Ukraine minister undercuts Taylor's 'bombshell' impeachment hearing testimony

Ukraine minister undercuts Taylor's 'bombshell' impeachment hearing testimony

Ukraine minister undercuts Taylor's 'bombshell' impeachment hearing testimony

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko on Thursday said U.S. envoy Gordon Sondland did not tell him aid to Kiev depended on opening a probe into Donald Trump's potential 2020 rival Joe Biden.

Meanwhile, Sondland, during his closed-door testimony to House Intelligence Committee, told the panel that he had spoken many times to Prystaiko and other Ukrainian officials during the period that was in question, according to a transcript released (pdf) several days ago.

"That phone call was also a mistake - the way it was conducted - and it had huge implications for our foreign policy", former Russian ambassador Michael McFaul told the AP. "This just should not happen", he said.

At the first public hearings of the impeachment inquiry, Taylor testified that a member of his staff, whom he did not name, was with Sondland at a restaurant on July 26 when the ambassador placed a call to Mr. Trump.

She said she found it deeply concerning and asked for someone from the Intelligence Bureau to "sit down with him and explain that this was a counterintelligence risk".

Sondland, who has extensive firsthand information, will testify publicly next week. He has emerged as a key figure in the impeachment scandal centered on allegations that Trump held up assistance to Ukraine until that country committed to a corruption investigation that would target his political rivals.

The inquiry stemmed from a whistle-blower revealing in September the nature of the president's talks with his Ukrainian counterpart, who took office in May. That phone call was the subject of a whistleblower complaint that sparked the impeachment inquiry. Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine.

Democrats claim the conversation outlined the contours of a quid pro quo since it came shortly after the White House froze hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine.

Sondland will return to Capitol Hill next week for public testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, one of eight witnesses to appear next week.

Ukraine ambassador William Taylor testified Wednesday that a member of his staff overheard President Trump asking Sondland about "investigations" during a phone call on July 26.

President Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had a cordial meeting on Wednesday, with Trump going out of his way to say he's a "big fan" of Erdogan and the two are "very good friends". In response to questioning, Taylor added that this was in reference to investigations into the Bidens, and that Sondland told Trump that the Ukrainians "were ready to move forward".

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