That summary, though, ignores the events that unfolded over the course of the day, events that are at the center of the impeachment inquiry focused on President Trump’s interactions with Ukraine.
On Tuesday, we learned more about how the Trump administration shifted on July 25 in a way that allowed Trump and his team to pressure Ukraine into launching investigations that would benefit Trump personally. In light of that new information, we’ve created the following timeline of the events of the day. A normal day in the Trump presidency, overlaid with some abnormal machinations.
7:06 a.m. As with so many other days since Jan. 20, 2017, the first sign that Trump was awake came in the form of a tweet. As with so many tweets from Trump in the early morning, this tweet was a reflection of what he was watching on Fox News.
In this case, it was “Fox & Friends” coverage of the public testimony of former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III who, the day prior, had appeared on Capitol Hill to discuss the findings of his investigators related to Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Trump is apparently in the White House residence when he tweets this.
7:10 a.m. Trump retweets Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). The focus is on the budget agreement making its way through Congress.
7:17 a.m. Trump retweets himself from the day earlier.
7:54 a.m. (2:54 p.m., Kyiv time) Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland tries to call Ukraine special envoy Kurt Volker. Not reaching him, Sondland sends a text message over WhatsApp: “Call as soon as possible.”
Volker and Sondland are two of the “three amigos,” a group tasked by Trump in late May with pushing Trump’s priorities on Ukraine while working through Trump’s private attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani. Sondland has, by this point, already informed Ukrainian officials directly that to secure a White House meeting for new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, they would have to agree to investigations of purported 2016 election interference by Ukraine and of Burisma, an energy company for which former vice president Joe Biden’s son Hunter worked.
Each of those investigations would benefit Trump personally. The first could suggest that the investigation into Russian interference that frustrated Trump (as per his tweet about Mueller) was misdirected. The second would potentially do political damage to Biden himself.
7:54 a.m. Trump tweets polling from Fox News showing positive views of the economy.
Perhaps significantly, that polling also showed Biden with a commanding lead in the Democratic primary field.
“When Democrats are polled, the number one thing they’re looking for in a candidate for 2020 is somebody who can beat Donald Trump,” host Steve Doocy says during the morning’s broadcast. “And right now, so many people go, well, the only person that kind of qualifies for that is Joe Biden.”
Sometime in the 7 a.m. hour (2 p.m. hour, Kyiv time) Before boarding a flight to Kyiv or while en route, Sondland speaks with Trump on the phone. The exact timing of the call isn’t clear, though there is a direct flight from Brussels (where Sondland is stationed) to Kyiv at 2:05 p.m. local time.
In Sondland’s original testimony, he indicated that he had spoken with Trump while on the plane and that it was “kind of a nothing call.” In his public testimony earlier this month, though, he suggested that the conversation preceded his flight and that he had “likely” received from Trump a message to pass on to the Ukrainians.
8:07 a.m. Trump again tweets about Fox News’s poll. He was apparently watching on delay, as he often does.
8:36 a.m. (3:36 p.m., Kyiv time) Volker texts Andriy Yermak, a senior aide to Zelensky. The two had met earlier in the day.
“Good lunch — thanks,” Volker wrote. “Heard from White House — assuming President [Zelensky] convinces trump he will investigate / ‘get to the bottom of what happened’ in 2016, we will nail down date for visit to Washington.”
The reference in the message is to Trump’s theory that Ukraine was somehow involved in 2016 interference or in blaming Russia for that effort.
8:37 a.m. Trump recommends to his Twitter followers that they tune in to see conservative radio host Mark Levin on “Fox & Friends.”
8:39 a.m. Trump lets his followers know that Levin is on air.
9 a.m. Trump again tweets about the budget deal.
9:03 a.m. Trump and Zelensky begin speaking. According to a rough transcript of the call, Trump asks Zelensky to investigate an unfounded theory that Ukraine tried to frame Russia for its interference in 2016 and to investigate Joe Biden by name. Zelensky acquiesces, at one point tying the probes to his desired meeting at the White House.
Zelensky also says that Ukraine hopes to buy more antitank missiles, to which Trump infamously responds, “I would like you to do us a favor though” — investigate Trump’s theory about how Ukraine might have somehow been involved in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee in 2016.
A number of other officials are listening to the call, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Tim Morrison of the National Security Council and deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman.
