The United States ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, said during an impeachment hearing on Wednesday that he followed President Trump’s instructions in seeking a “quid pro quo” deal for Ukraine to probe a political rival in exchange for a White House summit.
In a televised testimony, Mr. Sondland, whose testimony was being monitored closely because he was a Trump ally, said he believed the US president Trump was pressing Ukraine to probe his 2020 political rival, Joe Biden.
Sondland told the House Intelligence Committee: “We followed the president’s orders.” He also revealed that president Trump forced US diplomats to work with his private lawyer, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Sondland testified that Trump held off on offering a summit with Ukraine’s leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, as Giuliani demanded that Kiev publicly announced it was investigating a gas company of which Joe Biden’s son Hunter held a paid board position.
Giuliani also wanted Zelensky to probe a widely discredited conspiracy theory that Ukraine planted evidence on a server of Biden’s Democratic Party to show that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
“Mr Giuliani’s requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky,” Sondland said.
Sondland said he “never received a clear answer” on reasons why the White House suspended $391 million in security aid to Ukraine, which is battling Russian-backed separatists, but that he “came to believe” that it was also connected to the probe Trump seeks.
“I was adamantly opposed to any suspension of aid, as the Ukrainians needed those funds to fight against Russian aggression,” he reveals.
“In the absence of any credible explanation for the suspension of aid, 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,” he added.
Sondland appearance is coming in the second week of televised hearings in which Democrats are looking to obtain proof that Trump abused the power of his office by leveraging military aid and a White House meeting to extract a commitment from Zelensky to investigate his political rival’s son.
It is expected that the House investigation would conclude it activities this week with evidence, after which they will send to the House Judiciary Committee to draft articles of impeachment.
Source: AFP, BBC, SurgeZirc UK