Acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor testified Wednesday during the first public House hearing on impeachment that a member of his staff overheard a phone call in which President Donald Trump personally demanded information about “the investigations” he pressured Ukraine’s leader to launch.
Trump’s conversation with U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, according to Taylor, took place on July 26, the day after Trump urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch a probe into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
“The big picture here is that what separates big, historic scandals from minor ones is the personal involvement of the president.”
—Paul Waldman, Washington Post
The Ukraine ambassador’s account of the phone call between Sondland and Trump, which was not previously known to the public, was described as a “bombshell” that ties Trump directly to the efforts to investigate Biden.
“In the presence of my staff at a restaurant, Ambassador Sondland called President Trump and told him of his meetings in Kyiv,” Taylor said during his opening remarks (pdf). “The member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone, asking Ambassador Sondland about ‘the investigations.’ Ambassador Sondland told President Trump that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.”
Taylor said his staffer asked Sondland after the call “what President Trump thought about Ukraine.”
“Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which [Trump’s personal attorney Rudy] Giuliani was pressing for,” Taylor said.
“Ambassador Taylor’s testimony leaves no doubt that President Trump was using official acts to pressure Ukraine for interference on our elections,” tweeted Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) in response to Taylor’s account of the July 26 phone call.
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