Gordon Sondland: I worked "at the express direction of the president"

Axios Politics 2 weeks ago

EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland said Wednesday in the opening statement to his impeachment testimony that he worked with Rudy Giuliani "at the express direction" of President Trump on matters involving Ukraine.

Driving the news: Sondland also confirmed that a quid pro quo preconditioning a White House meeting in exchange for an investigation into the Biden family's business dealings in Ukraine took place and "reflected President Trump's desires and requirements."

  • He also said that he believed that the resumption of military aid to the country came to be conditioned on a Biden-linked investigation as well.

Why it matters: Sondland has spoken with President Trump about the political investigations central to the impeachment inquiry. His testimony gives the House Intelligence Committee the chance to grill someone with firsthand knowledge of what Trump himself knew — and when he knew it.

What he 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."
  • "[A]t all times, I was acting in good faith. As a presidential appointee, I followed the directions of the president. We worked with Mr. Giuliani because the President directed us to do so. We had no desire to set any conditions on the Ukranians."
  • "I know that members of this Committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a 'quid pro quo?' As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes."
  • "By the end of the August, my belief was that if Ukraine did something to demonstrate a serious intention to fight corruption, specifically addressing Burisma and 2016 server, then the hold on military aid would be lifted."
  • "[A]t all times, our efforts were in good faith and fully transparent to those tasked with overseeing them. Our efforts were reported and approved. Not once do I recall encountering objection."

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