As senior security officials tried to get a meeting with President Donald Trump to convince him to release the hold on military aid for Ukraine, the administration’s attention was elsewhere, according to newly released evidence.
A 324-page transcript of closed-door testimony of top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine released Wednesday revealed that the meeting was difficult to arrange partly because the president’s national security advisors and cabinet officials were busy dealing with his desire to buy Greenland.
In his testimony before the three House committees leading the impeachment inquiry into Trump, which took place last month, Bill Taylor said that it was his “clear understanding” that security assistance money for Ukraine would be withheld until the country’s president committed to investigating the son of Trump’s political rival Joe Biden.
But buried among allegations of the White House’s attempted quid pro quo with Ukraine, was a reference to an earlier diplomatic row, involving the world’s biggest island.
In his testimony, Taylor was asked about his remark that secretaries of defense and state, the CIA director and the national security advisor sought a joint meeting with President Trump to change his mind on withholding military aid from Ukraine, but such a meeting was “hard to schedule.”
He pointed out that it was due to a scheduling issue, but also the president’s keen interest in buying Greenland from Denmark.
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“I think this was also about the time of the Greenland question, about purchasing Greenland, which took up a lot of energy in the [National Security Council],” Taylor told the lawmakers.
“That’s disturbing for a whole different reason,” House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., responded to Taylor, according to the transcript.
Trump sparked a diplomatic row with Denmark in August after he expressed interest in buying Greenland.
The Danish government adamantly rejected the idea, saying the autonomous Danish territory was not for sale.
Taylor has served as chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine since June. He had previously served as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009.
His testimony is part of a rolling release of documents in the impeachment inquiry against Trump, stemming from the president’s dealings with Ukraine that included the decision to withhold $400 million in security and military aid from the country embroiled in a conflict with Kremlin-backed separatists.
Trump has repeatedly denied any allegations of a quid pro quo with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
On Tuesday, impeachment investigators released the transcript of the testimony of U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and of Kurt Volker, former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine.
The transcript of testimony from Marie Yovanovitch, the ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, was released on Monday.
Taylor is slated to be one of the witnesses testifying in the first open impeachment inquiry hearing next week.
Adam Edelman and Associated Press contributed.