President Donald Trump was allegedly overheard asking about “investigations” he wanted Ukraine to pursue, a senior diplomat told the impeachment inquiry.
Top diplomats have given evidence about accusations the president asked Ukraine’s leader to investigate political rival Joe Biden and Mr Biden’s son.
Mr Trump said he was “too busy” to watch the hearing in Washington but did retweet videos of the inquiry while it was taking place.
The president, who has repeatedly described the inquiry as a “witch hunt”, also criticised the “television lawyers” appearing.
Mr Trump said after the hearing that he didn’t watch “one minute” of the testimony, adding that he will release details of his first call with Ukraine’s president on Thursday.
William Taylor, a top US diplomat in Ukraine, revealed new information that his staff had told him they overheard Mr Trump on the phone in a restaurant asking about “the investigations”.
They alleged he was talking to another diplomat, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, the day after Mr Trump’s July phone call to the Ukrainian president.
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Mr Taylor testified that Mr Sondland – the US ambassador to the EU – told the president the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.
“It’s a little unusual for the US ambassador to the EU to play a role in Ukraine policy,” Mr Taylor said.
He also said one of his staffers was told “President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden” than he does about the Ukraine.
Sky’s Amanda Walker, who was at the hearing in Washington, said: “Today the cameras were on, the curtain was lifted, and there was compelling testimony from Bill Taylor.
“There was a clear effort to paint his very distinguished background to make sure that people knew that this is a decorated military man.
“The whole question the Democrats were asking is – did President Trump coerce a foreign government to interfere in a US election for his own political gain?
“Certainly, the testimony they got today bolstered that case.”
Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, argued Mr Trump would have a “perfectly good reason for wanting to find out what happened” if there were any indications Ukraine meddled in the 2016 presidential election.
The impeachment inquiry, which could see the president removed from office, was ignited by a whistleblower’s complaint that Mr Trump withheld military aid while pressing Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate the Bidens.
Mr Taylor’s testimony alleges that Mr Trump suggested the US would be at a “stalemate” with the Ukraine if President Zelensky did not commit to the investigations.
He testified there were two channels for US foreign policy in Ukraine – one “regular” and the other “highly irregular”.
The “irregular” foreign policy channel was being used by the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuiliani, to guide requests, Mr Taylor alleged.
He said that as the channels “diverged”, he became “increasingly concerned” and that he had sat “in astonishment” when the order came for military aid to be withheld.
The diplomat alleged that President Zelensky did not want to be used as an “instrument” in a US presidential re-election campaign.
Some Republicans have implied that US officials attempted to block investigations into Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, sitting on the board of Ukrainian company Burisma.
But another witness, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent, said he had not heard any US official attempt to stop investigations.
Mr Kent said he had raised concerns about the issue in 2015, saying it could give the “perception of a conflict of interest”.
He did not go into detail about Mr Trump’s conversation with Mr Zelensky.
Speaking at the inquiry, Devin Nunes claimed the proceedings were a smear campaign against the president.
The Republican alleged the witnesses had gone through secret auditions and that the read-out of the call between Mr Trump and Mr Zelensky was “made up”.
He said the inquiry was part of a “scorched earth war” the Democrats had been waging against Mr Trump.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham called the proceedings “boring” and said it was a “colossal waste” of taxpayer time and money.