Embassy Official Confirms Trump Asked About Ukraine Investigations – The New York Times

WASHINGTON — An official from the United States Embassy in Kiev confirmed to House impeachment investigators on Friday that he overheard a call between President Trump and a top American diplomat in July in which the president inquired about investigations he wanted from Ukraine, according to three people familiar with the testimony.

The official, David Holmes, testified privately that he was at a restaurant in Ukraine’s capital when he heard Mr. Trump during a cellphone call loudly asking Gordon D. Sondland, the American ambassador to the European Union, if Ukraine’s president had agreed to conduct investigations into his political rivals. Mr. Sondland, who was in Kiev for meetings with top Ukrainian officials at the time, replied in the affirmative.

Mr. Sondland told Mr. Trump that President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine “loves your ass,” and would conduct the investigations and “anything you ask him to,” according to two of the people, who described his testimony on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss it.

After the call ended, Mr. Holmes asked it if was true that the president did not care about Ukraine, the people said. The ambassador replied that Mr. Trump cared only about the “big stuff,” like investigations that his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani was pushing for, because they affected him personally.

Some details of the conversation were first reported by CNN.

The call took place on July 26, one day after Mr. Trump personally pressed Mr. Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter, as well as unproven allegations that Ukraine conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 election.

The existence of call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Sondland was first revealed on Wednesday during public testimony from Mr. Holmes’s boss, William B. Taylor Jr., the top American envoy in Ukraine. Mr. Taylor said then that he had only learned of the episode recently.

Mr. Sondland did not mention the episode to investigators last month when he answered their questions in private. He will almost certainly be asked about it next week when he appears for public testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. He has already revised his initial testimony once, admitting to the panel last week that he told a top Ukrainian official that the country would probably not receive a package of nearly $400 million in security assistance unless it committed publicly to the investigations Mr. Trump sought.

On Thursday, two people familiar with the matter said that a second embassy official, Suriya Jayanti, also overheard the call and could corroborate Mr. Holmes’s account. It is unclear if investigators will also call her to testify. On Friday, Mr. Holmes indicated there was a third person present who would have overheard it, as well.

Mr. Holmes told investigators that he did not take notes during the conversation, but said he informed another embassy official about it shortly after.

Mr. Holmes described sitting at a table in the restaurant with Mr. Sondland when the president called. The president was speaking so loudly, he said, that Mr. Sondland held the phone away from his ear and Mr. Holmes and others could hear Mr. Trump’s voice.

In addition to discussing the investigations, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Sondland about ASAP Rocky, an American rapper imprisoned in Sweden at the time.

Mr. Holmes described the episode during an extended opening statement. It was not immediately clear if Democrats would call Mr. Holmes to testify in public.

Mr. Holmes is a career Foreign Service officer who currently serves as the political counselor in the American Embassy in Kiev.

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