Watch impeachment hearings live: EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland will face tough questioning over Ukraine restaurant call

Chicago Tribune 3 weeks ago
Tim Morrison, a former official at the National Security Council, listens as he testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 19, 2019, during a public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (Susan Walsh/AP)
Ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes of Calif., left, and Steve Castor, right, the Republican staff attorney, talk as Ambassador Kurt Volker, former special envoy to Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, a former official at the National Security Council, testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 19, 2019, during a public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (SHAWN THEW/AP)
Ambassador Kurt Volker, left, former special envoy to Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, a former official at the National Security Council, are sworn in to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Ambassador Kurt Volker, former special envoy to Ukraine, left, and Tim Morrison, a former official at the National Security Council, right testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, during a public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (Alex Brandon/AP)
Ambassador Kurt Volker, former special envoy to Ukraine, testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, during a public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (Susan Walsh/AP)
Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., left, and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., listen as Ambassador Kurt Volker, former special envoy to Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, a former official at the National Security Council, testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, during a public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (Alex Brandon/AP)
Ambassador Kurt Volker, right, former special envoy to Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, a former official at the National Security Council are sworn in to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, during a public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (SHAWN THEW/AP)
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., left, and ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes of Calif., speak as Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, and National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman pauses during testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, during a public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, stacks copies of transcripts from depositions as he questions Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, and National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, as they testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. (Susan Walsh/AP)
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, questions Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, and National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, as they testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 19, 2019, during a public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, left, and National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, are sworn in to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Nov. 19, 2019. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., left, and ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes of Calif., start the hearing with Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, and National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Nov. 19, 2019. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
Jennifer Williams, adviser to Vice President Mike Pence for European and Russian affairs, and National Security Council Director for European Affairs Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman arrive to testify before the House Intelligence Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill November 19, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, right, arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 19, 2019, during a public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (Alex Brandon/AP)
Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 19, 2019, during a public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, National Security Council Director for European Affairs, arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill Nov. 19, 2019, in Washington, D.C. (Win McNamee / Getty Images)
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill on Nov. 19, 2019, at the public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump. (Julio Cortez)
Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testifies before the House Intelligence Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill November 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee / Getty Images)
Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testifies to the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 15, 2019, during the second public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (Andrew Harnik / AP)
Ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., left, and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, listens as former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. (Alex Brandon / AP)
Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is sworn in prior to providing testimony before the House Intelligence Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill November 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Pool / Getty Images)
Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is sworn in to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP)
Ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., left, talks to Steve Castor, Republican staff attorney for the House Oversight Committee, during testimony from former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch at the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. (Susan Walsh / AP)
Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch arrives to testify to the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. (Alex Brandon / AP)
Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, seated right, and her attorney, Lawrence Robbins, arrive to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. (Susan Walsh / AP)
Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch walks to the hearing room to testify to the House Intelligence Committee, Nov. 15, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington, in the second public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, center, arrives to testify to the House Intelligence Committee, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. (Julio Cortez / AP)
Top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine William Taylor, right, and George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, testify during the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on Nov. 13, 2019. (OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP via Getty Images)
Ranking Member Devin Nunes, left, R-Calif., speaks with Representative Jim Jordan, right, R-Ohio, and Republican Counsel Stephen Castor, center, during the first public hearings held by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
Rep. Jim Jordon, R-Ohio, talks with Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, during a break as top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine William Taylor, and career Foreign Service officer George Kent, testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 13, 2019, during the first public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (Susan Walsh / AP)
Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, asks questions of witnesses U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent during the first public hearings held by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. (JIM LO SCALZO / POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine William Taylor testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 13, 2019. (Alex Brandon/AP)
Top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine William Taylor testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 13, 2019. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
Ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., left, and Steve Castor, Republican staff attorney for the House Oversight Committee, sit during the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 13, 2019. (JIM LO SCALZO/AP)
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., listens as his panel hears testimony from top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine William Taylor and career Foreign Service officer George Kent, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 13, 2019. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, listens during the first public hearings held by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence as part of the impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump. (SAUL LOEB/Getty Images)
Top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine William Taylor arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 13, 2019. (JIM LO SCALZO/AP)
Chairman Adam Schiff, center, D-Calif., gives an opening statement during the first public hearings held by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.
Career Foreign Service officer George Kent and top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine William Taylor, right, are sworn in to testify during the first public impeachment hearing of the House Intelligence Committee on Nov. 13, 2019. (Andrew Harnik / AP)
Pissi Myles, center, a special contributor with Happs News, a live news source that streams through Twitter, reports with her cellphone, Nov. 13, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Nov. 13, 2019. (Jacquelyn Martin / AP)
Foreign Service officer George Kent, arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill on Nov. 13, 2019. (Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP)
A jogger runs past the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 13, 2019, in Washington, as the House Intelligence Committee holds the first public impeachment hearings of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (Julio Cortez / AP)

Ambassador Gordon Sondland, the most anticipated witness in the impeachment inquiry, will confront questions Wednesday about his evolving accounts of the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine and a newly revealed summertime phone call with President Donald Trump.

