Sondland Testifies: No Quid Pro Quo in Ukraine Call, Trump Policy
On Thursday, Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, testified before House impeachment investigators that President Trump told him there was no "quid pro quo" with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky involving an investigation into Hunter Biden and that he would not have participated in any diplomatic efforts involving a quid pro quo.
The Democrat impeachment inquiry, led by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), centers on a July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky in which Trump asked the Ukraine president to look into former Vice President Joe Biden's son's involvement in Ukraine. At the time, Trump was holding back military funding for Ukraine, which is continually involved in fighting a Russian invasion.
Democrats have suggested there was a quid pro quo: that Trump would release the funding if Zelensky agreed to investigate Hunter Biden, which would might the president in the 2020 election campaign. Yet Ukrainian officials did not know that the funding had been frozen, and Zelensky insisted that "nobody pushed me" in the July 25 call.
Sondland testified that there was no quid pro quo, according to the document obtained by PJ Media. Trump was hesitant to call Zelensky because he wanted to confirm the new Ukrainian president's commitment to fighting corruption. The president involved his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to verify Zelensky's anti-corruption focus.
"President Trump was skeptical that Ukraine was serious about reforms and anti-corruption, and he directed those of us present at the meeting to talk to Mr. Giuliani, his personal attorney, about his concerns. It was apparent to all of us that the key to changing the President’s mind on Ukraine was Mr. Giuliani," Sondland testified.
While the ambassador to the E.U. said he and his colleagues were "disappointed" by Trump's direction to involve Giuliani because the State Department, not the president's lawyer, should take the lead on foreign policy regarding Ukraine, they did approach Giuliani and the process went forward.
"I knew that a public embrace of anti-corruption reforms by Ukraine was one of the pre-conditions for securing a White House meeting with President Zelensky. My view was, and has always been, that such Western reforms are consistent with U.S. support for rule of law in Ukraine going back decades, under both Republican and Democrat administrations. Nothing about that request raised any red flags for me, Ambassador Volker, or Ambassador Taylor," Sondland added, referring to Kurt Volker, former ambassador to NATO, and William Taylor, former ambassador to Ukraine.
Sondland also addressed texts between him and Taylor in which Taylor "raised concerns about the possibility that Ukrainians could perceive a linkage between U.S. security assistance and the President’s 2020 reelection campaign."
"Taking the issue seriously, and given the many versions of speculation that had been circulating about the security aid, I called President Trump directly. I asked the President: 'What do you want from Ukraine?' The President responded, 'Nothing. There is no quid pro quo.' The President repeated: 'no quid pro quo' multiple times. This was a very short call. And I recall the President was in a bad mood," the ambassador to the E.U. recalled.
In no uncertain terms, he explicitly denied ever speaking with Giuliani or anyone else about investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden or his son Hunter.
"I do not recall that Mr. Giuliani discussed Former Vice President Biden or his son Hunter Biden with me," Sondland testified. "Again, I recall no discussions with any State Department or White House official about Former Vice President Biden or his son, nor do I recall taking part in any effort to encourage an investigation into the Bidens."
Sondland also insisted that using foreign policy to meddle in a U.S. election is wrong and he would not have taken part in any such effort.
"Let me state clearly: Inviting a foreign government to undertake investigations for the purpose of influencing an upcoming U.S. election would be wrong. Withholding foreign aid in order to pressure a foreign government to take such steps would be wrong. I did not and would not ever participate in such undertakings," he said. "In my opinion, security aid to Ukraine was in our vital national interest and should not have been delayed for any reason."
In his testimony, Sondland also countered media reports that White House aide Fiona Hill considered him a counterintelligence risk. "If Ambassador Bolton, Dr. Hill, or others harbored any misgivings about the propriety of what we were doing, they never shared those misgivings with me, then or later," he said.
The Republicans on the House Oversight Committee focused on the testimony regarding an alleged quid pro quo.
"Sondland said he was aware of NO discussions with the White House on withholding U.S. security assistance from Ukraine in return for assistance with the President’s 2020 re-election campaign. Aka: he undercuts [Schiff]'s theory about a quid pro quo," the House Oversight Republicans tweeted.
Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.