Who is William Taylor? Impeachment Star Witness Has Long Relationship with Burisma-Backed Think Tank
U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor, who provided key testimony to the Democrats’ controversial impeachment inquiry yesterday, has evidenced a close relationship with the Atlantic Council think tank, even writing Ukraine policy pieces with the organization’s director and analysis articles published by the Council.
The Atlantic Council is funded by and works in partnership with Burisma, the natural gas company at the center of allegations regarding Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.
In addition to a direct relationship with the Atlantic Council, Taylor for the last nine years also served as a senior adviser to the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC), which has co-hosted events with the Atlantic Council and has participated in events co-hosted jointly by the Atlantic Council and Burisma.
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Another senior adviser to the USUBC is David J. Kramer, a long-time adviser to late Senator John McCain. Kramer played a central role in disseminating the anti-Trump dossier to the news media and Obama administration. Taylor participated in events and initiatives organized by Kramer.
The links may be particularly instructive after Breitbart News reported that itinerary for a trip to Ukraine in August organized by the Burisma-funded Atlantic Council for ten Congressional aides reveals that a staffer on Rep. Adam Schiff’s House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence held a meeting during the trip with Taylor. The pre-planned trip took place after the so-called whistleblower officially filed his August 12 complaint and reportedly after a Schiff aide was contacted by the so-called whistleblower.
Multiple U.S. media outlets yesterday obtained Taylor’s full opening statement to the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees.
In the leaked pre-written full opening statement, Taylor alluded to work he said he did for a “small Ukrainian non- governmental organization” but he omitted the name of the organization.
“In the intervening 10 years, I have stayed engaged with Ukraine, visiting frequently since 2013 as a board member of a small Ukrainian non- governmental organization supporting good governance and reform,” he said.
The name of the organization is the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC), where Taylor served for nine years as senior advisor. The USUBC has co-hosted or participated in scores of events with the Atlantic Council. Taylor has also authored numerous analysis pieces published by the Atlantic Council itself and has co-authored opeds written together with the Atlantic Council’s director.
Burisma is a key financial backer of the Atlantic Council. In 2017, Burisma and the Atlantic Council signed a cooperative agreement to develop transatlantic programs with Burisma’s financial support reportedly to focus “on European and international energy security.” Burisma specifically finances the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center.
Besides funding the Atlantic Council, Burisma also routinely partners with the think tank. Only four months ago, the company co-hosted the Atlantic Council’s second Annual Kharkiv Security Conference. Burisma advertises that it committed itself to “15 key principles of rule of law and economic policy in Ukraine developed by the Atlantic Council.”
In March, three months before he became Trump’s ambassador to Ukraine, the Atlantic Council featured an oped co-authored by Taylor in which the diplomat argued Ukraine “has further to travel toward its self-proclaimed European goal” of reformation.
In 2017, Taylor wrote a piece for the Atlantic Council about a Ukrainian parliament vote on health care reform.
Last year, he participated in an online Atlantic Council Q & A on the Crimea.
In November 2011, the Atlantic Council hosted Taylor as the featured speaker at a discussion event when he was appointed that year as Special Coordinator for Middle East Transitions at the State Department.
In March 2014, Taylor co-authored an analysis piece at Foreign Policy magazine written together with John E. Herbst, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who serves as director of the Eurasia Center for the Atlantic council – the same Eurasia Center that is specifically funded by Burisma.
That same year, Taylor also co-authored a New York Times op-ed with the Atlantic Council’s Herbst on Ukraine. The duo co-authored another Times op-ed one year later on the future of Ukraine. The op-ed was reprinted on the USUBC’s website.
The USUBC, where Taylor was a senior adviser for nine years along with Kramer, has hosted Herbst for briefings and other events.
Kramer of the USUBC, infamous for his role in disseminating the anti-Trump dossier, also held a November 2011 event at the Atlantic Council’s D.C. offices for a group that he heads called Freedom House. Taylor was one of six featured speakers at Kramer’s event.
The Atlantic Council published what it deemed a 24-point plan for ending the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. In conjunction with the plan, Kramer, in his role as director of Freedom House, organized a letter by American and European experts and former officials urging Russia to end its conflict with Ukraine. Signatories of the letter, published on the Burisma-funded Atlantic Council’s website, include Taylor, Kramer and the Atlantic Council’s Herbst.
As late as this past March, Taylor was listed as one of nine members of the Friends of Ukraine Network Economic Security Task Force. Another member is Kramer.
