Diplomat says he overheard Trump call about ‘investigations’

WASHINGTON (AP) – A State Department official told impeachment investigators on Friday that he overheard United States (US) President Donald Trump talking with a US ambassador about “investigations” in Ukraine, according to people familiar with the testimony.

David Holmes, the political counsel at the US Embassy in Ukraine, said Trump was talking so loudly that Ambassador Gordon Sondland had to hold the phone from his ear.

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 were unauthorised to publicly discuss the testimony and were granted anonymity.

The conversation at the Kyiv restaurant came the day after Trump’s July 25 phone call with newly elected Ukraine President Volodymy Zelenskiy, in which the US president pressed his counterpart to investigate Democrats and 2020 rival Joe Biden.

The Associated Press has viewed key excerpts of Holmes’ 10-page statement and a person familiar with the document confirmed its authenticity.

The remarks were first obtained by CNN.

Holmes, a career foreign service officer, told investigators he did not seek the opportunity to testify. Like others in the inquiry, he was issued a subpoena to appear. He spent nearly seven hours with lawmakers.

Rep Ted Lieu, D-Calif, said Holmes is a key witness to the impeachment investigation because he heard directly from Trump.

That counters Republican complaints that the inquiry is based on hearsay from other officials testifying.

“He has firsthand knowledge of the conversation between Ambassador Sondland and the president of the US,” Lieu said. “He overheard the conversation.”

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 remarked the president was in a “bad mood.”