In testimony that was described as “devastating” for Donald Trump on Tuesday, Bill Taylor, the acting United States ambassador to Ukraine, named the U.S. president as the leader of a scheme to withhold a badly-needed military aid package in order to strong-arm the president of Ukraine into investigating Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
According to a former federal prosecutor who also led the Justice Department investigation into the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, if Trump were facing criminal charges in federal court — as opposed to impeachment in Congress — he would be better off simply pleading guilty in hopes of a reduced charge. This, as he sees it, makes Taylor’s evidence potentially damaging to the president.
In an MSNBC interview, David N. Kelley, a former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said that based on the evidence revealed by Taylor, Trump could be charged with federal campaign finance violations. He added that the president could also face charges of attempting to bribe a foreign official.
Taylor’s opening statement, as shared online by The Washington Post, accuses Trump of holding back the aid package — essential for Ukraine in its ongoing border war with Russia — in an attempt to force Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to publicly announce an investigation into allegations of “corruption” by Biden in Ukraine. This announcement is seen as one that could potentially benefit Trump in his re-election campaign.
“Lots of cases don’t go to trial in a criminal case because the evidence is overwhelming or sufficient enough to have a conviction,” Kelley told MSNBC host Ari Melber, as quoted by the news site Raw Story.
Kelley went on to state that the evidence against Trump is so powerful that it would be unlikely to make it as far as a criminal jury trial.
“When confronted with all the evidence, a reasonable defendant would likely take a plea,” Kelley told Melber, as seen in the video above.
In his testimony, Taylor told congressional investigators why he accepted the position of top U.S. envoy to Ukraine after Trump fired ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. He explained that this was because he was told by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the president was committed to supporting Ukraine in its battle against Russia and its development as a democracy.
But if Trump ever actually intended to support Ukraine, according to a Washington Post account of Taylor’s testimony, he undermined that policy with “an irregular, informal channel of U.S. policy-making.” This, the report noted, was run behind the scenes by the president, his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, and wealthy Trump donor Gordon Sondland, who had been named U.S. ambassador to the European Union — as well as other Trump associates.
It was through that “irregular channel” that Trump allegedly attempted to strong-arm Zelensky into announcing the “investigation” into Biden, Taylor testified.