AMBASSADOR TAYLOR REVEALS CALL BETWEEN TRUMP AND SONDLAND:
William Taylor, acting ambassador to Ukraine, said a member of his staff overheard a July 26 phone call between Trump and Gordon Sondland in which the Republican president asked about those investigations, and Sondland told him that the Ukrainians were ready to proceed.
Following the call — which occurred a day after Trump had asked Ukraine’s president during a phone call to conduct the investigations — the staff member asked Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, what Trump thought about Ukraine, Taylor said.
“Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for,” Taylor testified, referring to Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
SONDLAND WILL LIKELY BE ASKED NEXT WEEK ABOUT THE CALL:
Sondland did not recall the conversation in his closed-door testimony before House committees last month and will likely be pressed on details of the call when he appears in a public hearing next Wednesday.
Sondland will address the issue in the upcoming testimony, a person familiar with the matter said.
Trump, for his part, said on Wednesday that he did not remember the July 26 call.
David Holmes, a Taylor aide subpoenaed to testify behind closed doors in the impeachment inquiry on Friday, is the staffer who overheard the call, said a person familiar with the issue.
TRUMP’S ACTIONS BEING DESCRIBED IN TERMS OF BRIBERY:
After Trump withheld $391 million in security aid to Ukraine and asked Ukrainian President Zelenskiy for a favour, the president’s actions were referred as a “quid pro quo,” a Latin phrase meaning a favour for a favour, which Trump denied.
But in his opening statement on Wednesday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said the House may find Trump sought to “bribe an ally” into conducting investigations to aid his re-election campaign by withholding a White House meeting or military aid.
Other Democrats have also begun to use the words bribery or attempted bribery.
The change may result from the Constitution stating that impeachable offences include “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanours.” There is now talk of including bribery as an article of impeachment.
“It would be unfathomable if they don’t include it, because it’s explicitly named in the Constitution as a ground for impeachment,” said Nick Allard, who served on the Judiciary Committee under the late Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy.
WHAT NEXT: A PARADE OF KEY WITNESSES
Several more witnesses scheduled to testify in the House impeachment hearings over the next week are expected to say they too worried about President Donald Trump’s push for Ukraine to investigate Democrats as the US withheld military aid from the country.
What’s ahead on the impeachment schedule:
The House intelligence committee, which is conducting the impeachment hearings, has set a packed schedule of open hearings over the next week.
On Friday, lawmakers will hear from former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was ousted in May at Trump’s direction. She told lawmakers in a closed-door deposition last month that there was a “concerted campaign” against her as Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, pushed for probes of Democrat Joe Biden and other political opponents.
Eight more witnesses will testify next week, some in back-to-back hearings on the same day. Among them will be Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council official who said he raised concerns in the White House about Trump’s push for investigations” Gordon Sondland, Trump’s European Union ambassador, who spoke to the president about the Ukraine policy” and Fiona Hill, a former Russia adviser to the White House who told lawmakers about national security adviser John Bolton’s concerns about Ukraine.
All witnesses testifying this week and next have already spoken to investigators in closed depositions, some of them for 10 hours or more.
BACK BEHIND CLOSED DOORS
Though those private depositions are largely done, Democrats have scheduled two more for this week _ at the same time they are conducting the open hearings.
Democrats have scheduled a closed-door session with David Holmes, the political counsellor at the US Embassy in Kyiv, for Friday. An official familiar with the matter said Holmes is the person Taylor referred to in his testimony on Wednesday when he said an aide had overheard a conversation between Sondland and Trump in July about Ukraine conducting investigations.
They have also scheduled a Saturday deposition with Mark Sandy, an official at the Office of Management and Budget. Sandy is one of several OMB officials who have been invited by the committee to appear as lawmakers try to find out more about the military aid that was withheld. So far, none of those officials has shown up for their depositions as Trump has instructed his administration not to cooperate.
While the open hearings are being conducted by the intelligence panel, the closed-door hearings have been held by the intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform committees.
HEADED TO JUDICIARY
The public hearings are expected to last at least another week. After that, the three committees will submit a report to the Judiciary panel, which will oversee the impeachment process.
Judiciary is expected to hold its own hearings and, eventually, vote on articles of impeachment. Democrats say they are still deciding whether to write them.
Next would come a floor vote, and if articles of impeachment are approved by the House, there would then be a Senate trial.
House Democrats are hoping to finish the process by the end of the year. A Senate trial, if called for, would likely come in 2020.