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US ambassador to EU worked with Ukraine at 'express direction' of Donald Trump

Gordon Sondland said he worked with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani on the case.

Gordon Sondland at the Open Hearings on the Impeachment of President Donald Trump
Gordon Sondland at the Open Hearings on the Impeachment of President Donald Trump
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

THE US AMBASSADOR to the European Union has told congressional impeachment investigators that he worked with Ukraine at the “express direction” of Donald Trump.

Gordon Sondland said he worked with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani on the case and also claimed that he pushed a “quid pro quo” deal with Kiev because that was what the president wanted.

“Mr Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president of the United States, and we knew that these investigations were important to the president,” he said.

Sondland, the most highly anticipated witness in the ongoing House of Representatives impeachment probe, made it clear that he believed Trump was pursuing an investigation in return for a meeting sought by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

The witness said he later came to believe that military aid for Ukraine was also being held up until the investigations were launched.

He described how demands became more serious with more conditions on any potential Ukraine meeting at the White House.

“As time went on, more specific items got added to the menu – specially Burisma and 2016 meddling,” he said, referring to the gas company where Joe Biden’s son Hunter served on the board.

And, he added, “the server”, the hacked Democratic computer system.

“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,” he said.

upi-20191120 Gordon Sondland looks at email records as he testifies before the House Intelligence Committee Source: UPI/PA Images

Biden link unknown

Sondland said he did not know at the time that Burisma was linked to the Bidens, but that he has since come to understand that.

“We had been hearing about it from Rudy and presumed Rudy was getting it from the president.”

The impeachment inquiry focuses significantly on allegations that the US President sought investigations of Democrat Joe Biden and his son — and the discredited idea that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 US election — in return for military aid and a White House visit.

Sondland, a wealthy hotelier and Trump donor, has emerged as a central figure in an intense week in the impeachment probe that has featured nine witnesses giving evidence over three days.

Democrats and Republicans were uncertain about what he would testify to, given that he had already clarified parts of his initial private deposition before legislators.

president-trump-travels-to-austin-tx Donald Trump re-enacts his conversation with Gordon Sondland as he talks to members of the media today Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

His opening statement included several key details. He confirmed that he spoke with Trump on a mobile phone from a busy Kiev restaurant the day after the president prodded Ukraine’s leader to investigate Biden.

He also said he kept Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other senior administration officials aware of his dealings with Ukraine on the investigations that Trump sought.

‘Everyone was in the loop’

Sondland said he specifically told vice president Mike Pence he “had concerns” that US military aid to Ukraine “had become tied” to the investigations.

“Everyone was in the loop,” he said in opening remarks. “It was no secret.”

He insisted he was “adamantly opposed to any suspension of aid” for Ukraine. “I was acting in good faith. As a presidential appointee, I followed the directions of the president.”

Pence’s chief of staff said the conversation described by Sondland “never happened”.

Marc Short said the ambassador was “never alone” with Pence during the 1 September trip to Poland, adding: “This alleged discussion recalled by Ambassador Sondland never happened.”

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