The updated version of Sondland’s testimony comes as the diplomat offered new details to lawmakers after his memory was “refreshed.”
United States Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, admitted Monday in a revised version of his earlier testimony that in fact, he told a Ukrainian official the U.S. would withhold aid unless they pursued investigations against Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden demanded by President Donald Trump.
“Resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks,” Sondland said he told a Ukrainian presidential adviser.
The updated version of Sondland’s testimony comes as the diplomat, who initially testified in October to the Democratic-led congressional inquiry, offered new details to lawmakers after his memory was “refreshed.”
The details now appear to reinforce the initial whistleblower complaint that led to the investigation by three U.S. House of Representatives committees. The testimony also corroborates other witnesses who said Trump sought to pressure the Ukrainians into conducting investigations that appeared to be aimed at helping his re-election campaign.
Last week the Director of European affairs on the National Security Council and a Ukraine expert, Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman became the first current White House official to testify in the inquiry. The Ukraine-born U.S. citizen also became the first person to testify who listened in on the July 25 call at the heart of the Ukraine scandal.
“I was concerned by the call,” Vindman said in his opening statement to the three House committees conducting the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry, adding that he “did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine.”
Sondland and Vindman’s testimonies are the most damaging to date, they are current government officials testifying in an inquiry in which other White House officials and Republican lawmakers have to refused to cooperate as they criticize and oppose the process.
Testimony from Sondland and Volker demonstrates:— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) November 5, 2019
➡️Trump used a White House meeting and military aid to pressure Ukraine to publicly announce political investigations.
➡️The pressure campaign came at the expense of our national security.
➡️And it got more insidious over time. pic.twitter.com/NMZt2XRHDk
The Ukraine scandal is the result of a whistleblower from within the U.S. intelligence community lodging a complaint with an internal watchdog about Trump’s conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
The July 25 call, which was later released by the White House, confirmed that the U.S. president asked Zelenskiy to investigate his political rival in coordination with the U.S. attorney general and Trump’s personal lawyer, which in turn occurred after Trump had ordered a freeze of nearly US$400 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine, which the administration only later released.
Trump has denied he did this to get leverage or blackmail Zelenskiy. Federal election law prohibits candidates from accepting foreign help in an election.
Following the scandal, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry of Trump, adding the “the actions revealed the dishonorable fact of the President's betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections."
Under the U.S. Constitution, the House has the power to impeach a president for “high crimes and misdemeanors” and the Senate then holds a trial on whether to remove the president from office. No president has ever been removed from office through impeachment. Democrats currently control the House and Republicans control the Senate.