European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland called Donald Trump by cellphone from a Ukraine restaurant on July 26, according to testimony by acting United States Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor at Wednesday’s televised impeachment hearing. Taylor, who was not present when Sondland spoke to Trump, testified that a member of his embassy staff overheard Trump on the phone asking about whether Ukraine would open “investigations.”
In a new development Thursday, The Associated Press now reports that a second U.S. embassy official was at the restaurant table. That official also heard the call between Trump and Sondland, according to the AP report.
Taylor testified that in his view, “investigations” referred to an investigation into Trump’s potential 2020 election opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden — exactly the investigation that Trump had reportedly pushed for in a call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky the previous day. That call with Zelensky sparked the current impeachment inquiry into whether Trump abused the powers of his office.
In the call, Trump appeared to condition military aid to Ukraine on Zelensky’s doing “a favor,” purportedly referring to the investigation of Biden.
The embassy staffer mentioned by Taylor in his testimony was identified in the AP report as David Holmes, a political affairs counselor at the Kiev embassy. According to Thursday’s report, the second embassy staff member seated at the table was Suriya Jayanti, identified in the report only as a “foreign service officer” at the embassy.
Holmes is reportedly scheduled to discuss the call in testimony to Congress behind close doors on Friday, November 15. Whether Jayanti will testify remains unclear.
Jayanti, according to The Washington Post, is already a “key figure” in the impeachment inquiry. She is an energy industry expert who has served in the diplomatic corps since 2012.
According to the Post, Jayanti could be an impeachment witness because she “heard complaints from an American businessman of efforts to oust ambassador [Marie] Yovanovitch.” Those efforts were carried out by Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who waged a “campaign of lies” against Yovanovitch, according to testimony by State Department Ukraine expert George Kent.
Trump fired Yovanovitch on May 20. The reasons why Trump fired her remain unclear. However, in his July 25 phone call with Zelensky, Trump referred to Yovanovitch as “bad news” and warned that she was “going to go through some things,” as quoted in a separate Washington Post report.
Jayanti was also aware of attempts by Trump administration Energy Secretary Rick Perry to “influence the board of Ukraine’s state-owned petroleum company,” according to the Post.
Trump on Wednesday claimed that he had no recollection of the conversation with Sondland reportedly overheard by Holmes and Jayanti, saying that he did not remember “even a little bit” about the call.