WASHINGTON – A Kiev embassy staffer testified on Friday before United States congressmen saying that he knew President Donald Trump had inquired if Ukraine was conducting investigations he wanted against his rivals.
David Holmes, an aide to the top US diplomat in Ukraine, said he overheard a telephonic conversation between Trump and Washington’s European Union envoy Gordon Sondland.
He said he heard the two talking about the status of a probe the president had allegedly sought into his domestic political rivals, including former Vice President Joe Biden.
Holmes’s testimony confirmed the telephonic call between Trump and Sondland.
The conversation was first revealed on Wednesday when William Taylor, the top envoy to Ukraine, testified that Holmes had brought it to his attention.
The hearing was the first in a process that could lead to an impeachment trial of Trump in the Senate if a majority of congressmen believe he abused the power of the presidency by asking Ukraine to investigate a political rival.
Holmes said the telephonic conversation took place on July 26, a day after the other call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelenski.
Trump said he did not remember the call with Sondland when asked by journalists on Wednesday.
According to testimony offered on Friday by Holmes behind closed doors and reported by US media, Trump asked Sondland if Zelenski was willing to initiate an investigation for alleged corruption in Ukraine against the family of Biden, his possible rival in 2020.
Trump would have asked if Ukraine was going to start the investigation, according to Holmes, to which Sondland replied in affirmative.
“Sondland told Trump that Zelensky ‘loves your ass,’” according to a copy of Holmes’ opening statement, circulated widely online.
“I then heard President Trump ask, ‘So he’s gonna do the investigation?’ Ambassador Sondland replied that ‘he’s gonna do it,’ adding that President Zelensky will do ‘anything you ask him to.’”
Holmes said he then asked Sondland if it was true that Trump did not care about Ukraine.
The ambassador, he said, replied that the president was only interested in “the important thing,” referring to the investigation against Biden.
Several witnesses have already declared in the congress that Trump has retained the delivery of nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine and conditioned him to agree to investigate Biden.
After the first public hearings, the Democrats accused the president of “bribery” to justify the possible political trial.