U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland told members of the House Intelligence Committee that there was a quid pro quo linking a White House visit between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and President Donald Trump with investigations into alleged corruption by Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
“I know that members of this Committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a ‘quid pro quo?’ As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes,” Sondland said in his opening statement.
He said that the quid pro quo was known by many officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
“Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret," he said. "As I communicated to the team, I told President Zelensky in advance that assurances to 'run a fully transparent investigation' and 'turn over every stone' were necessary in his call with President Trump."
Sondland claimed that he told Vice President Mike Pence that he was concerned that Trump was withholding $400 million in military aid until Zelensky publicly announced the corruption investigations. Pence's chief of staff, Marc Short, issued a brief statement saying that the "alleged discussion recalled by Ambassador Sondland never happened."
Sondland also testified that he was not happy that he had to work with President Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, but did so because that was what Trump wanted.
"Simply put, we played the hand we were dealt. 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."
Sondland testified that he believed that Giuliani "was expressing the desires of the president of the United States, and we knew that these investigations were important to the president."
Republican Rep. Jim Jordan grilled Sondland on why he failed to mention a conversation with Trump, in which the president told him there was no quid pro quo. Sondland admitted that he did speak with Trump and was told he did not want to tie the military aid to the investigations.
“And it was a very short, abrupt conversation,” the ambassador said. “He was not in a good mood. And he just said, ‘I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelensky to do the right thing.’ Something to that effect.”
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