An aid to the chief US diplomat in Ukraine says they overheard a phone call between Donald Trump and EU ambassador Gordon Sondland in which the president apparently asked about his requested Ukrainian investigations into political rivals, according to new testimony provided during the first public impeachment hearing.
The allegation was detailed by William Taylor, the acting US ambassador to Ukraine and a key witness called by Democrats to detail the president's efforts to coerce Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky into launching an investigation into Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, and the 2016 election.
Mr Taylor, who had previously testified behind closed doors to the House Intelligence Committee running the impeachment probe, told a packed hearing room in Washington on Wednesday that a staff member of his had come forward after that previous testimony to detail the phone call he overheard.
"Last Friday, a member of my staff told me of events that occurred on July 26. While Ambassador [Kurt] Volker and I visited the front, this member of my staff accompanied Ambassador Sondland. Ambassador Sondland met with [Andriy] Yermak," Mr Taylor said, referring to a meeting with a chief aid to Mr Zelensky in Ukraine just one day after the infamous call between Mr Trump and Mr Zelensky.
He continued, describing a phone call in which Mr Trump apparently spoke loud that others in the room could hear: "Following that meeting, in the presence of my staff at a restaurant, ambassador Sondland called president Trump and told him of his meetings in Kyiv. The member of my staff could hear president Trimp on the phone, asking ambassador Sondland about 'the investigations.' Ambassador Sondland told president Trump that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward."
Mr Taylor then indicated that his staff member had asked Mr Sondland what the president thought about Ukraine, and was told that Mr Trump appeared more interested in the impact the country could have on his political rivals than in the country itself.
"Ambassador Sondland responded that president Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which [Rudy] Giuliani was pressing for," Mr Taylor told the House.
He continued to note that he was not aware of these allegations when he initially gave his deposition on 22 October: "I was not aware of this information."
The Wednesday hearing also included testimony from George Kent, a top State Department official.
The hearing is the first public hearing in the impeachment inquiry, and will be followed with further public testimony on Friday by former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. More hearings are expected in the weeks to come, as well.
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