Sondland implicates top Trump officials, says Giuliani requests were a 'quid pro quo'
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Some of the most crucial testimony in the impeachment hearings into President Donald Trump came Wednesday when a top U.S. ambassador confirmed there was a quid pro quo between the Trump administration and the Ukrainian government.
Gordon Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, told members of the House Intelligence Committee there was a deal proposed between Trump and Ukrainian officials. Sondland confirmed in his opening statement that a quid pro quo existed, the matter which is at the center of the impeachment inquiry
Sondland said he put pressure on Ukraine officials to take the deal following orders from Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph Giuliani.
“Mr. Giuliani’s requests were a quid pro quo,” said Sondland. “Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing the investigations of the 2016 election, the DNC server, and Burisma.”
That deal, according to Sondland: for Ukraine to investigate the president’s political rivals – including former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who worked for the Ukrainian energy firm Burisma.
Then the U.S. would turn over $400 million in military aid.
Sondland’s email records, also showing Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were aware of deal as well.
“I was acting in good faith,” said Sondland. “As a presidential employee, I followed the directions of the president.”
Sondland’s opening testimony, which lasted about 45 minutes, is the most damaging yet to the Trump administration’s argument that a quid pro quo never happened on that controversial July 25 phone call; and the discussion about investigations between Sondland and Trump one day later.
“Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the President of the United States and we knew these investigations were important to the President,” Sondland said.
Sondland’s claim that a quid pro quo existed, conflicts with previous testimony this week including that provided by Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. Wednesday’s testimony also deepened the partisan divide on the House Intelligence Committee, which is overseeing the inquiry.
“It goes right to the heart of bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors,” said House Intel. Comm. Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).
“I think it’s obstruction of justice not to give the American people and give the Ambassador the right to look at the transcript of the man who is in charge of the foreign aid in this town,” said House Intel. Comm. Ranking Member Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).
Obama administration officials also asked for investigations into Burisma. The big issue in this impeachment inquiry is the potential withholding of Congressionally-appropriated Ukrainian military aid. The Trump administration later paid those funds in September, less than two weeks before the whistleblower came forward.