Ambassador Gordon Sondland spoke by phone with President Donald Trump before responding to another State Department official questioning an effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden.
Bill Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, texted Sondland, the EU ambassador, on Sept. 9 to express his discomfort with withholding congressionally approved aid for the U.S. ally until its government agreed to dig up campaign dirt on the former vice president.
"I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign," Taylor texted.
Sondland replied: "Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump's intentions. The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo's of any kind."
"I suggest we stop the back and forth by text," Sondland added.
NBC News reported that Sondland spoke directly to the president after receiving Taylor's text, and before he replied.
NEWS: A person with knowledge of the situation confirms to NBC that Gordon Sondland spoke by phone with Pres. Trump… https://t.co/csRvX9tdwD— Geoff Bennett (@Geoff Bennett)1570553894.0
A person with knowledge of the situation confirmed that Sondland spoke by phone with Trump during the exchange with Taylor, and U.S. officials and other sources said Sondland was among a small group of ambassadors with direct and frequent access to the president.
Those sources told NBC News that Sondland and Trump speak frequently by phone and have discussed Ukraine in the past.
Sondland, Taylor and former special envoy Kurt Volker used the WhatsApp encrypted messaging service to communicate about Ukraine, according to multiple sources.
That activity has raised questions because the encryption may violate federal requirements for keeping records of government business.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) accused the State Department of obstruction for refusing to turn over those records created on Sondland's personal cell phone.