Unimpeachable Witnesses: Bill Taylor and George Kent

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Read key quotes from the testimony of Taylor and Kent here.

This week, the American people will hear from two patriots who have spent their careers serving their country—and their testimony will be an extension of that public service. 

Ambassador Bill Taylor and George Kent’s testimonies are expected to lay bare the reality that President Trump corrupted American foreign policy for his own political ends, extorting Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political opponents by holding $400 million in American military aid hostage to his demands. No matter how many times he seeks to obscure the facts, the President betrayed the American people by placing his personal political interests over the national interest.

  • West Point graduate
  • Former Army infantry officer
  • Served in Vietnam in the 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division
  • Worked for every President since 1985, including serving in hardship postings in Afghanistan and Iraq
  • Was President George W. Bush’s Ambassador to Ukraine from 2006-2009
  • Executive Vice President at the United States Institute of Peace from 2015-2019
  • Returned to the State Department when asked by the Trump administration to serve as the Charge d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv in 2019

When Ambassador Taylor testified behind closed doors, he confirmed now widely-corroborated evidence of Trump’s betrayal in Ukraine. Among the key points he made clear:

  • President Trump himself ordered the military aid to be withheld unless Ukraine investigated his rival.
  • The order to withhold security assistance came “from the President to the Chief of Staff to OMB.” Taylor later learned from Trump’s Ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, that Trump was “adamant that President Zelensky himself had to clear things up…in public.”
  • As a result of these interactions and others, Taylor testified that, in addition to a White House visit, it was his “clear understanding [that] security assistance money would not come until [Zelensky] committed to pursue the investigation.”
  • Ukraine was fully aware of what it needed to do to satisfy Trump’s attempted extortion.
  • Taylor described multiple instances where Sondland outlined the quid pro quo to Ukraine, including conveying that there would be a “stalemate” if Zelensky did not “pay up first” by publicly declaring an investigation into the Bidens.
  • Trump used the U.S. government to pursue his shadow foreign policy agenda for his own personal gain and turned over the reins to his henchman, Rudy Giuliani.
  • Taylor believed that “the origin of the idea to get Zelensky to say out loud he’s going to investigate Burisma and the 2016 election…was Mr. Giuliani” — the very same idea that National Security Advisor John Bolton described as a “drug deal.”
  • Taylor testified that he learned that Trump suggested that Zelensky or his staff meet with Rudy Giuliani. When asked whose interests Giuliani was representing, Taylor was unequivocal: “President Trump’s.”
  • Joined the foreign service in 1992 and has served every administration since
  • Currently Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, responsible for overseeing U.S. policy toward Ukraine
  • Served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Kyiv from 2015-2018
  • Was the Senior Anti-Corruption Coordinator for Europe at the State Department from 2014-2015

George Kent’s closed-door testimony confirmed that Trump ordered the extortion effort, and outlined in detail the months-long “insidious” pressure campaign that Trump waged to get it.

  • Trump used hundreds of millions in U.S. military aid and the promise of a White House visit to force Ukraine to comply with his political goals. 
  • Kent could not have been clearer: “[Ambassador] Gordon [Sondland], had talked to the President…and POTUS wanted nothing less than President Zelensky to go to microphone and say investigations, Biden, and Clinton.”
  • Kent confirmed that former U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and others were conveying Trump’s demands to Zelensky directly. Kent testified that Volker told him that was giving Zelensky guidance “on how he needed to characterize his willingness to be cooperative on issues of interest to the President.” Kent understood this to mean that Volker would be “sending signals about potential investigations.”
  • Trump led a months-long and increasingly “insidious” campaign that subverted U.S. national security interests for his own personal gain.
  • Kent testified that Ukraine policy shifted to “unusual channels” after a May 23 Oval Office meeting with President Trump when Secretary Perry, Sondland and Volker “assert[ed] that, going forward, they would be the drivers of the relationship with Ukraine” — instead of with Kent, where it belonged.
  • Not surprisingly, Kent quickly had “growing concerns that individuals were pushing communications with Ukrainians that had not been discussed and endorsed in the formal policy process.”
  • Kent wrote a memorandum outlining “his concerns that there was an effort to initiate politically motivated prosecutions that were injurious to the rule of law, both in Ukraine and the U.S.” and made clear the investigations “were the ones that Rudy Giuliani had been tweeting about, meaning Biden, Burisma, and 2016.”
  • Trump slandered the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, in a political hit-job that deeply troubled Kent and others.
  • Kent outlined how Giuliani “had influence on the President in terms of the way the President thought of Ukraine” and was running a “campaign of slander” for months against Ambassador Yovanovitch in the U.S. and Ukraine, which was “primarily non-truths and non-sequiturs” and “without basis, untrue, period.”

Bill Taylor

Greg Brower, former FBI Assistant Director, Republican State Assemblyman: I don’t care what the White House and its supporters may try to say. It is absolutely clear from this testimony that there was a quid pro quo and that the details, more details will only come out to present a fuller picture. And look, there are certainly Republicans on the Hill who are going to go down swinging and are going to support the President to the very bitter end, but I have to believe that today’s events are causing a lot of thoughtful Republicans on the Hill to start wondering how far can we go in supporting this president. [CNN, 10/22/2019]

Carrie Cordero, former Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for National Security, and advisor to John Kasich’s 2016 presidential campaign: First with respect to the issues that are under consideration for impeachment, Bill Taylor clearly articulated, I think, in the way that we’ve most clearly understood it at this point, the exchange that was on the table. In other words, that the president and his advisors who were doing this secondhand back-channel communications with the government of Ukraine, they were seeking out political information regarding investigations into the Bidens, investigations into the 2016 campaign in exchange for U.S. government security assistance. [CNN, 10/22/2019]

