Diplomat says he overheard Trump call about ‘investigations’
By MATTHEW LEE and
MARY CLARE JALONICK
WASHINGTON — State Department official David Holmes told impeachment investigators Friday that he overheard a conversation with President Donald Trump asking a diplomat about “investigations” in Ukraine, according to those familiar with Holmes’ closed-door deposition.
Trump was talking so loudly that Ambassador Gordon Sondland had to hold the phone from his ear, which allowed others at a restaurant in Kyiv to overhear the call that’s now part of the impeachment inquiry, according to a person familiar with Holmes’ testimony but unauthorized to discuss it publicly.
Sondland said Trump “doesn’t give a shit about Ukraine,” according to another person familiar with the testimony. Both were granted anonymity.
House investigators were hearing from Holmes, the political counselor in Kyiv, who was with Sondland as he visited Urkaine.
Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., said Holmes told lawmakers he overhead the call while he was having lunch in Kyiv in July with Sondland, who is Trump’s European Union Ambassador.
Lieu said two other people heard the call as well, and said there were four people at the lunch. The Associated Press has already identified one of the other people who heard the call as Suriya Jayanti, a foreign service officer based in Kyiv.
“He has firsthand knowledge of the conversation between Ambassador Sondland and the president of the United States,” Lieu said. “He overheard the conversation.”
Lieu said Holmes detailed specific quotes from the president in the deposition.
William Taylor, the acting head of the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, testified Wednesday that a staff member — later identified as Holmes — overheard the conversation at a restaurant in Kyiv, when Sondland was speaking to Trump on his phone.
Taylor said the staff member explained that Sondland had called the president and they could hear Trump on the phone asking about “the investigations.” The ambassador told the president the Ukrainians were ready to move forward, Taylor testified.
The conversation with Sondland came the day after Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in which the U.S. president pressed his counterpart to find information that could help his reelection campaign.