Politics: Sondland discussed sensitive matters with Trump on phone from Kyiv restaurant as waiters circled - - PressFrom - US
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Politics Sondland discussed sensitive matters with Trump on phone from Kyiv restaurant as waiters circled

04:30  17 november  2019
04:30  17 november  2019 Source:   washingtonpost.com

Trump denies knowledge of call mentioned in impeachment hearing

  Trump denies knowledge of call mentioned in impeachment hearing President Trump on Wednesday denied knowledge of a phone call that he allegedly had with U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland in July about investigations he sought from Ukraine."First time I heard it," Trump told reporters in the East Room during a press conference with the Turkish president when asked about the call, which was described by a U.S. diplomat in public testimony earlier Wednesday.Trump also dismissed the"First time I heard it," Trump told reporters in the East Room during a press conference with the Turkish president when asked about the call, which was described by a U.S. diplomat in public testimony earlier Wednesday.

Waiters were coming and going as U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland spoke on the phone with President Trump on July 26 from the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity given the sensitive nature of the subject. Sondland’s interactions in Kyiv — the day after

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 “Obviously, making a phone call from Kyiv to the president of the United States means that not just the Russian intelligence services will be on the call

Waiters were coming and going as U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland spoke on the phone with President Trump on July 26 from the outdoor section of a central Kyiv restaurant and discussed the Ukrainian president’s willingness to conduct politically charged investigations, an episode that also highlighted the lack of security around a presidential call, according to testimony to Congress and a person familiar with the episode.

Gordon Sondland wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera: U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland© Francois Lenoir/Reuters U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland

Sondland arrived in Kyiv and scrapped a schedule the embassy had arranged for him, which included a meeting with the man who would subsequently become Ukraine’s prime minister, instead saying he wanted to meet only with Volodymr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, and the two aides closest to him: head of the presidential administration Andriy Bohdan and adviser Andriy Yermak, according to the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity given the sensitive nature of the subject.

Ambassador’s cellphone call to Trump from Kyiv restaurant was a stunning breach of security, former officials say

  Ambassador’s cellphone call to Trump from Kyiv restaurant was a stunning breach of security, former officials say Gordon Sondland’s conversation with the president probably was picked up by Russian intelligence, former U.S. officials said.The call — in which Trump’s remarks were overheard by a U.S. Embassy staffer in Kyiv — was disclosed Wednesday by the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, William B. Taylor Jr., on the dramatic opening day of public impeachment hearings into alleged abuse of power by the president.

Taylor said one of his staffers overhead the call while Sondland was in a Kyiv restaurant the day after Trump ’s Trump on Wednesday said he did not recall the July 26 call with Sondland. “No, not at all, not “Obviously, making a phone call from Kyiv to the president of the United States means that not

Trump on Wednesday said he did not recall the July 26 call with Sondland. U.S. diplomats and other government employees are instructed not to use cellphones for sensitive official matters “Obviously, making a phone call from Kyiv to the president of the United States means that not just the Russian

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Sondland’s interactions in Kyiv — the day after Trump called Zelensky and exhorted him to investigate former vice president Joe Biden — will be scrutinized in public testimony Sondland is scheduled to give this week at the impeachment inquiry.

Robert Luskin, an attorney for Sondland, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Congressional focus has intensified on the episode at the Kyiv restaurant called SHO, in which Sondland pulled out his mobile phone and dialed up Trump. In a closed-door hearing on Friday, David Holmes, an embassy staffer who was sitting at the table, testified that he overheard the conversation, which began with Trump asking if Sondland was calling from Ukraine.

AP source: 2nd US official heard Trump call with Sondland

  AP source: 2nd US official heard Trump call with Sondland A second U.S. embassy staffer in Kyiv overheard a key cellphone call between President Donald Trump and his ambassador to the European Union discussing the 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 B. Taylor Jr., the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Taylor said one of his staffers overhead the call while Sondland was in a restaurant the day after Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that triggered the House impeachment inquiry.

The call, in which Trump ’s remarks were overheard by a U.S. Embassy staffer in Kyiv , was disclosed Wednesday by the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, William B. Taylor Jr “The member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone ” asking U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon

Holmes said that allowed others at a restaurant in Kyiv to overhear the call that’s now part of the impeachment inquiry, according to one of the people, who After the call with Trump , which Sondland placed from his mobile phone at the outdoor table over lunch with Holmes and two other people, he

“Ambassador Sondland replied, yes, he was in Ukraine, and went on to state that President Zelensky ‘loves your a--,’” Holmes testified in his opening statement. “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.’ ”

Two other people were sitting at the table at the time and would potentially be able to corroborate Holmes’s account: Suriya Jayanti, an embassy staffer who served as Sondland’s control officer for the trip, meaning she arranged his schedule and accompanied him wherever he went, and Tara Maher, Sondland’s personal assistant, according to people with knowledge of the lunch.

Sondland didn’t receive the kind of direct assurances he relayed to Trump during the meetings he held earlier that day with Zelensky and Bohdan, according to testimony from Holmes and people familiar with those meetings.

Staffer who overheard Trump call with Sondland testifies in closed hearing

  Staffer who overheard Trump call with Sondland testifies in closed hearing David Holmes, an aide to Ambassador Bill Taylor, overheard a July 26 call between Trump and Gordon Sondland about UkraineHolmes is a counselor for political affairs at the U.S. embassy in Kiev, according to the embassy's website.

