On Wednesday, during the first public hearing of the House Democrat-led impeachment inquiry, top Ukraine diplomat Bill Taylor revealed that a U.S. Embassy staffer working out of Ukraine had overheard none other than President Donald Trump himself ask Trump donor turned E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland about “the investigations” the day after Trump had a widely scrutinized phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which he pressed Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. Now, the Associated Press is reporting that a second U.S. Embassy staffer overheard that same conversation, further tying the president himself to the plot to get Ukraine to produce dirt on the Bidens.
As the AP puts it:
‘A second U.S. Embassy staffer in Kyiv overheard a key cellphone call between President Trump and his ambassador to the European Union discussing the need for Ukrainian officials to pursue “investigations,” the Associated Press has learned.’
According to the same report, the staffer that Taylor initially referred to is David Holmes, who works as a political counselor at the embassy in Kiev. The second staffer who also overheard the conversation is apparently foreign service officer Suriya Jayanti. Both of them have been targeted by House impeachment investigators already — Jayanti had been scheduled to testify privately when her appearance was postponed due to the late Rep. Elijah Cummings’ funeral, while Holmes is testifying privately to impeachment investigators on Friday. On that same day, impeachment investigators will also be hosting former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch for public testimony relating to matters like Trump abruptly firing her over baseless allegations that she was conspiring against him.
Trump has claimed that he does not remember the claimed phone conversation he had with Sondland in late July of this year, although that’s hardly a surprise. His regular routine when damaging information is revealed is to claim that he doesn’t know what anyone is talking about — even if there’s photographic evidence available, like that showing him interacting with his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s arrested henchmen Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.
In this case, there’s another issue besides the content of Sondland and Trump’s alleged late July conversation. There’s also the issue that the E.U. Ambassador was talking to Trump in an unsecured environment in the first place.
The Associated Press notes:
‘Current and former U.S. officials say Sondland’s use of a cellphone in a public place in Ukraine to speak with anyone in the U.S. government back home about sensitive matters, let alone the president, would be a significant breach of communications security.’
Former Russia Ambassador Michael McFaul adds:
‘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, but a whole lot of other people too. If it was that important, he [Sondland] could have easily gotten up from the restaurant, gone to the embassy and made a secure call through the White House operations center. A lower-level official would probably be reprimanded for this kind of breach.’
It’s not the first time there has been a security breach related to the Trump administration, and it likely won’t be the last. Despite the Trump team’s best efforts, their Ukraine scheme has fallen out into the open.