Sondland: Ukraine Quid Pro Quo “Reflected Trump’s Desires and Requirements”
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by Countable's Trump Impeachment Coverage | 11.20.19
What's the story?
- Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland testified Wednesday that President Donald Trump conditioned a meeting with Ukrainian President Vladomyr Zelensky on "a public statement from President Zelensky committing to investigations of Burisma and the 2016 election."
“Was there a ‘quid pro quo?’” Sondland said in his opening remarks. “The answer is yes.”
- Sondland told the House Intelligence Committee that Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, "expressed those requests directly to the Ukrainians. Mr. Giuliani also expressed those requests directly to us. We all understood that these prerequisites for the White House call and White House meeting reflected President Trump's desires and requirements."
- He added that he believed resumption of congressionally-approved military aid to the country also came to be conditioned on Biden-linked investigation.
- Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) asked Sondland if Trump conditioned a White House meeting with Zelensky on Ukraine investigating Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election. Sondland responded that Zelensky "had to announce the investigations, he didn't actually have to do them, as I understood it."
- However, in an exchange the GOP is likely to return to, Sondland testified:
"President Trump never told me directly that aid was conditioned on the meetings."
- The 30-second recap: On July 25, President Trump had a phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky where he asked Zelensky to "do us a favor" and work with Attorney General William Barr and Giuliani to "look into" former Vice President Joe Biden and his family. (Hunter Biden was on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma.) Trump also asked Zelensky to investigate a debunked conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 election to benefit Hillary Clinton.
Key moments from the hearing:
- Sondland: "I assume President Trump would benefit" from an investigation into the Bidens
- Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), who had asked the question, responded: "There we have it!" which generated applause inside the room. He added: "Didn't hurt a bit!"
- Sondland said he resented Maloney's question, but eventually agreed with Maloney that withholding aid put Ukraine in a "terrible position."
- Sondland testified that he worked with Giuliani "at the express direction" of Trump on matters involving Ukraine.
“We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we played the hand we were dealt. We all understood that if we refused to work with Mr. Giuliani, we would lose an important opportunity to cement relations between the United States and Ukraine. So we followed the president’s orders,” Sondland said.
- "When the President says, 'talk to my personal attorney' and then Mr. Giuliani, as his personal attorney, makes certain requests or demands, we assume it's coming from the President," Sondland added.
- Later, Republican staff attorney Stephen Castor asked Sondland: "Did you know Giuliani has business interests in Ukraine?"
- Sondland: “Now I understand he did,” Sondland responded. “I didn't know that at the time.”
- Giuliani responded to this exchange in real-time, tweeting:
- Before leaving for Texas, Trump read off a statement written in large black letters:
Quotes from Sondland's opening statement:
- "I know that members of this Committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a 'quid pro quo?' As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes."
- "By the end of the August, my belief was that if Ukraine did something to demonstrate a serious intention to fight corruption, specifically addressing Burisma and 2016 server, then the hold on military aid would be lifted."
- "[A]t all times, our efforts were in good faith and fully transparent to those tasked with overseeing them. Our efforts were reported and approved. Not once do I recall encountering objection."
Countable will continue to update this story throughout the day.
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