U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland is set to throw Rudy Giuliani under the bus when he testifies to Congress this morning. Sondland has been at the heart of the Trump administration’s efforts to pressure Kyiv to investigate 2020 candidate Joe Biden, his son Hunter, and the 2016 presidential elections. But in his opening statement, which The Daily Beast obtained, he said he did not want to work with Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, and that he only did so because it was the only way to improve U.S.-Ukraine relations.
“Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker and I worked with Mr. Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the President of the United States,” Sondland said. “We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we played the hand we were dealt. We all understood that if we refused to work with Mr. Giuliani, we would lose an important opportunity to cement relations between the United States and Ukraine. So we followed the President’s orders.”
Later in his testimony, he reiterated that point.
“Let me say again: We weren’t happy with the President’s directive to talk with Rudy,” he said. “We did not want to involve Mr. Giuliani.”
He also said Giuliani communicated with Ukrainian government officials “without our knowledge.”
The statement adds that he did not believe at the time that Giuliani’s involvement was improper. But he did believe that Giuliani’s exertion of pressure on Kyiv constituted a quid pro quo.
“Mr. Giuliani’s requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky,” Sondland’s statement says. “Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing investigations of the 2016 election/DNC server and Burisma. Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the President of the United States, and we knew that these investigations were important to the President.”
Sondland’s statement also says he “shared concerns of the potential quid pro quo regarding the security aid” with Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin who had visibility into the administration’s thinking on Ukraine.
And Sondland said that White House officials knew about “the Ukraine efforts” as early as May 23, 2019.
Sondland’s statement also says the process of preparing for his testimony has been “less than fair.” He noted that the State Department did not give him access to his own documents to prepare for his testimony, and that he could not work with his staff at the U.S. embassy in Brussels to prepare. He added that he asked the State Department and the White House for his materials multiple times, but they refused to let him see them.
“Having access to the State Department materials would have been very helpful to me in trying to reconstruct with whom I spoke and met, when, and what was said,” he said.
The EU ambassador is likely to face intense questioning from House impeachment investigators Wednesday, particularly on his communications with President Trump. According to multiple witness testimonies, Sondland often told State Department colleagues that he was in regular contact with the president and was one of the main leaders of the Ukraine portfolio.