The second quid pro quo: military aid. On Sept. 1, Hill’s successor at the NSC, Tim Morrison, told Taylor about a conversation Sondland had that day with Andriy Yermak, a top aide to Zelensky. According to Morrison’s account, as relayed by Taylor, Sondland “told Mr. Yermak that the security assistance money would not come until President Zelenskyy committed to pursue the Burisma investigation.” Taylor says that in a phone call later that day, Sondland said Trump “told him that he wants President Zelenskyy to state publicly that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.” According to Taylor, Sondland also told him that U.S. “security assistance” was “dependent on a public announcement of investigations.”
That’s three conversations in which the proposed deal with Ukraine was openly specified. And Trump kept repeating the terms. Taylor says that on Sept. 7, Morrison “described a phone conversation earlier that day between Ambassador Sondland and President Trump” in which Trump “insist[ed] that President Zelenskyy go to a microphone and say he is opening investigations of Biden and 2016 election interference.” The next day, Sondland told Taylor that “he had talked to President Trump” and that Trump “was adamant that President Zelenskyy, himself, had to ‘clear things up and do it in public.’ ” Trump denied that this was a quid pro quo, but he told Sondland that if Zelensky “did not ‘clear things up’ in public, we would be at a ‘stalemate.’ ”
The clearest expression of the quid pro quo is a metaphor that was used by Trump’s accomplices. Taylor says that on Sept. 8, Sondland “tried to explain to me that President Trump is a businessman. When a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, he said, the businessman asks that person to pay up before signing the check.” According to Taylor, former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker “used the same terms several days later while we were together at the Yalta European Strategy Conference.” During this time, Trump was literally withholding a check from Ukraine: military aid appropriated by Congress.