U.S. Diplomat to Ukraine Bill Taylor testified before Congress on Tuesday, confirming some of the most damning accusations against President Donald Trump. Taylor, a Pompeo appointee, stated in his written testimony that Ukraine was aware of the military aid being withheld by the Trump administration and that they knew receiving this aid was contingent upon Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy openly starting investigations beneficial to Trump.
Specifically, Trump wanted Zelenskiy to start investigations into two widely debunked conspiracies: Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election against the Trump Campaign, and corruption involving Joe and Hunter Biden. There is an argument to made against the role Hunter Biden held in an Ukrainian energy company while his father was vice president, but the claim that Joe Biden arranged to have a prosecutor fired who was investigating his son is patently false. Regarding Ukrainian interference in 2016, there isn't even an argument to be made. This is simply a conspiracy theory.
Since Bill Taylor came before Congress, many Republicans, including Trump, have come forward to try to undermine the diplomat's credibility and evidence. This is just one example of Republican resistance against the impeachment proceedings. In a much more physical display of defiance, Republican lawmakers stormed a closed-door committee hearing on Wednesday, holding up the investigation and even ordering pizza. The hearing was later able to continue unimpeded. It is also worth noting that some of the Republicans who stormed the proceedings were actually on the committees holding the hearing and could have entered the room without any problems. In the week ahead, we will hear testimony from other Trump officials who are expected to back up Bill Taylor's damning account.
This week, the Department of Justice has upgraded their inquiry into the origins of the Russia probe to a criminal investigation, although it is still unclear what potential crime they will be investigating. This move means that investigators can now call a grand jury and use subpoenas. Democratic chairmen of the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees, Representatives Jerry Nadler of New York and Adam Schiff of California see this as a sign that Attorney General William Barr has "become a vehicle for President Trump's political revenge".
Meanwhile, news from Syria is bleak following what some officials consider a betrayal of the Kurdish militia (SDF), an American ally, by Trump. Claiming to want to limit U.S. involvement in other countries, Trump withdrew the small number of American forces stationed in the area leaving the SDF exposed to hostility from Turkey to their north. Turkey has long considered the SDF to be an extension of a Kurdish terrorist organization located in Turkey despite the fact that the SDF denies any connection. Turkish forces moved into northern Syria in an attempt to create a "safe zone" cleared of the Kurdish citizens.
Vice President Mike Pence was soon sent to negotiate with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and a temporary ceasefire was established. Back in the U.S., Trump claimed to have brokered a permanent end to the violence in the area, saying, "We have done (Turkey and the Kurds) a great service". In reality, after American forces withdrew, Russian forces quickly moved in to fill the power vacuum. The U.S. no longer holds true influence over the conflict. The agreement reached by Pence serves only as a stop gap that will last until the true decision makers in this conflict, President Erdogan and Russian President Putin, can reach an agreement in Sochi, Russia.
It's important to remember that the Kurds are, or were, our allies because we needed them to help us fight ISIS in Syria. In fact, the Kurdish militia arguably played a larger role than the U.S. in the capture and imprisonment of ISIS fighters. Unsurprisingly, because of the withdrawal declared by Trump, an estimated 100 ISIS prisoners have escaped; although, most of the prisons are still secure. Trump made it clear that they are now Europe's problem.
As of Friday, the Pentagon is weighing the decision to send armored vehicles to defend Syrian oil fields for the first time. President Trump suggested in a tweet that Kurdish people should move to the oil fields (which are located in a desert hundreds of miles away from their homeland) in order to benefit from that protection.