United States diplomat had 'clear understanding' of Ukraine quid pro quo

Nellie Chapman
November 11, 2019

Trump's comments came four days after Sondland reversed his previous testimony to impeachment investigators. When asked precisely what investigations Sondland said were needed, Vindman testified, "he was talking about the 2016 elections and an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma", the gas company where Biden's son served on the board.

On 5 November Mr Sondland abruptly changed his testimony to Congress, saying he now recalled telling a top adviser to Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky that almost $400m in military aid to Kyiv would not be released unless the Ukraine government announced an investigation - that President Trump wanted - into the business dealings of Joe Biden's son, Hunter. "And if they want it, I'll give it to them", Trump said.

Hill testified behind closed doors last month that she was concerned about Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and the alleged role he played in dealing with Ukraine. He said linking aid to an investigation into the Bidens and the 2016 election was a different matter entirely.

Ambassador Kurt Volker, the former special USA representative for Ukraine negotiations, also put some distance between Trump and the alleged quid pro quo. The proceedings will start with witnesses who have testified in private about the back-channel Ukrainian policy that Trump pursued through his personal lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, and the heat placed on Ukraine to take actions that could influence the USA presidential campaign.

The hundreds of pages of transcripts showed the investigation's deep reach into the White House ahead of next week's public hearings.

Impeachment investigators have been told that Sondland had a major role in the U.S. dealings with Ukraine, though Ukraine is not an European Union member.

Earlier this year, he told the Ukrainian journalist: "We are so-called three friends, three friends are [Energy] secretary [Rick] Ambassador Perry [Kurt] Volcker and myself, we Our duty is to supervise our US-Ukrainian relationship between the highest level of US government and the highest level of Ukrainian government". Former National Security Council senior director for Europe and Russia, Fiona Hill, who was Trump's top Russia adviser, testified that Sondland had told her he was "in charge" on Ukraine. She said she heard Sondland mention Burisma. "Do you know the testimony I just heard? It was a demand for him to fulfill this particular prerequisite in order to get the meeting".

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Sondland in his testimony said he did not recall discussing a White House visit for Zelensky with Mulvaney, The Washington Post reports.

"I am honored to be part of the team committed to defending President Trump against this phony claim. being carried out by craven Democrats on Capitol Hill". "This one's not, well not everyone's cup of tea, as you say".

Vindman took his concerns about the call to the NSC's lead counsel - and about Sondland's comments at the White House to his twin brother, Eugene, an ethics lawyer at the National Security Council.

"Up until this Ukraine scandal he was one of Trump's most successful Cabinet members", said Mark Jones, a political science fellow at Rice University's Baker Institute.

At one point in Vindman's testimony, his lawyer objected to questions from Republicans he believed were meant to draw out the identity of the whistleblower who filed the initial complaint.

Pressed repeatedly, Volkov said, "He tells you he's not the whistleblower, OK?"

A person, presumably a Republican, identified only as "voice" interjects: "We're uncomfortable impeaching the president".

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