Gordon Sondland Implicates Trump In Ukraine Quid Pro Quo: ‘We Followed The President’s Orders’
Gordon Sondland, the former U.S. ambassador to the European Union, testified Wednesday during the public impeachment hearings that President Donald Trump personally directed the plan to pressure Ukraine to open a political probe and that every senior administration official knew what was happening.
“Everyone was in the loop,” Sondland said in his opening statement. “We followed the president’s orders.”
Sondland said that he worked with Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, on Ukraine at Trump’s “express direction” and pushed for a “quid pro quo” deal at Trump’s request.
“Mr. Giuliani’s requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky,” Sondland said in his opening remarks. “Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing investigations of the 2016 election/DNC server and Burisma. 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 he did not view Giuliani’s actions as improper at the time, but also did not want to work with him. However, he did because he did not want to “lose an important opportunity to cement relations between the United States and Ukraine.”
He explicitly acknowledged a quid pro quo, in regards to Ukraine’s desire to have an Oval Office meeting.
“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?'” he said. “As I testified previously, with
regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”
Sondland testified that he came to the conclusion by himself that military aid was being withheld in order to pressure Ukraine to open the political probe.
“I later came to believe that the resumption of security aid would not occur until there was a public statement from Ukraine committing to the investigations of the 2016 election and Burisma, as Mr. Giuliani had demanded,” Sondland said, noting that he passed those concerns on to others.
He testified that he connected with the president of Ukraine prior to the July 25 call to tell him to tell Trump he would “run a fully transparent investigation” and “turn over every stone.”
Sondland added that he did not connect a Burisma investigation to mean an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden until later.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-California) said Sondland’s testimony “goes right to the heart of the issue of bribery as well as other potential high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Sondland regrets his testimony has “not been perfect” since the Trump administration has refused to give him access to calendars, phone records and other documents that he says might have helped him recall events more thoroughly.