November 14, 2019
Ambassador William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, on Wednesday said that America’s Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland told a member of his staff in July that President Donald Trump cared more about a politically motivated investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden than he did about longtime ally Ukraine.
According to a report by The Hill, Taylor—who delivered public testimony under oath at the first televised impeachment inquiry—talked to Sondland on July 26.
That conversation came just one day after a now-infamous phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25—during which the U.S. president allegedly tried to coerce the new leader into announcing that he would investigate the Biden family by withholding $400 million in congressionally approved military aid to the small nation.
Taylor said his staffer, whom he did not name, overheard a phone call between Sondland and Trump during which the president asked the EU ambassador about the investigations.
“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,’” Taylor said, according to The Hill’s report.
“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 [Trump attorney Rudy] Giuliani was pressing for,” he continued.
Taylor said that Sondland made the comments following a meeting with a top Zelensky aide, Andriy Yermak, in Ukraine. Taylor said he was not aware of the details when he testified behind closed doors in connection with the impeachment inquiry last month and that he was including it for “completeness.”
“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,” Taylor said.
Sondland, who testified privately before the committees before Taylor, has also corrected his remarks to say that he told Yermak during a meeting on September 1 that aid to Ukraine would not likely flow until Kyiv made a public statement about pursuing investigations related to 2016 election interference and Burisma, a Ukrainian energy firm with ties to Hunter Biden.
Sondland has sought to distinguish the issue of Burisma from the Bidens, though other witnesses have connected the two. Trump specifically named Biden on the call with Zelensky in July.
As The Hill noted, the Trump Administration eventually released military aid to Ukraine, and Kyiv did not make a public statement about pursuing investigations sought by Giuliani and Trump.
Trump has insisted he did nothing wrong in his interactions with Zelensky, describing the July 25 phone call as “perfect” and accusing Democrats of a partisan effort to damage him politically. Trump has said he wanted Ukraine to investigate “corruption” and that his comments had nothing to do with politics.
Research contact: @thehill