congress and the whistleblower allegations that he was playing footsies with Ukraine’s president to toss mud on his possible 2020 opponent) Ukraine lost hundreds of lives on the battlefield and compromised its position in defending its nation against Russian aggression. This is the ugly story Bill Taylor told that has not been refuted by even the craziest Trump zealots. Nine months went by as Trump did whatever he was doing. Allied lives were at stake and as such American security was compromised.
To make clear, the Trump administration initially told Congress it was releasing the aid to Ukraine on February 28. It repeated that assertion to Congress again on May 23. Not once in this timeline had the president given a single reason for this – incoherent, weird, reasonable or otherwise. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has arguably been Trump’s most effective attack machine on Capitol Hill, went to the cameras by mid-summer and shrugged his shoulders as to what was going on after he had been rebuffed by the State Department and the White House as to what the hell the president was doing and why.
At best McConnell had first been told from White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, who was doubling as director of the Office of Management and Budget, that Trump wanted the money withheld because he had “concerns” about the aid’s necessity. Not, mind you, about ferreting out Ukrainian corruption or some half-baked conspiracy theories whipped up by rightwing blogs that the 2016 DNC email hacks had come from Ukraine and not Russia. These asinine cover stories, still being peddled, were later whipped up once the shit hit the fan.
Ten days after the funds were finally released, Trump, who lies so much he actually contradicts those lies with different lies, changed his story twice. On Monday, September 21, Trump told reporters that his decision to withhold the funds was due to concerns about corruption in Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s new government. Asked again the next day, Trump said he’d withheld the aid out of frustration that European countries were not doing enough to support Ukraine. This was followed by Mulvaney hosting a self-immolating press conference that we should all “get over it” because “it’s done all the time.”
Needless to say, all of this has led to where we are; impeachment hearings that Trump calls a hoax, because he calls everything a hoax. Here’s what not a hoax; the president of the United Stated withheld $391 million of military aid to an ally in time of war, a measure considered crucial enough for both houses of congress to pass as part of the annual budget and for the president himself to sign. Evidence is mounting that he did so for personal political gain and used unelected officials, rogue elements of the state department, and known criminals to help him pull it off. This is important distinctions to why, but the mere act of doing it is enough to warrant his removal from office as an unfit commander-in-chief.
© James Campion November 15th 2019
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James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of “Deep Tank Jersey”, “Fear No Art”, “Trailing Jesus”, "Midnight For Cinderella" and “Y”. +, “Shout It Out Loud – The Story of KISS’s Destroyer and the Making of an American Icon” + “Accidently Like a Martyr – The Tortured Art of Warren Zevon”
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