When he deployed to Ukraine as Trump’s ambassador in June, the USUBC authored a piece in the Kyiv Post welcoming him
In the USUBC piece welcoming Taylor to Ukraine, Kramer himself commented about Taylor’s ambassador position. “He’s a great choice for now,” Kramer gushed.
The USUBC’s piece noted that the “USUBC has worked closely with Ambassador Taylor for many years,” touting his role as the business group’s senior adviser.
On June 26, just nine days after arriving in Ukraine as ambassador, the USUBC already hosted Taylor for a roundtable discussion about his new position.
Vadym Pozharskyi, adviser to the board of directors at Burisma Holdings, was also previously hosted as a USUBC featured speaker.
Geysha Gonzalez is the sponsoring Atlantic Council officer listed on the Congressional disclosure form for the Schiff staffer’s trip to Ukraine in August. She is deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center.
Gonzalez is also one of eleven members of the rapid response team for the Ukrainian Election Task Force, which says it is working to expose “foreign interference in Ukraine’s democracy.” Another member of the team is Kramer.
Kramer revealed in testimony that he held a meeting about the anti-Trump dossier with a reporter from BuzzFeed News, who he says snapped photos of the controversial document without Kramer’s permission when he left the room to go to the bathroom. That meeting was held at the McCain Institute office in Washington, Kramer stated.
BuzzFeed infamously published the Christopher Steele dossier on January 10, 2017, setting off a firestorm of news media coverage about the document.
The Washington Post reported last February that Kramer received the dossier directly from Fusion GPS after McCain expressed interest in it.
In a deposition taken on December 13, 2017, and posted online earlier this year, Kramer revealed that he met with two Obama administration officials to inquire about whether the anti-Trump dossier was being taken seriously.
In one case, Kramer said that he personally provided a copy of the dossier to Obama National Security Council official Celeste Wallander.
In the deposition, Kramer said that McCain specifically asked him in early December 2016 to meet about the dossier with Wallander and Victoria Nuland, a senior official in John Kerry’s State Department.
Taylor testimony and Burisma
In his testimony to the Democrats secretive impeachment inquiry yesterday, Taylor said that he “understood” from U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland that a White House meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “was dependent on a public announcement of the investigations.” Taylor was referring to the announcement of an investigation that included Burisma, as well as alleged Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Taylor’s testimony was characterized by CNN as “explosive” and was similarly hyped by other news media outlets despite it not being unusual for the U.S. to condition aspects of relations on participation in ongoing American investigations involving the foreign country in question.
Still, Taylor conceded that there was no quid pro quo.
Document: Adam Schiff Staffer Met with Impeachment Witness on Ukraine Trip
As Breitbart News reported, Thomas Eager, a staffer on Schiff’s House Intelligence Committee, took a trip to Ukraine in August billed as a bipartisan “Ukraine Study Trip” in which ten Congressional staffers participated.
Eager is also currently a fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Congressional Fellowship, a bipartisan program that says it “educates congressional staff on current events in the Eurasia region.” The pre-planned Ukraine trip was part of the fellowship program.
A closer look at the itinerary for the August 24 to August 31 trip shows that the delegation’s first meeting upon arrival in Ukraine was with Taylor.
Spokespeople for Schiff’s office did not reply to multiple Breitbart News requests for comment on Eager’s meeting with Taylor.
When Breitbart News first reported on Eager’s visit to Ukraine, Schiff’s office quickly replied to several comment requests, denying any impropriety related to Eager’s association with the Atlantic Council or the trip.
The unanswered Breitbart email requests to Schiff’s office about Taylor’s meeting with Eager posed the following question:
While in Ukraine, did Mr. Eager speak to Mr. Taylor about the issue of reports about any representatives of President Trump looking into alleged Biden corruption in Ukraine?
The dates of the pre-planned trip are instructive. Eager’s visit to Ukraine sponsored by the Burisma-funded Atlantic Council began 12 days after the so-called whistleblower officially filed his August 12 complaint.
Schiff and his office have offered seemingly conflicting statements on the timeline of the California Congressman’s initial contact with the so-called whistleblower.
Speaking on September 17, Schiff told MSNBC, “We have not spoken directly with the whistleblower. We would like to.”
Schiff’s spokesperson, Patrick Boland, was quoted on October 2 saying, “At no point did the committee review or receive the complaint in advance.” Boland said Schiff’s committee received the complaint the night before it publicly released the document.
