Gordon Sondland, a key witness in the impeachment inquiry, revealed that he told a top Ukrainian official that hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid would “likely” be held up unless the country’s government announced investigations into President Donald Trump’s political rivals — a major reversal from his previous closed-door testimony.
The acknowledgment of a quid pro quo is an explosive shift that threatens to upend claims by the president’s allies that military aid was not used as a bludgeon to advance his domestic political interests.
In his revised testimony, released Tuesday by House impeachment investigators, Sondland said that during a Sept. 1 meeting in Warsaw, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky raised his concerns directly to Vice President Mike Pence about the suspension of military aid.
Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union, added that he later told Andriy Yermak, a top Ukrainian national security adviser, that the aid would be contingent on Trump’s desired investigations.
“After that large meeting, I now recall speaking individually with Mr. Yermak, where I said that resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks,” Sondland wrote in his addendum, which was released on Tuesday alongside a nearly 400-page transcript of his testimony.
Sondland revealed the exchange in supplemental testimony he submitted to House impeachment investigators on Monday, saying he had failed to recall the episode when he testified in person last month. Sondland, who had a direct line to Trump and was a major donor to his 2016 presidential campaign, had previously indicated he was not aware of any effort to connect military aid to Trump’s demand for politically motivated investigations.
Sondland was eager to maintain that public posture, even with other U.S. officials working on Ukraine policy.
So not only has Sondland obliterated Trump's last line of defense been obliterated (he's been tweeting for two weeks now that Sondland said there was no quid pro quo) but Mike Pence has been directly implicated in this entire scam by Sondland as well.
And now that Sondland's full testimony is public, we see just how much trouble Rudy Giuliani is in, too.
The nearly 400-page transcript of Sondland’s Oct. 17 testimony underscores the power and influence Rudy Giuliani had over U.S. dealings with Ukraine.
Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, was establishing contacts on the ground in Ukraine — including with the former top prosecutor whom U.S. officials believed was not credible — and conducting what several witnesses for the impeachment inquiry described as a shadow diplomatic effort that ran counter to U.S. goals and interests.
Sondland, for his part, said in his opening statement to impeachment investigators that he was “disappointed” Trump had directed him to involve Giuliani, but said he reluctantly agreed because the former New York City mayor was “the key to changing the president’s mind on Ukraine.”
In fact, according to the full transcript of Sondland’s testimony released Tuesday, the ambassador said he “assumed” that Giuliani’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden was illegal.
At least one senior official told Giuliani that he believed the allegations against Biden and his son Hunter — which form the basis of Trump’s overtures to Kyiv — were false. According to the transcript of his Oct. 3 testimony, Volker dismissed the idea that Biden pushed for the removal of a Ukrainian prosecutor in order to help his son.
“I said to Rudy in that breakfast the first time we sat down to talk that it is simply not credible to me that Joe Biden would be influenced in his duties as vice president by money or things for his son or anything like that,” Volker said. “I’ve known him a long time. He’s a person of integrity, and that’s not credible.”
So here we are. I'm actually kind of glad Sondland was a weasel who Trump used as his shield, then smiled and ratted Trump out when given the chance, considering the half-dozen people who threw Sondland under the bus over the last two weeks.
Trump bullied President Zelensky to announce a fake investigation led by Rudy Giuliani to hurt Joe Biden's 2020 chances or he wouldn't get his military aid, and then Trump covered it up and lied about it.
Either that's an impeachable crime, or the Republic is done.