Trump ‘can’t re­mem­ber’ bombshell phone call

Scottish Daily Mail - - Life - From Daniel Bates in New York

DON­ALD Trump has claimed he has no rec­ol­lec­tion of a bombshell phone call he was ac­cused of mak­ing in the first day of his pub­lic im­peach­ment hear­ings.

The US Pres­i­dent said he could not re­call ‘even a lit­tle bit’ telling Gor­don Sond­land, the US am­bas­sador to the EU, that he wanted Ukraine to in­ves­ti­gate his po­lit­i­cal ri­val Joe Bi­den.

A hear­ing on Wed­nes­day, watched by mil­lions, was told of claims that af­ter Mr Sond­land got off the phone he told aides the Pres­i­dent cared ‘more about in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Bi­dens’ than any­thing else.

The phone call is es­pe­cially damn­ing as it ties Mr Trump closer than ever to at­tempt to en­list the Ukrainian gov­ern­ment to boost his re-elec­tion chances – the key claim in the im­peach­ment in­quiry. Its ex­is­tence emerged dur­ing day one of pub­lic hear­ings where Democrats laid out their case as to why Mr Trump should be re­moved from of­fice. Im­peach­ment has di­vided Amer­ica ahead of next year’s elec­tion by which time Democrats want the Pres­i­dent out. They plan to vote on it be­fore Christ­mas.

The most com­pelling wit­ness on day one was Wil­liam Tay­lor, a ca­reer diplo­mat who is act­ing US am­bas­sador to Ukraine. He said that one of his aides, David Holmes, was with Mr Sond­land on July 26 when he called the Pres­i­dent from a restau­rant in Kiev.

Mr Tay­lor said Mr Trump spoke so loudly on the call that his aide could hear him ask­ing Mr Sond­land about ‘the in­ves­ti­ga­tions’. Mr Tay­lor added: ‘Fol­low­ing the call with Pres­i­dent Trump, he [Mr Holmes] asked am­bas­sador Sond­land what Pres­i­dent Trump thought about Ukraine. Am­bas­sador Sond­land re­sponded that Mr Trump “cares more about the in­ves­ti­ga­tions of Bi­den” than about Ukraine it­self.

Mr Trump is ac­cused of with­hold­ing nearly $400mil­lion (£311mil­lion) in mil­i­tary aid to Ukraine un­less it would dig for dirt on Mr Bi­den’s son.

The call came a day af­ter Mr Trump phoned Ukraine leader Volodymyr Ze­len­sky. Tran­scripts of that call show he asked Mr Ze­len­sky for a ‘favour’ by in­ves­ti­gat­ing Mr Bi­den and his son Hunter, who used to be on the board of a Ukrainian en­ergy company. In a meet­ing at the White House af­ter the im­peach­ment hear­ing al­le­ga­tion was made, Mr Trump said: ‘I know noth­ing about that – first time I’ve heard.

‘The one thing I know about Sond­land is that he did speak to me for a brief mo­ment, and I said “no quid pro quo”. I’ve never heard this. In any event, it’s more sec­ond-hand in­for­ma­tion, but I’ve never heard it.’ Asked by a re­porter whether he re­called the con­ver­sa­tion, Mr Trump re­sponded: ‘No, I don’t re­call, not even a lit­tle bit. The only thing, and I guess Sond­land stated with his tes­ti­mony, is there was no quid pro quo’.

Democrats plan to crank up the pres­sure on Mr Trump and Mr Holmes will tes­tify be­hind closed doors be­fore Congress to­day, lead­ing to a likely ap­pear­ance in pub­lic soon.

For­mer US am­bas­sador to Ukraine Marie Yo­vanovitch will give ev­i­dence pub­licly to­day and is ex­pected to de­tail how Mr Trump’s lawyer ran a smear cam­paign against her. Mr Sond­land is due to tes­tify next week and will al­most cer­tainly be asked about the call with Mr Trump.

‘Dig­ging for dirt on Bi­dens’

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