On October 2, however, the New York Times reported that Schiff received some of the contents of the complaint through an unnamed House Intelligence Committee aide initially contacted by the so-called whistleblower, described as a CIA officer.
The Times reported the aide “shared some of what the officer conveyed to Mr. Schiff.” The referenced officer refers to the so-called whistleblower.
The newspaper also reported:
By the time the whistle-blower filed his complaint, Mr. Schiff and his staff knew at least vaguely what it contained.
Speaking to CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday, Schiff conceded that he was not clear enough about his contact with the so-called whistleblower.
“I should have been much more clear,” Schiff said.
Schiff signed form
Schiff’s signature appears on the required post-travel disclosure form filed with the House Committee on Ethics documenting the visit to Ukraine. The form signed by Schiff says that Eager’s trip to Ukraine was paid for by the “Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center.”
The form bearing Schiff’s signature (above) describes the visit thusly:
Series of meetings and visits with gov’t officials, party officials, civil society and private sector reps in Ukraine to learn about ongoing political and military issues, including conflict in the East.
The costs for Eager’s visit listed on the form are $2202.91 for transportation, $985.50 for lodging, and $630.15 for meal expenses.
Speaking to Breitbart News, Gonzalez confirmed that Eager started his one-year fellowship with the organization in January and that Eager is still a fellow.
Gonzalez said the pre-planned trip was part of the fellowship program, which also includes a full year of round tables and other educational events. She said it was not within her portfolio to comment on issues of funding from Burisma or other donors.
Common funding themes
Besides Burisma funding, the Atlantic Council is also financed by billionaire activist George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, Google, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Inc., and the U.S. State Department.
Google, Soros’s Open Society Foundations, the Rockefeller Fund, and an agency of the State Department each also finance a self-described investigative journalism organization repeatedly referenced as a source of information in the so-called whistleblower’s complaint alleging Trump was “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country” in the 2020 presidential race.
The charges in the July 22 report referenced in the so-called whistleblower’s document and released by the Google and Soros-funded organization, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), seem to be the public precursors for a lot of the so-called whistleblower’s own claims, as Breitbart News documented.
One key section of the so-called whistleblower’s document claims that “multiple U.S. officials told me that Mr. Giuliani had reportedly privately reached out to a variety of other Zelensky advisers, including Chief of Staff Andriy Bohdan and Acting Chairman of the Security Service of Ukraine Ivan Bakanov.”
This was allegedly to follow up on Trump’s call with Zelensky in order to discuss the “cases” mentioned in that call, according to the so-called whistleblower’s narrative. The complainer was clearly referencing Trump’s request for Ukraine to investigate the Biden corruption allegations.
Even though the statement was written in first person – “multiple U.S. officials told me” – it contains a footnote referencing a report by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).
That footnote reads:
In a report published by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) on 22 July, two associates of Mr. Giuliani reportedly traveled to Kyiv in May 2019 and met with Mr. Bakanov and another close Zelensky adviser, Mr. Serhiy Shefir.
The so-called whistleblower’s account goes on to rely upon that same OCCRP report on three more occasions. It does so to:
- Write that Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko “also stated that he wished to communicate directly with Attorney General Barr on these matters.”
- Document that Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani “had spoken in late 2018 to former Prosecutor General Shokin, in a Skype call arranged by two associates of Mr. Giuliani.”
- Bolster the charge that, “I also learned from a U.S. official that ‘associates’ of Mr. Giuliani were trying to make contact with the incoming Zelenskyy team.” The so-called whistleblower then relates in another footnote, “I do not know whether these associates of Mr. Giuliani were the same individuals named in the 22 July report by OCCRP, referenced above.”
The OCCRP report repeatedly referenced is actually a “joint investigation by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and BuzzFeed News, based on interviews and court and business records in the United States and Ukraine.”
BuzzFeed infamously also first published the full anti-Trump dossier alleging unsubstantiated collusion between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia. The dossier was paid for by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, and was produced by the Fusion GPS opposition dirt outfit.
The OCCRP and BuzzFeed “joint investigation” resulted in both OCCRP and BuzzFeed publishing similar lengthy pieces on July 22 claiming that Giuliani was attempting to use connections to have Ukraine investigate Trump’s political rivals.
The so-called whistleblower’s document, however, only mentions the largely unknown OCCRP and does not reference BuzzFeed, which has faced scrutiny over its reporting on the Russia collusion claims.
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.
Joshua Klein contributed research to this article.