House Democrats launched their first televised impeachment hearing Wednesday and called their first star witness to testify about the Trump administration’s interactions with Ukraine: U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor.
And one of Taylor first orders of business was to dispel the notion that he’s a star witness for Democrats.
Taylor made the clarification in response to questions from Republican Rep. Jim Jordan.
“Let me just say that I don’t consider myself a star witness for anything,” Taylor said.
“They do,” Jordan shot back, referring to Democrats.
“I think I was clear, I’m not here to take one side or the other or to advocate any particular outcome,” Taylor said. “Let me restate that.”
Taylor stressed that most of what he offered came second-hand.
“My understanding is only coming from people I talked to,” he said.
Taylor testified alongside George Kent, a State Department official in charge of Ukraine policy.
Neither of the men interacted directly with President Trump during the alleged attempts by his administration to encourage Ukraine to launch a corruption investigation into Burisma Holdings, a natural gas company that paid former vice president Joe Biden’s son millions during the Obama administration.
Jordan, for one, was quick to point out that second-hand allegations President Trump withheld aid from Ukraine to demand investigations into Burisma, as well as the country’s involvement in the 2016 election, are simply not true, The New York Times reports.
The money was released to the Ukraine, which did not investigate.
“What you heard did not happen,” Jordan told Taylor. “It’s not just could it have been wrong, the fact is it was wrong, because it did not happen.”
Taylor testified during a closed-door deposition on Oct. 22 that he was first contacted by congressional staff about the impeachment inquiry in early October, but Republicans revealed a special trip sponsored by the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank, to bring staffers for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and others to the Ukraine, where they met with Taylor.
The Atlantic Council, Yahoo News reports, received more than $150,000 a year from Burisma Holdings since 2016.
Taylor told lawmakers in October he was unaware of the connection, though he acknowledged the trip and alleged it involved a tour of his residence for the staffers and John Herbst, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 2003 to 2006 who is now head of the Atlantic Council.
Geysha Gonzalez, who led the Eurasia Congressional Fellowship at the Atlantic Council, told Yahoo News money donated by Burisma was not the same money used to pay for the August trip to the Ukraine.
Like Taylor’s testimony on Wednesday, Gonzalaez’ assurances were light on evidence and heavy on hearsay.
“I’ve talked to anybody who’s asked. There’s nothing there,” Gonzalez said. “No funder can push us on where their funding goes to, or can manage our agendas.”