Politics: Sondland testimony targets Trump, Pompeo and confirms deal with Ukraine - - PressFrom - US
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Politics Sondland testimony targets Trump, Pompeo and confirms deal with Ukraine

22:25  20 november  2019
22:25  20 november  2019 Source:   nbcnews.com

David Holmes testimony: State department aide confirms Trump-Sondland call about Ukraine investigations

  David Holmes testimony: State department aide confirms Trump-Sondland call about Ukraine investigations David Holmes, the state department aide who overheard President Donald Trump's conversation with the US ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, said that Sondland told Trump that the Ukranian President would do "anything you ask him to," and that he confirmed the Ukrainians were going to "do the investigation.""Sondland told Trump that (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelensky 'loves your ass,'" Holmes said, according to a copy of his opening statement obtained by CNN. "I then heard President Trump ask, 'So, he's gonna do the investigation?' Ambassador Sondland replied that 'he's gonna do it,' adding that President Zelensky will do 'anything you ask him to.

WASHINGTON — Gordon Sondland, the American ambassador to the E.U., pointed the finger at President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former national security adviser John Bolton in explosive public testimony on Wednesday in which he said explicitly that there was a "quid quo pro" linking a White House visit by Ukraine's president to investigations into a political opponent of the president.

Under fire from all sides after multiple witnesses contradicted his earlier deposition, Sondland blamed everyone but himself for the pressure campaign on Ukraine now driving impeachment proceedings against Trump. He showed up for his televised hearing with reams of new text messages and emails he said prove the highest levels of the White House and the State Department were in on it.

Sondland said he was acting on Trump’s orders, aide told investigators

  Sondland said he was acting on Trump’s orders, aide told investigators Tim Morrison, a top White House national security aide, told impeachment investigators that Gordon Sondland — a U.S. ambassador at the center of the Ukraine scandal imperiling Donald Trump’s presidency — claimed to be acting on Trump’s orders, and was regularly in touch with him. © Provided by Politico, LLC Top White House national security aide Tim Morrison. “Every time you went to check to see whether he had, in fact, talked to the president, you found that he had talked to the president?” one lawmaker wondered, according to a transcript of Morrison’s testimony released Saturday.“Yes,” Morrison replied.

"They knew what we were doing and why," Sondland told the House Intelligence Committee in his opening statement. "Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret."

He said he knew that House members have asked "was there a quid pro quo," adding that when it comes to the White House meeting sought by Ukraine's leader, "The answer is yes."

Sondland said acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and National Security Council leadership knew about the plan, and he also drew Pompeo more deeply into the effort than has previously been known, including with emails to the secretary and a top aide in which the basic contours of the quid pro quo alleged by Democrats seem clear.

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At the time, the Trump administration had frozen military aid to Ukraine. On Aug. 11, Sondland emailed top Pompeo aide Lisa Kenna that he and former Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker "negotiated a statement" for Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to deliver. Kenna responds saying she's passing the message along to Pompeo.

The Two Most Important Sentences of the Impeachment Hearings

  The Two Most Important Sentences of the Impeachment Hearings Ambassador Gordon Sondland delivered a bombshell this morning.“Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.

Eleven days later, Sondland wrote Pompeo directly, suggesting Zelenskiy meet Trump in Warsaw "to look him in the eye" and say he should be able to proceed on issues important to Trump "once Ukraine's new justice folks are in place." Earlier, in a July 25 phone call, Zelenskiy had told Trump that installing his own prosecutors would remove an obstacle to opening the investigations of the Bidens and the 2016 election.

"Hopefully, that will break the logjam," Sondland wrote.

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"Yes," Pompeo responded three minutes later. Kenna followed up saying she would try to arrange the meeting. Ultimately, Trump sent Vice President Mike Pence to Warsaw instead.

Sondland testified that he told Pence "before the meetings with the Ukrainians that I had concerns that the delay in aid had become tied to the issue of investigations."

Credible Sondland is no Never Trumper. Hearings now need Bolton, Pompeo, Mulvaney.

  Credible Sondland is no Never Trumper. Hearings now need Bolton, Pompeo, Mulvaney. 'We followed the president's orders,' Trump donor-turned-ambassador tells House impeachment investigators. Now call Bolton, Pompeo, Mulvaney: Our viewGordon Sondland is no Never Trumper.

Pence's chief of staff Marc Short disputed that claim, saying in a statement, "This alleged discussion recalled by Ambassador Sondland never happened."

Further implicating Pompeo, Sondland testified that it was "based on my communications with Secretary Pompeo" that he felt comfortable telling a top Zelenskiy aide the funds likely wouldn't be unfrozen until Ukraine committed publicly to the investigations sought by Trump. Those included probes into former Vice President Joe Biden's family and alleged Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election.

"State Department was fully supportive of our engagement in Ukraine affairs, and was aware that a commitment to investigations was among the issues we were pursuing," Sondland testified.

Pompeo twice ignored questions about Sondland's testimony in Brussels, where he's meeting with NATO allies. Asked if he had been "in the loop" at a press conference later in the day, he said, "I didn't see the testimony" but "I know precisely what American policy was with respect to Ukraine. I was working on it. And I'm incredibly proud of what we've accomplished."

