By Ronn Blitzer
Published November 13, 2019
Republican Rep. Jim Jordan led some of the toughest questioning during Wednesday's impeachment hearing, challenging Ukraine ambassador William Taylor over his claims that he understood President Trump to be holding up aid and more as he sought to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce a Biden-related probe.
Taylor has said he had a "clear" understanding that the release of aid to Ukraine was linked to a request for investigations of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, and Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company that counted the younger Biden as a board member. Jordan brought up three meetings that Taylor had with Zelensky between the time the aid was delayed and eventually released, and Taylor confirmed that "there was not discussion of linkage" during any of them.
"Now, with all due respect, Ambassador, your clear understanding was obviously wrong," Jordan said, noting that Zelensky also never made any announcement of an investigation prior to Trump releasing the aid on Sept. 11, 2019.
Taylor then gave a further explanation of what his "clear understanding" was based on.
"As I testified, Mr. Jordan, this came from Ambassador [Gordon] Sondland,” Taylor said, recalling that Sondland told him that he said to Zelensky, "that while this was not a quid pro quo, if Mr. Zelensky did not clear things up in public, we would be at a stalemate.”
Taylor also referred to how Sondland "told me that it was a mistake to have told the Ukrainians that only the meeting with the president in the Oval Office was held up in order to get these investigations. No, it was not just the meeting, it was also the security assistance."
Jordan, who was only recently added to the House Intelligence Committee that is holding the hearing, pointed to an addendum to Sondland's closed-door testimony, in which he discussed how Taylor recalled that he mentioned a linkage between the investigation and the release of aid to Ukraine.
"Ambassador Taylor recalls that Mr. Morrison told Ambassador Taylor that I told Mr. Morrison that I had conveyed this message to Mr. Yermak on September 1, 2019, in connection with Vice President Pence’s visit to Warsaw and a meeting with President Zelensky," Jordan read out loud from Sondland's statement.
“We got six people having four conversations in one sentence, and you just told me this is where you got your clear understanding,” Jordan said. "And you're their star witness."
Trump campaign press secretary Kayleigh McEnany seized on the moment, using it to argue against Taylor's understanding of social media.
Sondland responded "that I don’t consider myself a star witness or anything," and that "my understanding is only coming from people that I talked to."
He explained that the confusing nature of Sondland's clarification was "because he said he didn't remember this," but Taylor believes that Sondland's recollection is similar to his own.
"The way I read this, he remembers it the same way I do," Taylor said.