Meanwhile, representative Mark Meadows, a Republican member of the House oversight committee and a close ally of Trump’s, joked that Bill Taylor’s interview could go on for much longer.
The acting US ambassador to Ukraine started his testimony for House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry about three hours ago.
The opening statement from Bill Taylor, the acting US ambassador to Ukraine, to the three House committees leading the impeachment inquiry solicited “sighs and gasps,” according to a Politico reporter.
The opening statements from Maria Yovanovitch, the former US ambassador to Ukraine, and Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the EU, were quickly leaked to the press, so it’s likely the same will occur with Taylor’s statement.
A Republican senator, Susan Collins of Maine, condemned Trump’s use of the term “lynching” to describe House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.
Collins’ tweet appears to be one of the most forceful criticisms yet from Republicans, as other GOP lawmakers have simply said that they did not “agree” with Trump’s usage of the term.
House Democrat describes Taylor’s testimony as ‘incredibly damaging’ to Trump
Representative Ted Lieu, a Democratic member of the House foreign affairs committee, just emerged from the closed-door interview with Bill Taylor and said the acting US ambassador to Ukraine’s testimony was “incredibly damaging to the president.”
CNN reported earlier today that Taylor intended to use his testimony to fill in some of the gaps surrounding his 9 September text message, in which he said it was “crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”
Michael Steele, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee who has repeatedly criticized Trump in the past, denounced the president’s use of the term “lynching” to describe House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.
Steele also chastised Lindsey Graham after the South Carolina senator echoed Trump’s use of the term and said the impeachment probe is “a lynching in every sense.”
However, Graham does not appear to be changing his stance at all, insisting that the inquiry is a “political lynching” and refusing to comment on the racist implications of Trump’s comment.
Representative Eric Swalwell, a Democratic member of the House intelligence committee, said in a tweet that Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the EU, asked Trump at one point: “What do you want from Ukraine?”
Sondland testified in House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry last week and may have shared this detail with the investigating lawmakers behind closed doors, but the transcript of his appearance has not been publicly released.
After Bill Taylor said in a text message last month that he thought it was “crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” Sondland replied: “Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind.”
However, reports later emerged that Sondland only sent his “no quid pro quo” message after speaking to Trump.
White House defends Trump’s description of impeachment inquiry as ‘lynching’
A White House spokesperson defended Trump’s use of the word “lynching” to describe the impeachment inquiry by arguing that the president was not making a historical comparison.
This explanation seems highly questionable, given that the word “lynching” has almost exclusively been applied to the thousands of people (most of them African American) who were murdered in the late 19th and early 20th century.
It seems virtually impossible that Trump is unaware of this history, particularly given that the Senate passed a bill last year to make lynching a hate crime. The president has not yet signed the legislation.
Taylor was subpoenaed for his testimony, House official confirms
Bill Taylor, the acting US ambassador to Ukraine who is currently speaking to House members for Democrats’ impeachment inquiry against Trump, was reportedly subpoenaed for his testimony.
Other officials who have spoken to the three House committees leading the inquiry have similarly been subpoenaed – including Taylor’s predecessor, Maria Yovanovitch.
Senator Tim Scott, the only African American Republican serving in the Senate, offered this muted criticism of Trump’s use of the term “lynching” to describe the impeachment inquiry.