Sondland, a wealthy hotelier Trump tapped as his ambassador to the European Union, is more directly entangled than any witness yet in the Republican president’s efforts to get Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden and Democrats in the 2016 election. Yet Sondland already has amended his testimony once — “I now do recall,” he said, talking to Ukraine about investigations.

Sondland’s appearance at Wednesday morning’s hearing, and his closeness to Trump, is of particular concern to the White House as the historic impeachment inquiry reaches closer to the president, pushing through an intense week with nine witnesses testifying over three days in back-to-back sessions.

Trump has recently tried to suggest that he barely knows his hand-picked ambassador, but Sondland has said he has spoken several times with the president and was acting on his direction.

The envoy is likely to face tough questions from lawmakers of both parties about Trump’s July 25 call when he asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for the political investigations at the same time as U.S. military aid for the ally was being stalled.

Sondland routinely bragged about his proximity to Trump and drew alarm from the foreign service and national security apparatus as part of an irregular channel of diplomacy led by the president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

Last week State Department official David Holmes revealed one of those interactions to impeachment investigators, saying he recalled it “vividly.”

The political counselor was having lunch with Sondland in Kyiv when the ambassador dialed up the president on his cellphone and Holmes could hear Trump’s voice.

“I then heard President Trump ask, quote, ‘So he’s going to do the investigation?’” Holmes testified. “Ambassador Sondland replied that ‘He’s going to do it,’ adding that President Zelensky will, quote, ‘do anything you ask him to.’”

Sondland was known for telling others "he was in charge of Ukraine" despite being the U.S. envoy in Brussels, said another witness in the impeachment probe, former White House Russia adviser Fiona Hill.

"And I asked, well, on whose authority?” said Hill, who will testify Thursday. "And he said, the President."

Sondland’s appearance follows the testimony Tuesday of four national security and diplomatic officials, including a career Army officer who described Trump’s call with Zelenskiy as “improper.”

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman told lawmakers it was his “duty” to report his concerns about the call, as he deflected Republican attacks, including from the White House on his loyalty and career in public service.

It wasn’t the first time Vindman had registered his concerns over Ukraine policy. He testified about a July 10 meeting at the White House when Sondland told visiting Ukraine officials they would need to “deliver” before the administration would agree to a meeting Zelenskiy wanted with Trump.

“Ambassador Sondland referred to investigations into the Bidens and Burisma in 2016,” Vindman testified, referring to the gas company on whose board Hunter Biden had a seat.

At the White House, Trump said he had watched part of the day’s testimony and slammed the ongoing impeachment hearings as a “disgrace.” Over the weekend, Trump assailed Williams as part of the “Never Trumpers” who oppose his presidency, though there is no indication she has shown any partisanship.

Former National Security Council official Timothy Morrison told investigators that he witnessed a key September conversation in Warsaw between Sondland and a top aide to Zelenskiy. Afterward, Sondland said he had relayed to the Ukrainian that U.S. aid might be freed if the country would announce the investigations, Morrison testified.

Another diplomat, former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, shifted his own account of the July 10 meeting to say Sondland did, in fact, discuss investigations with the visiting Ukrainians.

“I think all of us thought it was inappropriate; the conversation did not continue and the meeting concluded,” Volker said.

A series of text messages Volker provided to lawmakers showed conversations between him, Sondland and other leaders in which they discussed a need for Ukraine to launch investigations, including into Burisma.

Volker said meeting with Giuliani was just part of the dialogue, and he had one in-person meeting with him, in which Giuliani “raised, and I rejected, the conspiracy theory that Vice President Biden would have been influenced in his duties as vice president by money paid to his son.”

Alan Fram, Zeke Miller, Laurie Kellman, Colleen Long, Eric Tucker, Lolita Baldor and Jill Colvin contributed to this report


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