Donald Trump's chief of staff summoned to testify in impeachment probe

House investigators have logged another key piece of corroborating testimony in their impeachment inquiry.

Taylor also explained a September 8 text message to Sondland where he described such a public statement by Ukraine as "a nightmare" and threatened to resign if such a statement were made to satisfy Trump's demands and pressure from Trump's personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani's unofficial diplomatic channel, especially because there was still no guarantee the aid would be released.

Regarding Sondland's released transcript, the White House on Tuesday dismissed it.

The senior diplomat also said Ukraine was not aware of a hold on military aid until the end of August, over one month after a phone call between Trump and Zelensky, which is at the center of the impeachment inquiry, prompting Republicans to argue that there was no "quid pro quo".

He corroborated Taylor's account that Ukraine was told US military assistance would resume only if investigations that could be damaging to former vice president Joe Biden commenced.

Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, who initially testified in October to the Democratic-led congressional inquiry, offered new details to lawmakers on Monday (4 November) after his memory was "refreshed".

Mr. Sondland had testified on October 19 that he did not believe there was a quid pro quo for the aid to Ukraine.

In the transcripts and accompanying cache of text messages, USA diplomats are shown trying to navigate the demands of Mr Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who they soon learn is running a back-channel USA foreign policy on Ukraine.

"What I didn't want to do is have United States assistance to Ukraine blocked or suspended for no good reason that I could see", Taylor said, according to a transcript of his testimony to lawmakers that was released on Wednesday.

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While others who had testified have been career diplomats and government officials, Mr Sondland was a major donor to Mr Trump's 2016 election campaign.

Taylor said he was told by Gordon Sondland, the US envoy to the European Union, that Trump "was adamant" that Zelenskiy personally announce the investigations of Burisma and pursue a debunked conspiracy theory about the 2016 election.

He said he learned of such stipulations being demanded by Trump and others close to him, such as the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, after he was informed by Tim Morrison, who handles Russian and European affairs for the National Security Council.

Not surprising, given how central his testimony is to the case, Taylor is scheduled to be the first witness to testify in a public setting November 13 as the impeachment inquiry emerges from behind closed doors after six weeks of witness interviews.

The White House said the Sondland transcript undermined the impeachment inquiry.

The Capitol Hill hearings will be broadcast live as Democratic and Republican lawmakers question witnesses, many of whom the White House has sought to discredit.

His three-page update, tucked beneath hundreds of pages of sworn evidence from Mr Sondland and former Ukraine special envoy Kurt Volker, was released by House investigators as Democrats prepared to push the closed-door sessions to public hearings as soon as next week.

In a sign of his disproportionate influence, Mr Giuliani was cited by name more than 200 times during Mr Sondland's and Mr Volker's depositions - more than any Trump White House or Cabinet official - and described as inexplicably powerful and hard to control.

  • Delia Davidson