CALL: A sec­ond U.S. Em­bassy staffer in Kyiv over­heard a call be­tween the pres­i­dent and his am­bas­sador to the EU.

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Des­mond But­ler, Michael Biesecker and Matthew Lee

WASH­ING­TON — A sec­ond U.S. Em­bassy staffer in Kyiv over­heard a cell­phone call be­tween Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and his am­bas­sador to the Euro­pean Union dis­cussing a need for Ukrainian of­fi­cials to pur­sue “in­ves­ti­ga­tions,” The As­so­ci­ated Press has learned.

The July 26 call be­tween Trump and Gor­don Sond­land was first de­scribed dur­ing tes­ti­mony Wed­nes­day by William Tay­lor, the act­ing U.S. am­bas­sador to Ukraine. Tay­lor said one of his staffers over­heard the call while Sond­land was in a Kyiv restaurant the day af­ter Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Ze­len­skiy that trig­gered the House im­peach­ment in­quiry.

The sec­ond diplo­matic staffer also at the ta­ble was Suriya Jayanti, a for­eign ser­vice of­fi­cer based in Kyiv. A per­son briefed on what Jayanti over­heard spoke to AP on con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss a sen­si­tive mat­ter cur­rently un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The ac­counts of the two em­bassy staffers could tie Trump closer to al­leged ef­forts to hold up mil­i­tary aid to Ukraine in ex­change for in­ves­ti­ga­tions into po­lit­i­cal ri­val Joe Bi­den and his son Hunter’s busi­ness deal­ings. In de­fend­ing Trump on Wed­nes­day, Repub­li­cans re­peat­edly high­lighted that Tay­lor never di­rectly heard the pres­i­dent di­rect any­one to de­mand that the Ukraini­ans open the probe.

Trump on Wed­nes­day said he did not re­call the

July 26 call with Sond­land.

“No, not at all, not even a lit­tle bit,” Trump said.

The White House did not re­spond to ques­tions Thurs­day about the sec­ond wit­ness.

The staffer Tay­lor tes­ti­fied about is David Holmes, the po­lit­i­cal coun­selor at the em­bassy in Kyiv, ac­cord­ing to an of­fi­cial who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity. Holmes is sched­uled to tes­tify Fri­day be­fore House investigat­ors in a closed ses­sion.

Tay­lor was one of the first wit­nesses called Wed­nes­day dur­ing the im­peach­ment in­quiry’s ini­tial open hear­ing. He tes­ti­fied that his staffer could hear Trump on the phone ask­ing Sond­land about “the in­ves­ti­ga­tions.”

Later that day, a Twit­ter ac­count that ap­pears to be­long to Ukraine’s then-De­fense Min­is­ter Olek­sandr Dany­lyuk posted a photo of him­self at din­ner with Sond­land, Tay­lor and Am­bas­sador Kurt Volker, who was then Trump’s spe­cial en­voy to Ukraine for peace ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Since 2014, the Ukrainian gov­ern­ment has been bat­tling Rus­sian-backed sep­a­ratists in the coun­try’s east­ern re­gion, and the con­tin­u­a­tion of U.S. mil­i­tary aid is cru­cial to its de­fense. Whether Trump di­rected nearly $400 mil­lion in aid to be with­held to force the Ukraini­ans to open in­ves­ti­ga­tions into Democrats is a key ques­tion of the im­peach­ment in­quiry.

Cur­rent and for­mer U.S. of­fi­cials say Sond­land’s use of a cell­phone in a pub­lic place in Ukraine to speak with any­one in the U.S. gov­ern­ment about sen­si­tive mat­ters, let alone Trump, would be a breach of com­mu­ni­ca­tions se­cu­rity. U.S. diplo­mats and other gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees are in­structed not to use cell­phones for sen­si­tive of­fi­cial mat­ters while trav­el­ing abroad and notably in coun­tries known to be tar­geted for sur­veil­lance by in­tel­li­gence agen­cies such as China, Is­rael and Rus­sia.

Jayanti is an at­tor­ney who joined the State De­part­ment in 2012 and was pre­vi­ously posted at the U.S. Em­bassy in Iraq. She has been sta­tioned since Septem­ber 2018 at the em­bassy in Kyiv where she helps co­or­di­nate U.S. busi­ness in­ter­ests with the for­mer Soviet repub­lic’s en­ergy in­dus­try.

Jayanti was in Wash­ing­ton last month and sched­uled for a closed-door in­ter­view with im­peach­ment investigat­ors. But the de­po­si­tion was can­celed be­cause of the fu­neral for for­mer House Over­sight Chair Eli­jah Cum­mings and has not yet been resched­uled.

Holmes, a ca­reer diplo­mat, joined the For­eign Ser­vice in 2002 and has served in Afghanista­n, Colom­bia, In­dia, Kosovo and Rus­sia as well as on the White House Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil staff.


A call tran­script be­tween Pres­i­dent Trump and Volodymyr Ze­len­skiy is shown at the House hear­ing Wed­nes­day.

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