Bombshell Testimony: Trump Asked Sondland About Ukrainian “Investigations”

President Donald Trump meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.Evan Vucci/AP

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During his opening testimony on the first day of the House impeachment hearings, Bill Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, dropped a bombshell: A member of his staff had overheard a phone call between President Trump and US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland in which the president asked Sondland about “the investigations” and Sondland replied “that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.” After the call concluded, according to Taylor, the staffer “asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine.” Taylor testified that Sondland “responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which [Trump personal attorney Rudy] Giuliani was pressing for.”  

According to Taylor, this incident took place on July 26—the day after the infamous phone call in which Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to pursue investigations related to Trump’s political enemies, including Joe Biden and his son. Taylor noted that he understood “investigations” to be a short-hand term used by Sondland for the politically motivated probes Trump wanted the Ukrainians to pursue.

Taylor added that he only learned of the July 26 phone call between Trump and Sondland after he gave his initial deposition on October 22 and that he has since reported it to the State Department’s legal adviser and the House Intelligence Committee. 

Here’s Taylor’s full description of that July 26 restaurant phone call: 

On September 25 at the UN General Assembly session in New York City, President Trump met President Zelenskyy face-to-face. He also released the transcript of the July 25 call. (The United States gave the Ukrainians virtually no notice of the release, and they were livid.) Although this was the first time I had seen the details of President Trump’s July 25 call with President Zelenskyy, in which he mentioned Vice President Biden, I had come to understand well before then that “investigations” was a term that Ambassadors Volker and Sondland used to mean matters related to the 2016 elections, and to investigations of Burisma and the Bidens.

Last Friday, a member of my staff told me of events that occurred on July 26. While Ambassador Volker and I visited the front, this member of my staff accompanied Ambassador Sondland. Ambassador Sondland met with Mr. Yermak.

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 Trump on the phone, asking Ambassador Sondland about “the investigations.” Ambassador Sondland told President Trump that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.

Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for. At the time I gave my deposition on October 22, I was not aware of this information. I am including it here for completeness. As the Committee knows, I reported this information through counsel to the State Department’s Legal Adviser, as well as to counsel for both the Majority and the Minority on the Committee. It is my understanding that the Committee is following up on this matter.

Here’s the full transcript of Taylor’s opening statement:

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Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

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