It’s no surprise that Ambassador William Taylor is expected to be the first witness to testify when the House of Representatives opens public impeachment hearings against President Donald Trump next week.
First, he’s an astoundingly credible witness — straight from central casting, as Trump himself likes to say about some of his appointees. As a matter of prosecutorial strategy, that makes him an ideal first witness for House Democrats to lay out their case for the first time to the public.
Second, the content of Taylor’s deposition was extraordinarily damning. That’s because it nailed Trump’s abuse of power, the fundamental element of the “high crimes and misdemeanors” for which Democrats aim to impeach.
His biography alone will make Taylor believable to the viewing public, not only to anti-Trump Democrats but even to pro-Trump Republicans. Unlike some other witnesses, he can’t be dismissed as an anti-Trump partisan or, like U.S. Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an immigrant. As Taylor said introducing his deposition testimony: “For 50 years, I have served the country, starting as a cadet at West Point, then as an infantry officer for six years, including with the 101 Airborne Division in Vietnam.” He went on to work at the Department of Energy; as a Senate staffer; at NATO; with the State Department in Afghanistan, Iraq, Jerusalem, and Ukraine; and at the nonpartisan United States Institute of Peace. (He had me at 101st Airborne in Vietnam. This so-called “deep state” turns out to have some pretty impressive people working for it.)
Moreover, if Taylor revealed any implicit political leanings, they were Republican. His first stint as ambassador to Ukraine came after he was appointed to the role by George W. Bush. When asked by the Trump administration to reprise the role, he asked two people for advice: his wife and an unnamed “respected former senior Republican official who has been a mentor to me.”
For all of these reasons, Taylor is an ideal witness for House Democrats to begin with: an honest, unbiased person with detailed recollections. [Continue reading…]