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Pence’s Poland visit
As a hellscape brewed in the western Atlantic, the White House reconsidered plans to send Trump to Warsaw for an event commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of Poland.
Hurricane Dorian had ravaged the Bahamas, leaving hundreds missing and whole neighborhoods washed away, and the category 4 storm was threatening Florida.

On the sidelines of the Warsaw event, Trump was to meet with Zelenskiy, but it was decided that Pence would travel
to the event in his stead.

The Ukrainians were dealing with a looming disaster of their own. Days earlier, the suspension of almost $400m in US military assistance for Ukraine had been made public.
Taylor had become increasingly alarmed by the behind-the-scenes machinations to force Zelenskiy into a “public box” by formally announcing that Ukraine was opening investigations into Burisma, the Bidens and 2016 election meddling.

The Ukrainians were hesitant.
They wanted to lock down a date for a meeting at the White House before making a public declaration.

On 29 August, at the urging of Bolton, Taylor sent a rare cable directly to the secretary of state. Writing in the first person, he told Pompeo that withholding military aid was
“folly”. He testified that it was the first time he had ever sent such a cable in his decades-long career. Pompeo did not reply.

Ahead of the Warsaw meeting on 1 September, the American delegation discussed how to handle questions about the frozen military assistance.
Sondland jumped in and offered what he knew. “It looks like everything is being held up until these statements get made,” he said At the meeting, Zelenskiy immediately brought up the military aid. Pence assured the anxious president that military aid to
Ukraine was a priority and that he would raise the issue with Trump when he returned.

After the inconclusive meeting, Sondland pulled Yermak into an anteroom. “What’s going on here?” Yermak asked. That’s when Sondland, according to testimony, told
Yermak that the aid would be released if Ukraine announced a new investigation into Burisma. (Sondland later testified that he “presumed” the two matters were connected in the absence of any “credible explanation,” but said Trump never explicitly conveyed that to him.)
Then the ambassador spoke with Morrison, who was part of the delegation. “He walked across the space and he briefed me on what he had said to Mr Yermak,” testified Morrison, who promptly reported the conversation to Taylor.
“I was alarmed by what Mr Morrison told me about the Sondland–Yermak conversation,” Taylor said. “This was the first time I had heard that security assistance, not just the White House meeting, was conditioned on the investigations.”
Taylor immediately texted Sondland. “Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?” he asked.

“Call me,” Sondland replied.

Taylor called him. He said Sondland told him that “‘everything’ was dependent on such an announcement,
including security assistance”.

But the view from Washington was shifting. At this point, according to news reports, Trump was already aware of the existence of the whistleblower complaint while members of Congress pressured the White House to release the aid.
On 9 September, Taylor texted Sondland again: “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

Sondland, spurred by Taylor’s increasingly “frantic” texts, said he called Trump directly to ask for clarity.
“What do you want from Ukraine?” Sondland testified that he asked an irritable Trump.

“I want nothing,” he said Trump replied. “I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelenskiy to do the right thing.”

It was also on 9 September that Congress learned of the
existence of the whistleblower complaint. Two days later, the military aid is released.

Two weeks after that, House speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, announced the commencement of a formal impeachment inquiry, which proceeds next week.
“The actions of the 🍊 presidency revealed dishonorable facts of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections,” she said, concluding: “The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law.”
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