Trump ‘can’t remember’ bombshell phone call
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’