Sondland made no link between USA aid, Biden probe: Ukrainian minister

ROCHESTER NH- OCTOBER 09 Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden peeks out from backstage during a campaign event

A second US diplomat will testify with information about the overheard phone call, which top USA diplomat in Ukraine William Taylor revealed in testimony to the House public impeachment inquiry, the Associated Press reported.

Much of the evidence presented by Democrats and their chosen witnesses point toward an alleged abuse of power or "quid pro quo" by President Donald Trump rests on allegations that Sondland, who had direct contact with Trump, delivered the message to Ukraine that aid was contingent upon a Biden investigation.

The staffer was later identified as a counselor for political affairs at the embassy, David Holmes, who was accompanying Sondland while the European Union ambassador was in Ukraine on July 26.

Suriya Jayanti, a foreign service officer based in Kyiv, also overheard the phone call on July 26, which was one day after Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, according to the Associated Press.

The staff member who heard the call asked Sondland what Trump thinks about Ukraine. According to Taylor's testimony, the official who overheard the call was told by Sondland that Trump "cares more about the investigations of Biden".

Many former security officials on Wednesday expressed their bewilderment that Sondland conducted this call with Trump in the middle of a restaurant in Kyiv, with one former White House Situation Room director telling The Washington Post, "in a country that is so wired with Russian intelligence, you can nearly take it to the bank that the Russians were listening in on the call". "Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for".

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The call took place July 26, a day after the president's infamous call with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky, where Trump raised the Biden's and "crowdstrike" - a reference to the computer security firm that worked to uncover the Russian hack of Democratic servers in the 2016 presidential election.

A second USA embassy staffer in Kiev overheard a key cellphone call between President Trump and his ambassador to the European Union discussing the need for Ukrainian officials to pursue "investigations", The Associated Press has learned.

Text messages released as part of the Democrats' impeachment probe reveal that Sondland told Taylor there was no quid pro quo for us aid in exchange for the Biden investigation. Holmes will be questioned by House probers behind closed doors on Friday. The one thing I've seen that Sondland said is that he did speak with me with for a brief moment and I said 'no quid pro quo under any circumstances.' And that's true.

Sondland didn't mention the July 26 phone call with the president that Taylor testified occurred. The identity of the second official was not immediately known.

Jayanti, a lawyer, joined the State Department in 2012 and served at the massive US embassy in Iraq.

"That phone call was also a mistake the way it was conducted and it had huge implications for our foreign policy", said Michael McFaul, a former USA ambassador to Russian Federation who is now at Stanford University. "If it was that important, [Sondland] could have easily gotten up from the restaurant, gone to the embassy and made a secure call through the White House operations center".

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