House lawmakers, who have interrogated a string of diplomats at the first two public impeachment hearings, await the Nov. 20 testimony of Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who may be the only witness with firsthand knowledge of whether President Trump abused power by seeking Ukraine’s help investigating a political rival.
Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, has already provided hours of closed-door testimony. But his value as a witness skyrocketed thanks to a new revelation provided by a State Department employee who said he overheard Sondland talking to Trump on a cellphone last summer.
David Holmes, the No. 4 diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, reported to acting Ambassador William Taylor that he heard Trump ask Sondland during the call about “the investigations.”
Sondland then told Holmes after the call ended “that President Trump cares more about the investigations” of former Vice President Joe Biden than about Ukraine.
Taylor made the revelation during his Wednesday public hearing and said he just learned about it from Holmes and did not know about it during his Oct. 22 closed-door deposition.
If proven true, the comments could become the linchpin of the Democrats’ impeachment argument by showing Trump was seeking Ukraine’s help primarily to investigate Biden, who is running for president and is one of Trump’s top political rivals.
Democrats seized on Taylor’s revelation as a “bombshell” and “smoking gun” information that distinctly links the president to an official crime in office.
Democrats are building a case to draft articles of impeachment based partly on abuse of power: That Trump withheld critical security aid from Ukraine to get President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the Bidens, as well as the Democratic National Committee, who the president believes sought Ukraine’s help to undermine his 2016 campaign.
Sondland, a major GOP bundler and ally of the president, is scheduled to testify Wednesday.
His lawyer, Robert Luskin, told the Washington Examiner Sondland plans to respond in his testimony to the claim by Holmes about the overheard call.
Democrats are eager to grill Sondland. Many of them believe he has not been truthful in his testimony about the president and his desire to seek Ukraine’s help investigating Biden.
Sondland last week revised earlier closed-door testimony to acknowledge he told Ukrainian officials they must publicly pledge to provide “the public anti-corruption statement” relating to the Bidens and the Democrats.
Sondland is among eight witnesses scheduled to testify this week.
The list also includes Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the European affairs director at the National Security Council, who testified he was concerned about Trump’s Ukraine policy.
Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, and National Security Council aide Tim Morrison will also testify. So will Fiona Hill, the former National Security Council senior director for Europe and Russia.
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