Congressman Calls Ukraine Ambassador's Testimony His 'Most Disturbing Day' in Congress

U.S. Representative Andy Levin told reporters that hearing U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor's testimony Tuesday morning had made for his "most disturbing day" since joining Congress.

Taylor, who has been the top diplomat in Ukraine since Trump controversially recalled Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch this summer, testified before congressional investigators in connection with the House's impeachment inquiry. Some of his text messages to other diplomats have already been made public as part of the fast-moving probe, with one note suggesting there was a quid pro quo involved with President Donald Trump's pressure campaign against Ukraine.

Levin, a freshman Democrat from Michigan, emerged from the closed-door session and briefly shared his thoughts with journalists outside, NBC News and Fox News reported. "All I have to say is that in my 10 short months in Congress—it's not even noon, right?—and this is the—my most disturbing day in the Congress so far," he asserted.

"Very troubling," Levin added.

In one text message to U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, Taylor asked directly: "Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?" Sondland responded by telling the diplomat to call him, suggesting that he didn't want a paper trail of their conversation.

Representative Ami Bera, a Democrat from California, told CNN that Taylor was "filling in some gaps, he's sharing with us in a pretty candid way his experience." Comparing Taylor's testimony to Sondland's, Bera asserted that the ambassador to Ukraine seemed to have a better "memory and recollection."

The impeachment inquiry was launched at the end of September after a whistleblower came forward with concerns about the president's efforts to pressure Ukraine to open an investigation into a debunked conspiracy theory involving Democrats and 2016 presidential election interference, as well as unsubstantiated claims against the leading Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Critics of the president have argued that it was an abuse of his office to even request foreign assistance in an investigation of a political rival.

Furthermore, the Trump administration temporarily withheld nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine, which the president's acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, said last Thursday was linked to pressuring the Eastern European country to open the probe targeting Democrats. After swift backlash, Mulvaney attempted to withdraw the comments, insisting there was no such "quid pro quo" and that the military aid being withheld wasn't actually linked to the desired probe.

Bill Taylor
Acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor arrives on October 22 for a deposition in the House of Representatives' impeachment inquiry. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat from Florida, told The New York Times that Taylor's testimony drew a "direct line" between Trump's personal political goals and his foreign policy in Ukraine. She described the ambassador's testimony as "excruciatingly detailed."

Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat who heads the Federal Election Commission, has pointed out that accepting assistance from a foreigner or a foreign government is against the law. "It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election," Weintraub pointed out in a statement earlier this year.

Trump and his supporters have repeatedly argued that the impeachment inquiry is "partisan," describing it as a "witch hunt" and a "lynching." But several prominent Republicans have raised serious concerns about the president's actions toward Ukraine.

In regards to Mulvaney's Thursday comments about withholding military aid to Ukraine, GOP Representative Francis Rooney of Florida said that the Trump administration official couldn't simply "walk back" his public remarks.

"I don't see how you walk back something that's clear," Rooney said in an interview with CNN on Sunday. "I would say game, set, match on that."

This article has been updated with comments from Congressman Ami Bera to CNN, and remarks by Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz to The New York Times.

Congressman Calls Ukraine Ambassador's Testimony His 'Most Disturbing Day' in Congress | U.S.