Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland told lawmakers Wednesday that President Trump’s private lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani pushed a “quid pro quo” deal with Ukraine to secure investigations sought by the president.
The testimony delivered evidence of the quid pro quo that Democrats say amounts to bribery and warrants impeachment. But Mr. Sondland pointedly separated Mr. Giuliani’s activity from the administration’s official actions.
Mr. Sondland, the official that has found himself at the center of the impeachment inquiry, will say that he, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and former Envoy to the Ukraine Kurt Volker, were instructed to work with Mr. Giuliani, despite their concerns about his involvement.
It was Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Sondland testified, that said Trump specifically wanted investigations into 2016 election interference and Burisma — the energy company where Hunter Biden got a high-paying job — before they’d commit to a White House meeting.
“We all understood that these pre-requisites for the White House call and White House meeting reflected President Trump’s desires and requirements,” he said.
Mr. Sondland also said the former New York mayor was acting in concert with the president, despite some suggesting Mr. Giuliani could have been acting on his own accord.
“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.
However, Mr. Sondland said Mr. Giuliani had gone rogue from working with State Department officials.
He described that Mr. Giuliani was talking with Ukrainian officials without anyone else’s knowledge at the same time that National Security Council officials where holding a meeting at the White House.
“Mr. Giuliani was communicating with the reportedly corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor Lutsenko and discussing whether a Zelensky-Trump meeting was going to happen, again without our knowledge,” he said.
Regarding the hundreds of millions in military assistance, Mr. Sondland said he was aware of the hold on July 18 but never got a “clear answer” for the reason why. However, he linked the aid to the investigations in his conversations with Ukrainian officials.
“In the absence of any credible explanation for the hold, I came to the conclusion that the aid, like the White House visit, was jeopardized,” he said.
Mr. Sondland said he kept “a lot of senior officials” the leadership at the National Security Council and State Department in the loop on his efforts, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and then-NSC Advisor John Bolton, and “there was no secret.”
He said State Department leadership was aware of their pursuit to get a commitment on investigations and that Mr. Pompeo had also directed Mr. Volker to talk with Mr. Giuliani.
The ambassador has been a key figure in the impeachment inquiry since early October when text messages from Mr. Volker were publicly released. Mr. Sondland is shown telling William Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine, there was no quid pro quo.
In his first testimony, Mr. Sondland told lawmakers there was no quid pro quo.
Mr. Sondland blamed the inconsistency in his testimonies on the lack of access he was given by the State Department to documents.
“These documents are not classified and, in fairness, should have been made available. In the absence of these materials, my memory has not been perfect,” he said.
The crux of the impeachment inquiry centers on allegations that President Trump pressured Ukrainian President Zelensky to open investigations into alleged 2016 election interference and Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s connection to Burisma corruption.
Mr. Sondland said he was not on the July 25th Trump-Zelensky phone call at the center of the inquiry, but was part of the meetings in Ukraine following the call.
He confirmed he spoke with Mr. Trump about the investigations — and rapper A$AP Rocky — the day after the presidential phone call in a restaurant in Kyiv. However, he does not recall mentioning Mr. Biden.