Retired Col. Bob Seitz: In Vietnam, Seitz said, he and Taylor saw and endured, “Fatigue, hunger, bad weather, dying, killing, and a lot of terrible wounds.” “He was calm and composed under all of this,” Seitz said. “And the men needed a leader that was like that. He set the very best example.” Seitz, who was classmates with Taylor at West Point, said Taylor’s personal character is one of “integrity, of compassion, and always setting the best example, endurance and courage.” … Taylor extended his tour in Vietnam an extra six months, he said, and Seitz said none of those attacking Taylor “stood up for this country for 18 months the way Bill did in Vietnam.” [CNN, 10/27/19]

Retired Maj. Gen. Robert St. Onge: St. Onge was also a West Point classmate of Taylor’s, and was in the same battalion as him in Vietnam. They were high school classmates, and Taylor was St. Onge’s best man at his wedding. “I don’t know anything about his politics, I just know that he has served his country faithfully as long as I have known him,” St. Onge told CNN in a recent interview. St. Onge said he would characterize Taylor’s service as the motto of the military academy: “Duty, Honor, Country. I think that’s what motivates him.” “The Bill that I know is extraordinarily intelligent, he is articulate, he cares about his soldiers,” St. Onge said. “He’s been a public servant all the way through. I have the utmost respect for him, and count him among my dearest friends.” [CNN, 10/27/19]

Retired Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry: “Ambassador Taylor represents the best of our Department of State. His integrity and courage are the true marks of patriotism, loyal to an oath of office and never to be corrupted or intimidated by those seeking personal gain at our Nation’s expense….He described Taylor as a “most capable but unassuming government servant,” adding that “Bill always volunteered for the tough posting.” [CNN, 10/27/19]

Nicholas Burns, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs: Ambassador Bill Taylor is a highly ethical and dedicated career diplomat. He is demonstrating today what true patriotism is.” [Tweet, 10/22/2019]

Strobe Talbott, former Deputy Secretary of State: “He’s just straight-up … He’s courageous. He was just the model of a diplomat, and he had no problem speaking his own mind to his superiors.” [NYT, 10/22/19]

Steven Pifer, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine: “If Bill Taylor says it happened, it happened.” [NYT, 10/22/19]

Anders Aslund, Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council: I have known Ambassador Bill Taylor for a quarter of a century & always seen him as an ideal US public servant. He stands with his old fine ideals while others degrade. Bill is a straight shooter who knows what is right & true & does not hesitate to say so clearly. God bless him! [Tweet, 10/23/2019]

Nancy McEldowney, former career Foreign Service Officer and U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria: [The testimony] does not surprise me at all, because Bill Taylor is a very measured, very methodical, very meticulous professional. You’ve talked about many of the things that he’s done. He has for many years been the senior statesman responsible for U.S. foreign assistance. Billions of dollars of assistance to Afghanistan, to Iraq, to the Middle East. Bill was responsible for all of that over the course of two decades without a single instance of him ever being questioned about a decision that he took or any responsibility that he held. It doesn’t surprise me to hear the White House lashing out at him in the same way that they lashed out at Masha Yovanovitch. But frankly, Bill comforted himself with the dignity and the courage of his convictions that I expected to see of him. He made heroic efforts to fight against this informal and unusual second track of diplomacy that as Carrie noted was subverting our strategic interest in Ukraine. He also made clear that there is much more to be uncovered here to include the role that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has played. [CNN, 10/22/2019]

George Kent

Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns: George Kent is one of the most knowledgeable experts on Ukraine in the USG.  And one of our best diplomats.  And an honorable person. [Tweet, 11/7/19]

Alyssa Ayres, former State Department official under Presidents Bush and Obama: George Kent is an outstanding public servant. We served together on @RNicholasBurns‘s staff & I am proud to know him–principled, forthright, & committed to US nat’l interests. [Tweet, 10/15/2019]

Alyssa Ayres, former State Department official under Presidents Bush and Obama: I worked with George Kent some years back. He is 100% forthright, as all can now see. A great and patriotic public servant. [Tweet, 10/7/2019]

Former State Department official Molly Montgomery: “[Kent] is professional and one of the US government’s foremost experts on Ukraine.” [CNN, 10/15/19]

Michael Gerhardt, CNN Legal Analyst and Professor at UNC School of Law: He’s a very respected diplomat. He’s not a Democrat in hiding. He’s a professional public servant, devoted public servant. And he’s confirming what other people have said about pressure being put on Ukraine to give the president what he wanted, a public declaration that the Bidens were being investigated. [CNN Tonight, 11/7/19]

Former senior U.S. official: “These people like Masha and George, they just want to keep their heads down and do their job. They don’t want any part of the media limelight. They hate this stuff. They were just trying to help Ukraine to become less corrupt and more stable.” [NBC, 10/12/19]

Ukraine Correspondent Christopher Miller: “Before he was deputy assistant secretary of state for Eurasia, George Kent served as deputy chief of mission at US embassy in Kyiv (2015-2018). He was close with civil society and focused on supporting its anti-corruption drive. He also has an encyclopedic knowledge of Ukraine.” [Tweet, 10/15/19]

Andrew Weiss, Vice President for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment: Deeply impressed by George Kent’s personal courage and professional integrity.  His account of challenging a State Dept lawyer re Pompeo’s inaccurate public statements about alleged Congressional bullying of career diplomats is riveting. [Tweet, 11/8/19]

Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL), former Ambassador (2005 – 2008): All of our professional diplomats, I think, have acquitted themselves very well in the hearings that I’ve been in…[Kent, Taylor, and Hill] are just professional diplomats. I don’t know that they have agendas. Their agenda is to pursue American foreign policy as dictated by the State Department. [Meet the Press, 10/23/2019]