Top US diplomat William Taylor scheduled to testify in impeachment probe

Top US diplomat William Taylor scheduled to testify in impeachment probe
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William Taylor, a top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, is scheduled to testify next week as part of House Democrats' ongoing impeachment inquiry examining President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeWine tests negative for coronavirus a second time Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Beirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally MORE's contacts with Ukraine.

A source familiar with the matter confirmed Taylor, who has served as chargé d'affaires for Ukraine since June, is set to testify on Tuesday, though another person told The Hill the appearance is tentative.

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Taylor will follow a string of other witnesses, both current and former employees of the Trump administration, who have testified on Capitol Hill despite the White House vowing not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry.

Democrats have moved quickly to examine a whistleblower complaint that included allegations Trump and his personal attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiCoronavirus concerns emerge around debates Giuliani says Black Lives Matter is 'domestic terrorist' group Commission on Presidential Debates rejects Trump campaign call for earlier debate MORE pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden says Trump executive order is 'a reckless war on Social Security' Trump got into testy exchange with top GOP donor Adelson: report Blumenthal calls for declassification of materials detailing Russian threat to US elections MORE, the former vice president and a current 2020 Democratic front-runner, while simultaneously withholding financial aid intended to combat Russian aggression in the region.

Democrats say Trump was using the aid as leverage, while Republicans claim witnesses have backed up Trump's assertions that there was no quid pro quo.

NBC News first reported on Taylor's expected testimony.

Taylor was involved in a text message exchange with two other U.S. diplomats made public earlier this month after one of the others testified. In it, Taylor outlined what he saw as a possible "nightmare scenario" resulting from ongoing negotiations to set up a meeting between Trump and Zelensky.

Over the summer, the other two diplomats — Kurt VolkerKurt VolkerGOP senators request details on Hunter Biden's travel for probe Yovanovitch retires from State Department: reports Live coverage: Senators enter second day of questions in impeachment trial MORE, then Trump's special envoy to Ukraine, and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union — had worked with Giuliani to win a statement from Zelensky addressing both Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company that employed Biden's son, and Russia's interference in the 2016 elections.

In a Sept. 8 text to Volker and Sondland, Taylor worried that Ukraine would make good on providing an unspecified "interview" but that Trump would renege on the military aid.

"The nightmare is they give the interview and don't get the security assistance," Taylor texted to Volker and Sondland, according to the transcripts released by Democrats. "The Russians love it. (And I quit)."

The next day, Taylor warned Sondland that Trump's previous decision to withhold almost $400 million in assistance to Ukraine had already strained relations between the two allies to the benefit of Russia, which launched an incursion into Ukraine in 2014 and still supports rebel forces in eastern parts of the country.

"The message to the Ukrainians (and Russians) we send with the decision on security assistance is key," Taylor wrote. "With the hold, we have already shaken their faith in us. This is my nightmare scenario."

Sondland, a Trump megadonor, responded with confidence that "we have identified the best pathway forward."

Taylor, however, was skeptical, saying, "It's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign" — a reference to the potential harm to Biden's presidential chances if he became enmeshed in a scandal surrounding the foreign business interests of his son.

Sondland pushed back hard, saying Taylor was "incorrect" about Trump's reasons for withholding the funding.

"The president has been crystal clear no quid pro quo's of any kind," Sondland wrote. "The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelenskiy promised during his campaign."