9:33 a.m. The call ends. Vindman, alarmed by its contents, contacts National Security Council attorney John Eisenberg, who ultimately decides to move the rough transcript of the call to a highly secure system, limiting access to the document.
9:35 a.m. (4:35 p.m., Kyiv time) Volker texts Sondland back.
“Hi Gordon, got your message,” he writes, “had a great lunch with Yermak and then passed your message to him. He will see you tomorrow, think everything in place.”
10:15 a.m. (5:15 p.m., Kyiv time) Yermak texts Volker.
“Phone call went well,” he writes. “President Trump proposed to choose any convenient dates. President Zelenskiy chose 20,21,22 September for the White House Visit. Thank you again for your help!”
Yermak is direct: Zelensky agreed to the investigations, so here are the dates he’s looking at for a White House visit.
He adds a request: “Please remind Mr. Mayor to share the Madrid’s dates.” About a week later, Yermak and Giuliani (“Mr. Mayor”) met in Madrid, where Giuliani continued to press Trump’s agenda.
10:16 a.m. (5:16 p.m., Kyiv time) Volker replies: “Great-thanks and will do!”
11:19 a.m. Trump’s motorcade leaves the White House for the Pentagon, where Trump will preside over a ceremony swearing in the new secretary of defense, Mark T. Esper.
11:27 a.m. The motorcade arrives, and the ceremony begins.
11:57 a.m. Trump speaks.
“Around the world, America faces new threats and strategic rivals, it seems like all the time,” he says at one point. “We have met this competition with unmatched confidence, purpose, and resolve. We talk to all of them and they talk to us with great, great respect. They respect our country so much more than they have for many, many decades. Right now, they respect us more than they have in many, many years. And it’s only going to get more so.”
What Trump knows but those in attendance don’t is that his administration has taken a step that could shift the balance in favor of one of those strategic rivals. Earlier in the month, Trump instructed acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to put a hold on aid approved by Congress and slated for disbursement to Ukraine. In a meeting a week earlier, that hold was communicated broadly throughout the administration.
12:34 p.m. Trump arrives back at the White House.
12:56 p.m. The White House releases a “read out” of the call with Zelensky.
“Today, President Donald J. Trump spoke by telephone with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine to congratulate him on his recent election. President Trump and President Zelenskyy discussed ways to strengthen the relationship between the United States and Ukraine, including energy and economic cooperation. Both leaders also expressed that they look forward to the opportunity to meet.”
1:04 p.m. Trump tweets about the Pentagon ceremony for Esper.
1:59 p.m. Trump retweets a message from his daughter Ivanka Trump focused on an event at the White House later in the day.
2:03 p.m. Trump tweets about incidents in which water was thrown on police officers in New York City.
2:31 p.m. Staff working for Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, Eurasia Laura Cooper receive an email.
“That email said that the Ukrainian embassy and House Foreign Affairs Committee are asking about security assistance,” Cooper testified last week — suggesting that both members of Congress and Ukrainian officials were aware of the hold placed on military aid. (The Defense Department in June had publicly announced $250 million in “foreign military financing,” or FMF, to Ukraine.)
3:41 p.m. Trump joins the one-year celebration of the “Pledge to America’s Workers.”
4:25 p.m. Cooper’s staff receive another email.
“That email said that the Hill knows about the FMF situation to an extent and so does the Ukrainian embassy,” Cooper testified. Asked during her testimony what “the FMF situation” referred to, she said she preferred not to speculate.
4:54 p.m. The White House calls a press “lid,” meaning that no other public, reportable activity should be expected from the president.
5:19 p.m. Trump tweets about the rapper A$AP Rocky, who was detained in Sweden.
5:24 p.m. Another tweet about A$AP Rocky.
6:44 p.m. As reported on Tuesday, an official from the Office of Management and Budget signs a document formally stopping the defense aid slated for Ukraine. Again, the halt in aid had been communicated to some within the administration in early July and more widely a week prior.
7:25 p.m. Trump celebrates the House’s passage of his budget deal.
That turns out to be Trump’s last public communication on July 25.
July 26 starts the way July 25 did, with Trump tweeting about Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show from the day earlier. A few hours later, he would speak to Sondland again, hearing from the E.U. ambassador that Ukraine was poised to launch the investigations he desired.
And also discussing the fate of A$AP Rocky.