Sondland: Top Trump Administration Officials All in the Loop in Ukraine Scandal

Sondland: Top Trump Administration Officials All in the Loop in Ukraine Scandal

U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland on Wednesday delivered an “explosive” opening statement for his impeachment testimony in which he confirmed there was a quid pro quo in which the president made Ukrainian aid conditional on that government’s cooperation with investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.

Sondland testified that under Trump’s orders and against his own wishes, he worked with Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, last summer on matters involving Ukraine.

The president and other top administration officials were “in the loop,” said Sondland, regarding an effort to threaten military aid to Ukraine unless the country agreed to investigate Burisma, the oil company where 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son was a board member.

After State Department officials expressed positive views of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s new administration last spring, Giuliani and Trump expressed skepticism that the new president would reform the country’s corruption issues.

The president’s lawyer confirmed to Sondland that “the president wanted a public statement from President Zelensky committing Ukraine to look into corruption issues — specifically “the 2016 election (including the DNC server) and Burisma as two topics of importance to the president.”

The statement, he confirmed, was conditional for “the resumption of U.S. aid.”

Sondland named Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Vice President Mike Pence, and White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney as three top Trump administration officials who knew the president and Giuliani wanted to threaten Ukrainian aid if Zelensky did not publicly announce the investigation.

“Everyone was in the loop,” Sondland said. “It was no secret. Everyone was informed via email on July 19, days before the Presidential call. As I communicated to the team, I told President Zelensky in advance that assurances to ‘run a fully transparent investigation’ and ‘turn over every stone’ were necessary in his call with President Trump.”

“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,” the ambassador added.

On social media, political observers compared Sondland’s testimony to that of John Dean, the White House counsel who told Congress and the U.S. public in the 1974 Watergate hearings that President Richard Nixon was directly involved in the Watergate cover-up.

In his own opening remarks, House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), a vehement defender of the president, appeared unaware that Sondland was moments away from implicating Trump, as he warned the ambassador that he and the administration would be “smeared by the Democrats” at the hearing.

ProPublica noted that aside from Sondland’s clear indication that the president was involved in a plot to bribe Ukrainian officials into investigating alleged corruption linked to Biden, the ambassador also said that the White House is currently keeping the ambassador’s records from being publicly released.