Trump steps up attacks on key diplomat in impeachment inquiry

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSanders urges impeachment trial 'quickly' in the Senate US sending 20,000 troops to Europe for largest exercises since Cold War Barr criticizes FBI, says it's possible agents acted in 'bad faith' in Trump probe MORE on Friday called William Taylor, the top diplomat who recently testified in the House impeachment inquiry, a “Never Trumper” and said Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump administration imposes sanction on Saudi diplomat over Khashoggi killing Mulvaney: 'Politics can and should influence foreign policy' The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - Democrats to release articles of impeachment today MORE made a mistake hiring him.

“Here’s the problem: He’s a Never Trumper,” the president told reporters at the White House in response to a question about Taylor’s explosive testimony from earlier this week.

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“His lawyer is the head of the Never Trumpers," the president added.

"They’re a dying breed, but they’re still there,” Trump said of Republicans who do not support his agenda.

NBC News reported last week that lawyer John Bellinger, a former George W. Bush administration official who has been an outspoken critic of Trump, would represent Taylor and another witness in the impeachment probe: Pompeo’s former chief of staff, Michael McKinley.

Trump attacked Taylor and Bellinger earlier this week on Twitter by labeling them “Never Trumpers,” while adding that he didn’t know Taylor. Trump also said this week that Republicans who do not support his agenda are “human scum.”

Taylor testified behind closed doors to Congress on Tuesday that a White House meeting and military aid to Ukraine were contingent on Kiev opening investigations into 2016 election interference and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenThe media have fallen out of love with Bernie, but have voters? Top Zelensky aide refutes Sondland testimony The great AI debate: What candidates are (finally) saying about artificial intelligence MORE and his son Hunter Biden’s involvement in a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, according to his opening statement.

The testimony from Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, undercut Trump's repeated claims that there was no quid pro quo in his dealings with Ukraine. Trump has maintained that his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “perfect” and that House Democrats are pursuing a “witch hunt” against him to damage his reelection prospects.

Trump did not respond to questions Friday about whether he believed Taylor lied in his statement to Congress.

A rough transcript of the July 25 call released by the White House showed Trump had asked Zelensky to pursue investigations into the 2016 election and the Bidens. There is no evidence the Bidens engaged in criminal wrongdoing.

The phone call triggered an intelligence community whistleblower complaint alleging an effort by Trump to solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election. Trump has accused the whistleblower of offering a misleading account of the conversation and insisted his actions were about fighting “corruption” and had nothing to do with the upcoming presidential election. Biden is the Democratic front-runner for the party's nomination.

When asked on Friday why Pompeo hired him, Trump said, “Everybody makes mistakes. Mike Pompeo? Everybody makes mistakes.”

Taylor, a career foreign service officer, came out of retirement earlier this year when Pompeo asked him to head the U.S. embassy in Kiev. Taylor was last appointed by George W. Bush to serve as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009. It’s unclear what his politics are, and Trump did not provide evidence Friday to back up his assertions about Taylor's political leanings.

The president and his GOP allies have attacked Democrats over what they view as an unfair impeachment process, criticizing the fact that hearings have been conducted behind closed doors and that Democrats have not held a floor vote to formalize the inquiry.

"This is a hoax" Trump said Friday. "This is a disgrace that this could happen in our country."

While the Trump administration has refused to cooperate with the investigation, Democrats have succeeded in receiving testimony from current and former officials – career civil servants and political appointees – by issuing subpoenas.

Those victories have prompted GOP allies to put pressure on the White House to beef up its defense team and establish a more coordinated strategy to deal with the impeachment probe.

But Trump on Friday rejected the idea of bolstering his staff to counter the fast-moving inquiry.

"Here’s the thing. I don’t have teams. Everyone’s talking about teams. I’m the team. I did nothing wrong," Trump told reporters.

Updated at 2:02 p.m.