An overheard phone call takes centre stage in impeachment inquiry against the US president.
Senior Democratic and Republican lawmakers presented dueling narratives on Wednesday as a U.S. congressional impeachment inquiry that threatens Donald Trump’s tumultuous presidency entered a crucial new phase with the first televised public hearing.
The drama unfolded in a hearing of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee in which two career U.S. diplomats - William Taylor and George Kent - voiced alarm over the Republican president and those around him pressuring Ukraine to conduct investigations that would benefit Trump politically.
One revelation in particular drew attention, showing Trump’s keen interest in Ukraine investigating political rival Joe Biden. Taylor said a member of his staff overheard a July 26 phone call between Trump and Gordon Sondland, a former political donor appointed as a senior diplomat, 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 these investigations - the staff member asked Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, what Trump thought about Ukraine, said Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine.