U.S. Diplomat William Taylor To Testify In Impeachment Probe
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
President Trump's view regarding the House impeachment inquiry is well-established.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They've got nothing. All they have is a phone call that was perfect. All they have is a whistleblower who's disappeared. Where is he? He's gone. Then they have a second whistleblower. The second whistleblower's got - oh, it's going to - where is he? He disappeared. Then they have an informant. Oh, the informant is - where is he? They're interviewing - they're interviewing ambassadors who I'd never heard of. I don't know who these people are. I never heard of them.
MARTIN: Well, one of them is William Taylor. He currently heads the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, and he will be testifying before the inquiry today. NPR's diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen is with us this morning. Hi, Michele.
MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.
MARTIN: Tell us a little more about William Taylor.
KELEMEN: Well. He's a Vietnam War veteran who's worked at the State Department on everything from the Middle East to Afghanistan, but Ukraine has really been a big part of his career. He often went there in the late '90s for aid projects, and then in 2006, Taylor was named ambassador. I'm told he even jumped with an elite Ukrainian airborne unit a couple of times, so he seems to have enjoyed the job. This year, he was brought back to run the embassy after Marie Yovanovitch was withdrawn. She's the ambassador who faced a smear campaign led by Trump's private lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
MARTIN: And a lot of diplomats were furious at that decision - that she had been pushed out.
MARTIN: So what do we know about his views on Ukraine?
KELEMEN: A lot, actually, 'cause he co-wrote a number of articles in recent years with some other former ambassadors to Ukraine. They talked about the need to help Ukraine counter Russian aggression. They talked about the need to provide defensive weapons to Ukraine, which the Trump administration did. And earlier this year, he was actually an election monitor in Ukraine. And afterwards, he talked in a podcast for the U.S. Institute of Peace about the new president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Let's take a listen.
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WILLIAM TAYLOR: The new president - the president-elect is getting a lot of support from the international community. And, as people told me over and over, the Americans are key.
KELEMEN: So you see, he sounded very enthusiastic about Zelenskiy's anti-corruption campaign. He wanted the U.S. to support it. But President Trump, on the other hand, had quite a dim view of Ukraine reinforced, we're learning, by Hungary's leader, among others. And just remember the backdrop here. You know, Trump was trying to get out from under a cloud of the Robert Mueller investigation into Russia's intervention in the 2016 election. And he and his private lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, are, you know, trying to shift the blame to Ukraine.
MARTIN: Right. So remind us where William Taylor fits into all that because he has a very - he has an important role as someone who sent some very important messages. Right?
KELEMEN: That's right. You know, early in this impeachment inquiry, the House committees released a bunch of text messages. And the ones that Taylor appears in, he was saying things like, Zelenskiy is sensitive about not being seen as an instrument of U.S. politics. In another, he said it's crazy - that was his word - to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign. So you know, you see he was a supporter of this aid, which was delayed for a time this summer while Trump's lawyer was urging Ukraine to investigate the Bidens as well as some conspiracy theories about the 2016 election meddling.
MARTIN: So given that Taylor is highly regarded in diplomatic circles and the fact that he has not a lot to lose at this stage of his career, what kind of information you think he could give to House investigators?
KELEMEN: Well, his former colleagues say that he seemed to be creating a record with these messages, that he was quite honest. And they're expecting him to be quite the same in his deposition. That's his style. Lawmakers and their staffers are going to want to get a full picture of his understanding of why the U.S. aid was being held up. And they'll - he'll also have some insight into what Ukrainian officials were thinking about that.
MARTIN: All right. NPR's diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen. Thanks, Michele.
KELEMEN: Sure thing.
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