With that stunning reversal, diplomat Gordon Sondland handed House impeachment investigators another key piece of corroborating testimony Tuesday. He acknowledged what Democrats contend was a clear quid pro quo, pushed by President Donald Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, with Ukraine. Sondland, in an addendum to his sworn earlier testimony, said that military assistance to the East European ally was being withheld until Ukraine’s new president agreed to release a statement about fighting corruption as Trump wanted. Sondland knows that proposed arrangement to be a fact, he said, because he was the one who carried the message to a Ukrainian official on the sidelines of a conference in Warsaw with Vice President Mike Pence.
“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 recalled.
His three-page update, tucked beneath hundreds of pages of sworn testimony from Sondland and former Ukraine Special Envoy Kurt Volker, was released by House investigators as Democrats prepared to push the closed-door sessions to public hearings as soon as next week. Trump has denied any quid pro quo, but Democrats say there is a singular narrative developing since the president’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy when he first asked for “a favor.” That request, which sparked the impeachment inquiry, included a public investigation into Ukrainian activities by Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden and his son and Trump’s allegations of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
“This is about more than just one call,” Schiff wrote Tuesday in an op-ed in USA Today. “We now know that the call was just one piece of a larger operation to redirect our foreign policy to benefit Donald Trump’s personal and political interests, not the national interest.
In the transcripts and accompanying cache of text messages, U.S. diplomats are shown trying to navigate the demands of Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who they soon learn is running a back-channel U.S. foreign policy on Ukraine. “It kept getting more insidious,” Sondland told investigators, as the “timeline went on.” Sondland testified that he spoke with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about Giuliani, “and Pompeo rolled his eyes and said: ‘Yes, it’s something we have to deal with.’”
In his revised testimony, Sondland, a wealthy businessman who donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration, says his memory was refreshed by the opening statements of two other inquiry witnesses, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, William Taylor, and Tim Morrison, a European expert at the National Security Council.