Speaking to reporters earlier in the day on the White House lawn, Trump tried to distance himself from his ambassador, who'd donated $1 million to his inauguration. “I don’t know him very well. I have not spoken to him much. This is not a man I know well. He seems like a nice guy though," Trump said, before referring to Sondland's testimony that Trump told him in a September phone call that he didn't want anything from Ukraine.

As he spoke,he held a pad with handwritten notes in black Sharpie that included the lines, "I want nothing," "Tell Zellinsky to do the right thing," and "This is the final word from the Pres of the U.S."

a close up of text on a white background: Image: President Donald Trump holds notes on Ambassador Gordon Sondland's testimony as he departs the White House on Nov. 20, 2019. © Erin Scott Image: President Donald Trump holds notes on Ambassador Gordon Sondland's testimony as he departs the White House on Nov. 20, 2019.

Sondland's 19-page opening statement — plus texts and emails not previously made public — was filled with new details and disclosures he omitted from both his over nine-hour closed-door deposition and a sworn declaration he made later. He said his memory had been refreshed by other witnesses' testimony, but lawmakers are likely to grill Sondland over his failure to produce the information previously and whether his testimony can be trusted after changing so many times.

But the email and text records Sondland provided to Congress on Wednesday may corroborate some of his new account.

In one email to Bolton on Aug. 26, Sondland sent him a contact card for Rudy Giuliani, the Trump personal lawyer who drove the push for investigations into the Bidens and 2016. That email came days before Bolton traveled to Ukraine, and Sondland testified Bolton's office had "requested Mr. Giuliani's contact information."

As the impeachment proceedings have moved into the public televised phase, Republican lawmakers have sought to distance Trump from the allegations by pressing witnesses to concede that they never heard Trump personally link a meeting with Zelenskiy or the Ukraine aid to investigations. Those arguments have set up Sondland and Giuliani — as the emissaries who conveyed the conditions to the Ukrainians — as potential scapegoats if Trump's allies can successfully portray them as acting on their own volition and not on Trump's behalf.

But Sondland's testimony that they were carrying out Trump's wishes — and briefing top officials along the way — may complicate any efforts to use him and Giuliani as buffers between the president and allegations of wrongdoing.

"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 told the committee — or at least the appearance of investigations.

Zelenskiy, Sondland said, "had to announce the investigations — he didn’t have to actually do them.”

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland looks to one of his attorney's as he testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 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. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) © Associated Press U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland looks to one of his attorney's as he testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 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. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

He insisted that Trump never told him he'd frozen the almost $400 million in aid to Ukraine to force investigations, but it was "abundantly clear" that was the case.

“President Trump never told me directly that the aid was tied to the meeting," he said. "The aid was my own personal guess.”

Sondland also largely conceded that accounts of his July 26 phone call with Trump from a restaurant in Kyiv are accurate. In his earlier deposition, Sondland had not mentioned that call, which was overheard by several U.S. diplomats dining with Sondland but only came to light recently, in other hearings.

During that call, according to testimony from diplomat David Holmes, Trump could be overheard asking Sondland about the investigations and was told the Ukrainians were ready to commit to them. Sondland also told Trump that Zelenskiy will do "anything you ask him to," Holmes testified.

Sondland, in acknowledging that call, suggested that his memory is hazy, but that he has "no reason to doubt that this conversation included the subject of investigations." He said the White House recently gave his lawyers phone records showing the call lasted five minutes.

"It is also true that we discussed ASAP Rocky," Sondland said, a reference to a rapper jailed in Sweden that Holmes said was mentioned during the call and whom Trump had taken an interest in.

Asked about Holmes' testimony that Sondland told Trump that Zelenskiy "loves your ass," Sondland smiled. "That sounds like something I would say," he laughed. "That's how President Trump and I communicate. A lot of four-letter words. In this case, three-letter."

Trump was asked about that call last week, and told reporters, "I know nothing about that."

Arguing he bears no personal fault and acted in good faith, Sondland repeatedly blamed Trump for forcing him, Volker and Energy Secretary Rick Perry to work with Giuliani on Ukraine, despite all of them thinking that it was a bad idea.

"We followed the president's orders," Sondland said. "We didn't want to work with Mr. Giuliani."

In some instances, he disputed the testimony of others whose depositions contradict his own, including Holmes, who testified that Sondland had referred to "the Biden investigation" as part of the "big stuff" that Trump cared about. Sondland insists he did not mention Biden.

He conceded that in a July 10 meeting with Bolton and Ukrainian officials at the White House he'd mentioned "the prerequisites of investigations before any White House call or meeting." But Sondland disputed the accounts of former White House official Fiona Hill and Lt. Col. Alex Vindman, the Ukraine director in the White House, both of whom testified Bolton was so disturbed by his comment that Bolton abruptly ended the meeting.

"Their recollections of those events simply don't square with my own or with those of Ambassador Volker or Secretary Perry," Sondland testified.

Credible Sondland is no Never Trumper. Hearings now need Bolton, Pompeo, Mulvaney. .
'We followed the president's orders,' Trump donor-turned-ambassador tells House impeachment investigators. Now call Bolton, Pompeo, Mulvaney: Our viewGordon Sondland is no Never Trumper.

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