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  • Gordon Sondland, U.S ambassador to the EU, portrayed himself as a reluctant participant in the pressure on Ukraine.

    Gordon Sondland, U.S ambassador to the EU, portrayed himself as a reluctant participant in the pressure on Ukraine. | Photo: Reuters

Published 20 November 2019

Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, appeared before Congress

Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, appeared before Congress in the latest audience which has thrown the secretary of state and vice president into the center of the stage of the impeachment probe against President Donald Trump.

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Reuters reported that Sondland expressed he was following president’s orders to work with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who was pushing Ukraine to carry out two investigations that would benefit his client politically as he runs for re-election in November 2020.

In this way, the media expressed that his public testimony to the House Intelligence Committee went much further in describing the sweeping involvement of administration officials than he did in prior testimony behind closed doors.

Sondland’s declarations have become one of the most significant in the four days of public hearings in the Democratic-led House of Representatives impeachment investigations that have captivated Washington and threatens the presidency of a Republican.

The ambassador corroborated the president’s active participation in the controversy. He depicted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as engaged in the efforts to get the government of the Euro-Asian country to carry out the research, including Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son (that works for a Ukranian company), as well, described VP Mike Pence being aware of the efforts.

“Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret,” he wrote in an email he sent to top administration officials ahead of the July 25th telephone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that triggered the political inquiry.  

Republican lawmakers said Democrats had failed to show through Sondland’s testimony that Trump had ordered or directed the pressure campaign against Ukraine.

Trump addressed the press referring to comments by Sondland about a conversation in which the envoy said Trump had told him he wanted nothing from Ukraine. “I said to the ambassador in response, I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelenskiy, President Zelenskiy to do the right thing,” Trump quoted himself as saying in the conversation on Sept. 9 as the Ukraine controversy was breaking into public view.

Sondland, however, portrayed himself as a reluctant participant in the pressure on Ukraine. He also said he opposed withholding the security assistance, as Trump ordered. The aid was approved by Congress to help Ukraine combat Russia-backed separatists and it was provided in September after the controversy became public.

Sondland said he told Pence back then that he was concerned that withholding the aid “had become tied to the issue of investigations.” Pence’s chief of staff denied that any such conversation with Sondland occurred.

Furthermore, Adam Schiff, the Intelligence Committee’s Democratic chairman, called Sondland’s testimony “a very important moment in the history of this inquiry.”

“It goes right to the heart of the issue of bribery as well as other potential high crimes and misdemeanors,” Schiff told reporters. “But we also have heard for the first time that knowledge of this scheme was pervasive.”

Republicans defended Trump on Wednesday by pointing to a statement by Sondland that he was presuming the security aid for Ukraine was tied to investigations, but that no one had actually told him this. “This all is based on presumptions that turned out to be wrong,” Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, wrote on Twitter. “Why is this impeachment circus still going on?”

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