Bill Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, revealed new information in his opening statement during the first public impeachment hearing about President Donald Trump’s personal interest in Ukraine launching investigations into his political rivals.
Taylor said that on July 26 – one day after Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that prompted a whistleblower complaint that alleged Trump solicited “interference” from a foreign country to help his 2020 presidential campaign – Trump spoke by phone with Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, about “the investigations.”
Taylor said he was informed of the conversation by an aide, who was accompanying Sondland to meetings in Kiev with a top aide to Zelensky.
Taylor’s aide said Sondland called Trump following the meeting in a restaurant. The aide could hear Trump asking Sondland about the investigations, and Sondland “told President Trump that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward,” according to Taylor’s opening statement.
Taylor testified that his aide later asked Sondland what Trump thought of Ukraine.
“Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which [personal attorney Rudy] Giuliani was pressing for,” Taylor said.
He said he wasn’t aware of these details during his closed-door deposition last month.
Sondland’s attorney declined to comment on Taylor’s statement.
These new revelations could strengthen Democrats’ argument for impeachment that Trump engaged in an alleged quid pro quo when he mentioned the investigations on his call with Zelensky, and Sondland followed up on them later with Zelensky’s top aide.
Sondland, during his closed-door closed door deposition, told lawmakers about the meetings on July 26 with Ukrainians in Kiev, and mentions that he had a call with Trump before the meetings. He said the call was “short” and “nonsubstantive.” He also said it did not touch on the substance of the July 25 presidential phone call.
Sondland’s telling of his call with Trump conflicts with Taylor’s testimony. Taylor says the call was after the meetings with Ukrainian officials and touched on investigations which were referenced by Trump in the July 25 call.