Key Witness Ambassador Sondland Testifies- “No Quid Pro Quo”

President Trump next to Air-force One

President Trump next to Air-force One

On Wednesday morning, U.S. Ambassador Gordon Sondland testified to the House impeachment hearing that President Trump had directed his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to achieve a “quid pro quo” with Ukraine. The request involved granting a White House meeting for newly elected Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in return for an investigation into the Biden family.

Public Hearing

Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union testified in the impeachment hearing on Wednesday morning, and his testimony was expected to be crippling to Trump’s impeachment defense. Sondland testified that he and his colleagues were working for Giuliani, who, in turn, was taking orders from Trump himself.

“Mr. Giuliani’s requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky,” Sondland said in his opening statement. “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.” [1]

Sondland started singing a different tune later in the questioning, saying that Trump told him “I want nothing, I want no quid pro quo” [2] concerning military aid to Ukraine. Representative Jim Jordan rebuked him for not putting that into his lengthy, 23 page, opening statement.

Quid Pro Quo

From the testimonies in the public impeachment hearings so far, Republicans are pointing out the fact that all we’ve learned is that Trump did not pressure Zelenskiy.

According to Sondland, Trump never spoke directly to him regarding pre-conditions for security, military aid, or a White House Meeting. “I don’t recall President Trump ever talking to me about any security assistance. Ever.” Ambassador Volker also testified that there was no quid pro quo between Trump and Ukraine.

Sondlands Work

Sondland and his colleagues did not want to work with Giuliani according to his testimony, nor did they think what they were doing was wrong at the time as they worked out a deal between Trump and Zelenskiy. He explained that his role was part of an effort to get Ukraine to agree to openly investigate the Biden family in exchange for a meeting in the Oval Office and U.S. military aid.

“[Energy Department] Secretary [Rick] Perry, Ambassador [Kurt] Volker and I worked with Mr. Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the President of the United States,” Sondland said. “We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. … We all understood that if we refused to work with Mr. Giuliani, we would lose an important opportunity to cement relations between the United States and Ukraine. So we followed the President’s orders.” [3]

 

“I first communicated with Mr. Giuliani in early August,” Sondland said. “Mr. Giuliani conveyed to Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker, and others that President Trump wanted a public statement from President Zelensky committing to investigations of Burisma and the 2016 election. Mr. Giuliani expressed those requests directly to the Ukrainians. Mr. Giuliani also expressed those requests directly to us. We all understood that these prerequisites for the White House call and White House meeting reflected President Trump’s desires and requirements.”

“As I previously testified, if I had known of all of Mr. Giuliani’s dealings or of his associations with individuals now under criminal indictment, I would not have acquiesced to his participation,” Sondland said. “Still, given what we knew at the time, what we were asked to do did not appear to be wrong.”


Notes:

  1. ^Breuninger, Kevin. “Trump ordered Ukraine ‘quid pro quo’ through Giuliani, key witness Sondland testifies.” CNBC, 20 Nov. 2019, www.cnbc.com/2019/11/20/trump-ordered-ukraine-quid-pro-quo-through-giuliani-key-witness-sondland-testifies.html. (go back↩)
  2. ^O’Reilly, Andrew. “Jordan slams Sondland for omitting Trump’s ‘no quid pro quo’ claim from statement.” Fox News, 20 Nov. 2019, www.foxnews.com/politics/jordan-slams-sondland-for-omitting-trumps-no-quid-pro-quo-claim-from-statement. (go back↩)
  3. ^Hannon, Elliot. “Sondland Testifies Explicit Ukraine Quid Pro Quo Came From Trump and Everyone Was In on It.” Slate Magazine, 20 Nov. 2019, slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/11/sondland-impeachment-testimony-implicates-giuliani-pompeo-trump-ukraine-quid-pro-quo.html. (go back↩)

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