Trump appointee Gordon Sondland - the most central player in the Ukraine scandal to testify thus far - on Wednesday gave bombshell testimony before lawmakers in the impeachment inquiry.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE EU GORDON SONDLAND, SAYING: "Was there a ‘quid pro quo?’ With regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.” The U.S. ambassador to the EU and one-time Trump donor – Sondland said under oath that he worked with Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine issues on “the president’s orders.” (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE EU GORDON SONDLAND, SAYING: “We followed the president’s orders.” Telling lawmakers that Giuliani was trying to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to publicly commit to investigations into Trump’s political rival in exchange for an official White House visit.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE EU GORDON SONDLAND, SAYING: “Mr. Giuliani’s requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelenskiy... Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing the investigations of 2016 election DNC server and Burisma.
Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the President of the United States, and we knew these investigations were important to the President." Sondland also implicated the most senior people in the Trump administration in the scheme, including Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE EU GORDON SONDLAND, SAYING: "Everyone was in the loop… The suggestion that we were engaged in some irregular or rogue diplomacy is absolutely false... I’m not sure how someone can characterize something as an irregular channel when you’re talking to the President of the United States, the secretary of state, the national security advisor, the chief of staff of the White House, the Secretary of energy…” Sondland also testified that he came to believe that $400 million in military aid was contingent on the investigations into the Bidens and the unfounded theory that Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the 2016 election.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE TOP INVESTIGATOR, DANIEL GOLDMAN, SPEAKING WITH SONDLAND: GOLDMAN: “Is this kind of a 2+2 = 4 conclusion you reached?” SONDLAND: “Pretty much.” GOLDMAN: “Is the only logical conclusion to you that given all of these factors that the aid was also part of this quid pro quo?” SONDLAND: “Yup.” Though he never heard it directly from the president.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE EU GORDON SONDLAND, SAYING: “President Trump never told me directly that the aid was conditioned on the meetings.
The only thing we got directly from Giuliani was the Burisma and 2016 elections were conditioned on the White House meeting.
The aid is my own personal guess based, again, on your analogy that 2+2=4.” Republicans highlighted Sondland’s claim of a quid pro quo as his opinion and tried to cast him as unreliable.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) REP MIKE TURNER SPEAKING WITH SONDLAND: TURNER: “No one on this planet told you that President Trump was tying aid to investigations.
Yes or no?” SONDLAND: “Yes.” TURNER: “So.
You really have no testimony today that ties President Trump to a scheme to withhold aid from Ukraine in exchange for these investigations.” SONDLAND: “Other than my own presumption.” TURNER: “Which is nothing!” (SOUNDBITE) (English) REP ADAM SCHIFF, SAYING: “My colleagues seem to be under the impression that unless the president spoke the words, ‘Ambassador Sondland, I am bribing the Ukrainian president,’ that there’s no evidence of bribery…If he didn’t say, ‘Ambassador Sondland, I’m telling you I’m not going to give the aid unless they do this, there’s no evidence of a quid pro quo on military aid.
But nonetheless, ambassador, you’ve given us a lot of evidence of precisely that conditionality of both the White House meeting and the military assistance.”