DALLAS — It was common knowledge among the highest-ranking members of President Trump’s administration that Ukraine had to announce it was launching two investigations in order to gain access to Trump, according to Gordon Sondland, Ambassador to the European Union.
“Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret,” Sondland said.
Sondland testified to Congress under oath on Wednesday that an invitation to the White House was conditional on President Volodymyr Zelensky announcing he was investigating potential Ukrainian involvement in America’s 2016 presidential election and Burisma, the Ukrainian company tied to Joe Biden’s son.
Sondland also said U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, former Texas Governor, “took the lead” in working with Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney, on matters related to Ukraine.
“We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani,” Sondland said. “Simply put, we were playing the hand we were dealt.”
“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,” Sondland said. “We all understood that these prerequisites for the White House call and White House meeting reflected President Trump’s desires and requirements.”
“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?’” Sondland said. “As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”
Sondland said Perry, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and even Vice President Mike Pence were aware that relations with the Ukraine hinged on the investigations being announced.
Perry has refused to testify as have Mulvaney and Pompeo.
Sondland said he presumed that $400 million in military aid was contingent on the same conditions being met, because he could find no other reason for the aid to have been delayed for months.
However, Sondland said Trump never explicitly told him the aid was tied to the announcement of the investigations Guiliani had been lobbying for.
In fact, Sondland said Trump told him in a phone call he wanted nothing from Ukraine.
“I want no quid pro quo, I just want Zelensky to do the right thing,” Sondland recalled Trump saying on a call.
While Sondland was still testifying Wednesday, the Energy Department released the following statement:
“Ambassador Sondland's testimony today misrepresented both Secretary Perry's interaction with Rudy Giuliani and direction the Secretary received from President Trump. As previously stated, Secretary Perry spoke to Rudy Giuliani only once at the President's request. No one else was on that call. At no point before, during or after that phone call did the words 'Biden' or 'Burisma' ever come up in the presence of Secretary Perry.”
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