One of the most striking revelations that emerged from yesterday's impeachment hearing was new information presented by William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine. As we discussed, Taylor described a July 26 call -- the day after Donald Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for Biden-related assistance -- between Trump and Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland. The phone conversation followed a meeting between U.S. officials at a top aide to the new Ukrainian leader.
Trump was heard asking Sondland on the call about "the investigations." 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."
After that call, the ambassador purportedly said that Trump "cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for."
The Associated Press reported a short while ago that more than one person heard the Trump/Sondland cellphone call.
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 second diplomatic staffer also at the table was Suriya Jayanti, a foreign service officer based in Kyiv. A person briefed on what Jayanti overheard spoke to AP on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter currently under investigation.
So now there are two witnesses: David Holmes, the State Department official who serves as counselor for political affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, heard the Trump/Sondland call, and he's scheduled to testify in closed session tomorrow as part of the impeachment inquiry. If the Associated Press report is correct, Suriya Jayanti, a foreign service officer based in Kyiv, can corroborate Holmes' account.
It's an important revelation, not just because of obvious security concerns, but because of the degree to which this appears to link the American president directly to the scandal.
Indeed, if these accounts are accurate, Sondland clearly wasn't freelancing in Kyiv; he was coordinating a scheme directly with the president who was directing -- and receiving updates on -- the scandalous affair.
As recently as last week, some in Republican circles were prepared to argue that Trump was out of the loop in the Ukraine scandal, and the whole mess could be pinned on some "fall guys" in the president's immediate orbit.
There's ample reason to believe Trump was actually the center of the loop.
For what it's worth, a reporter was able to ask the Republican yesterday about his recollections of the July conversation. "I don't recall," he replied. "No, not at all. Not even a little bit."
Right about now, I imagine Trump wishes he still had some credibility.