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 “Obviously, making a phone call from Kyiv to the president of the United States means that not just the Russian intelligence services will be on the call

A second U.S. Embassy staffer in Kyiv overheard a phone call between President Trump and his ambassador to the EU. Taylor said one of his staffers overhead the call while Sondland was in a restaurant the day after Trump ’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy

But Sondland did slip away for a one-on-one meeting with Yermak after meeting Zelensky, and shortly after that meeting concluded, went to the Kyiv restaurant and placed the phone call to Trump. Holmes testified that he was blocked from attending the meeting with Yermak as a note taker.

Sondland was also texting back and forth on WhatsApp with Yermak throughout the trip, and had been communicating with other Ukrainian officials over the messaging app in the preceding and subsequent months, according to people familiar with his interactions.

Most of those messages haven’t been made public or handed over to the House impeachment inquiry. The messages by Sondland that have been released are those in which he was communicating in a three-way conversation with Yermak and former Ukraine special envoy Kurt Volker. Volker, who stepped down from the post after a whistleblower complaint from a CIA analyst triggered the impeachment probe, turned those communications over to the committees leading the inquiry.

The chairmen of the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight committees subpoenaed communications and documents from Sondland as the inquiry got underway, and Sondland turned over communications from his personal devices to the State Department. But according to a statement by the committee chairmen in October, the State Department withheld them from the impeachment inquiry, defying a subpoena the committees issued to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

David Holmes testimony: State department aide confirms Trump-Sondland call about Ukraine investigations

  David Holmes testimony: State department aide confirms Trump-Sondland call about Ukraine investigations David Holmes, the state department aide who overheard President Donald Trump's conversation with the US ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, said that Sondland told Trump that the Ukranian President would do "anything you ask him to," and that he confirmed the Ukrainians were going to "do the investigation.""Sondland told Trump that (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelensky 'loves your ass,'" Holmes said, according to a copy of his opening statement obtained by CNN. "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.

Trump on Wednesday said he did not recall the July 26 call. “No, not at all, not even a little bit U.S. diplomats and other government employees are instructed not to use cellphones for sensitive official “Obviously, making a phone call from Kyiv to the president of the United States means that not just

President Donald Trump repeatedly pushed for Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter, during a July 25 phone call, according to a transcript of the conversation released by the White House.

Sondland, a wealthy Republican hotelier from the Pacific Northwest who became Trump’s ambassador to the European Union after donating $1 million to the president’s inauguration committee, handled a number of situations for Trump that would normally be considered outside the remit of his position in Brussels. He swooped in to take over the Ukraine portfolio after Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, helped engineer the ouster of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

During the course of the phone call from the restaurant, Sondland also consulted with Trump on another matter of importance to the president at the time: efforts to free the American rapper A$AP Rocky from jail in Sweden at the request of reality television star Kim Kardashian.

The same day as his July 25 phone call with Zelensky, Trump lashed out at Sweden on Twitter and demanded the nation free the American rapper despite his assault charge from his role in a street brawl.

“Give A$AP Rocky his FREEDOM,” Trump tweeted. “We do so much for Sweden but it doesn’t seem to work the other way around. Sweden should focus on its real crime problem!”

Sondland, according to Holmes’s opening statement, advised Trump to “let him get sentenced, play the racism card, give him a ticker-tape when he comes home.” Sondland added that Sweden should have released the rapper on Trump’s word, but the president could at least tell the Kardashians he tried, according to Holmes’s recollection.

Gordon Sondland Stepped in ‘And Things Went Really Off the Rails’

  Gordon Sondland Stepped in ‘And Things Went Really Off the Rails’ Ukrainian officials arrived at the White House on July 10 expecting something approaching normal. They were in Washington for a scheduled meeting with then-National Security Adviser John Bolton with a plan to propose a new path for U.S.-Ukrainian relations under the umbrella of energy and security cooperation. All seemed to go well—until U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland stepped in. “That’s when things really went off the rails,” one person in the room said.

Trump released a summary of his call with Ukraine's president, but former NSC staff say transcripts are not verbatim. Such records are typically a rough transcript as a president's phone calls with world leaders are not recorded, according to Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Trump on Wednesday said he did not recall the July 26 call. “No, not at all, not even a little bit,” Trump said . The staffer Taylor testified about is David “Obviously, making a phone call from Kyiv to the president of the United States means that not just the Russian intelligence services will be on the call

According to a senior White House aide, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a diplomatic issue, Sondland was involved in the A$AP Rocky effort because of his relationship with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, and because Trump saw him as “the Europe guy.”

Apart from sending national security adviser Robert O’Brien, who was then his top hostage negotiator, to intervene in the matter, Trump pressured Sweden’s leader on a phone call to release the rapper, saying that the United States does a lot for Sweden and Sweden should do this for him, according to a U.S. official.

Swedish officials tried to explain they needed to let the courts deal with the matter, but Trump was angered, saying it should have been easy for the Swedish government to do as he asked, the official said. Swedish officials were baffled by Trump’s aggressive involvement in the case, the official added.

In early August, Sweden released A$AP Rocky from jail after he was detained for a month on assault charges. According to the official familiar with the episode, Trump was frustrated that he didn’t get enough credit for securing the rapper’s release.

paul.sonne@washpost.com

josh.dawsey@washpost.com

Aaron C. Davis contributed to this report.

Jordan slams Sondland for omitting Trump’s ‘no quid pro quo’ claim from statement .
Rep. Jim Jordan blasted Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland for omitting President Trump’s apparent claim that he wanted “no quid pro quo” with Ukraine from his opening statement, during his testimony at Wednesday's impeachment hearing.The story of the Trump-Sondland exchange emerged as a key moment for Republicans defending Trump's role in the Ukraine issue. While not mentioning it in his opening statement, Sondland eventually said under questioning that Trump told him "I want nothing, I want no quid pro quo" -- apparently concerning whether military aid and more was tied to his requests for politically advantageous investigations from Ukraine.

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