Second US Embassy official in Kyiv overheard Trump's conversation asking details about 'Ukraine probe'
The new revealation comes after top US diplomat in Ukraine William Taylor testified that one embassy staff member had overheard Trump's call and this time, it is a woman diplomatic official who is in the headlines.
The first day of the public hearings about President Donald Trump’s impeachment on Wednesday, November 13, saw US Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor testifying that the president was overheard by one of his diplomatic aides asking on the phone about the "Ukraine investigations”. Trump allegedly wanted the East European nation to pursue to undermine a domestic political rival in the run-up to the 2020 presidential elections.
While the new twist in the tale left the opponents baying for Trump’s blood excited, House Democrats have now received more supporting information from a second source about the allegations that Trump was seeking to know from his European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland about the ‘probe’ involving Ukraine just one day after having a controversial conversation with his counterpart in Kyiv, Volodymyr Zelensky, on July 25.
According to a report in the Associated Press, a second staff member in the US Embassy in Kyiv overheard the call that Trump had with Sondland. Sondland was reportedly present at a restaurant in the Ukrainian capital when the call took place and the second US diplomat was identified as Suriya Jayanti, a foreign service officer based in Kiev who was also there at the table with Sondland. A person gave the briefing over what Jayanti overheard spoke on the condition of anonymity, the AP report added.
On Wednesday, Taylor said during his testimony that an official, who he didn’t identify at the time, overheard Trump asking Sondland over the phone about the ‘investigations’. Official sources later said David Holmes, the political counselor at the US Embassy in Ukraine, is the person Taylor talked about in his testimony. He was likely to have a closed-door session with the Democrats on Friday, November 15, the day when former US ambassador Marie Yavonovitch will also testify in the impeachment hearing.
Trump on Thursday, November 14, refuted the allegations saying he had no recollection of the phone call with Sondland on July 26.
However, the back-to-back accounts from two embassy workers could make the case against Trump trying to release military aid only if it went for the investigations against his political rival Joe Biden and his businessman son Hunter stronger. The president’s defenders though hit back at Taylor saying he never heard himself the president asking anybody about the Ukraine probe.
Who is Suriya Jayanti?
The new character in the episode, Jayanti, is an attorney who joined the State Department in 2012 and was earlier posted at the US Embassy in Iraq. She is in Kyiv since September last year where she helps in coordinating America’s business interests with the host nation’s energy sector.
Jayanti was in the US this October and was set to meet the impeachment investigators for a closed-door interview but it did not happen because of the funeral of former House Oversight Chair Elijah Cummins, the AP added.
Sondland speaking with president in a public place also comes under scrutiny
Meanwhile, the fact that Sondland spoke with a government member over a cellphone in a public place in Ukraine was criticized by American officials -- both current and former -- as a serious violation of communications security.
Sondland, who reportedly paid a heavy contribution to the president’s inauguration secretly, became a key part of what Taylor termed an “irregular” diplomatic channel to make Kyiv issue a public statement about probing a company in which Hunter worked as well as the 2016 presidential elections.
According to Daily Mail, Sondland said in a revised testimony he told an aide to President Zelensky that American aid will resume only after Ukraine gave the public anti-corruption statement that was being discussed for a long time.
Sonders is also expected to testify publicly in the near future.