Key US diplomat underscores role of Trump lawyer Giuliani in Ukraine scandal

Clay Curtis
October 17, 2019

The U.S. ambassador to the European Union who played a key role in events at the center of the impeachment inquiry planned to tell lawmakers leading the impeachment inquiry that he and other diplomats were reluctant to work with Rudy Giuliani on issues related to Ukraine, but felt they had no choice.

Volker and Sondland were working with Zelenskiy and his top aides to secure a White House meeting between Trump and the new president - eager for USA support.

The House opened an impeachment inquiry into the president following revelations of a July 25 phone call where Trump urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to dig up dirt on his political rival.

"We were also disappointed by the president's direction that we involve Mr Giuliani", Sondland added.

He was referring to Energy Secretary Rick Perry and former USA envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker.

The Democrats' impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump were initiated last month after a whistleblower complaint alleging that Trump abused his powers by pressing his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate 2020 USA election candidate Joe Biden.

"However, President Trump was skeptical that Ukraine was serious about reforms and anti-corruption, and he directed those of us present at the meeting to talk to Mr Giuliani, his personal attorney, about his concerns", Sondland said.

Giuliani confirmed his call with Perry and said he was telling the president's energy secretary to be careful in dealing with Zelensky, who took office in May.

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But Sondland insisted he only realised later that the aim of the investigations Trump was demanding was to target the Democratic party and the a potential rival for the presidency in 2020, Joe Biden.

President Donald Trump is shown in 2018 with Sondland in Brussels. Trump withheld $391 million in military aid to Ukraine before making the request. Sondland will stress he was not on the call, he did not receive a transcript until the White House released a rough version last month and none of the summaries he reviewed mentioned Biden.

"But I did not understand, until much later, that Mr Giuliani's agenda might have also included an effort to prompt the Ukrainians to investigate Vice President Biden", his statement reads.

On Tuesday the White House prevented Vice President Mike Pence, the USA budget office, and the Defense Department from turning over documents on Ukraine to investigators, and Giuliani defied a subpoena for his documents.

It would be a remarkable accusation from Gordon Sondland, the Trump mega donor-turned-diplomat who has emerged as a central character in the rapidly unfolding impeachment inquiry - essentially confirming what critics have charged, that Trump wanted a so-called "quid pro quo" exchange for investigations that might benefit him politically.

Sondland was no fan of Giuliani.

"Let me state clearly: Inviting a foreign government to undertake investigations for the objective of influencing an upcoming USA election would be wrong", Sondland will say. "I did not and would not ever participate in such undertakings". "Withholding foreign aid in order to pressure a foreign government to take such steps would be wrong".

'As I recall the conversation, he said, 'Look, the president is really concerned that there are people in Ukraine that tried to beat him during this presidential election, ' Perry said. "I simply prefer to talk rather than to text". "The president responded, 'Nothing".

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