William B. Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat in Ukraine, gave an arresting account on Tuesday of the back-channel diplomacy President Trump’s associates carried out with Ukrainian leaders. Contradicting the president, Mr. Taylor testified that there was a clear pressure campaign linking $391 million in suspended military assistance to demands that Ukraine investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son. He also stressed the recklessness of the strategy, and how the suspension of aid directly threatened Ukrainian lives.
Buoyed by Mr. Taylor’s explosive testimony, House Democrats will continue hearing testimony from others this week with promising evidence already in hand.
Impeachment investigators are questioning the first Defense Department official to testify in the inquiry.
Laura Cooper, a top Defense Department official overseeing Ukraine policy, arrived Wednesday morning on Capitol Hill, where she slipped wordlessly into the secure room where lawmakers are interviewing witnesses as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Trump.
Ms. Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, ignored reporters’ questions about whether she had come under subpoena. She arrived accompanied by a bevy of officers in uniform.
Ms. Cooper is appearing despite the Defense Department’s announcement that it would not comply with a House subpoena to provide investigators documents related to the inquiry, and to Mr. Trump’s decision to hold up military aid to Ukraine.
Trump pushes back on Taylor’s account that he insisted on a quid pro quo from Ukraine
President Trump began another day assailing the impeachment inquiry, taking aim at the account delivered behind closed doors on Tuesday by Mr. Taylor, an envoy to Ukraine. In his testimony, Mr. Taylor tied Mr. Trump directly to an effort to withhold both military aid and a White House meeting from Ukraine until the Ukrainian president publicly announced that his country was investigating Democrats.
Mr. Trump appeared to be quoting Representative John Ratcliffe, Republican of Texas, from a morning segment on Fox News in claiming that there could be no quid pro quo with Ukraine if its leaders were unaware that the security assistance package was being blocked.
But Mr. Taylor’s account and those of other officials who have testified privately in the impeachment inquiry have made clear that the Ukrainians did, indeed, become aware that the aid package was being held back, and were deeply disturbed by it. In late August, a top Ukrainian official approached Mr. Taylor “very concerned about the matter.”
“I was embarrassed that I could give him no explanation for why it was withheld,” Mr. Taylor testified. Later, he added, Ukrainians became alarmed when he and other American officials would not respond to direct questions about the delayed aid.
Another wealthy Trump donor faces charges of financial crimes. It could have ripple effects into investigations of Mr. Trump’s inauguration.
Imaad Zuberi, a California venture capitalist who has donated heavily to politicians of both parties, is expected to plead guilty to violating a range of tax and finance laws. Since 2016, Mr. Zuberi has been a major donor to President Trump’s inaugural committee and the Republican Party.
Should Mr. Zuberi cooperate with prosecutors, he could add another layer of detail to investigations into Mr. Trump’s inauguration, which is already facing scrutiny over whether foreigners illegally donated money in hopes of buying influence.
Catch up on impeachment: What you need to know about the inquiry.
President Trump repeatedly pressured President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate people and issues of political concern to Mr. Trump, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Here’s a timeline of events since January.
A C.I.A. officer who was once detailed to the White House filed a whistle-blower complaint on Mr. Trump’s interactions with Mr. Zelensky. Read the complaint.