This 5-Hour Window Could Be Key to Trump’s Impeachment Inquiry

Clay Curtis
October 18, 2019

Sondland also criticized the White House's move to remove former USA ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who Trump removed from her post early this year at the behest of Giuliani. Based on his prepared opening remarks-read them in full here-Sondland "broke sharply" with Trump over the controversy, per Politico.

He said he "regretted" the departure of Marie Yovanovitch, whom Mr. Trump this spring ousted as ambassador to Ukraine after Mr. Giuliani raised concerns about her. Mr. Sondland described her as an "excellent diplomat" and a "delight to work with".

His opening statement says he and colleagues were "disappointed by the president's direction that we involve Mr Giuliani".

The ambassador to the European Union testified that Trump personally directed the drive to make the investigation a condition for a phone call from Trump to Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and a White House visit for the new Ukrainian president.

In Thursday's testimony, Mr. Sondland told the committees that he never heard of any concerns from either Ms. Hill or Mr. Bolton. He was originally slated to appear voluntarily before the three committees conducting the inquiry on October 8th, only to find out once he arrived in the US from Brussels that the State Department had blocked his testimony. "Our view was that the men and women of the state department, not the president's personal lawyer, should take responsibility for all aspects of USA foreign policy towards Ukraine".

The president was skeptical that Ukraine was serious about reform and curbing corruption and, instead of arranging the meeting his envoys wanted, directed them to talk to Giuliani, Sondland said.

One text exchange that has attracted particular attention involves diplomat William Taylor telling Sondland he thought it was "crazy" to withhold military aid from Ukraine "for help with a political campaign". Mr. Trump, who appeared to be in a bad mood, repeated "no quid pro quo" multiple times, Mr. Sondland said.

In the testimony, Mr. Sondland, a former hotel executive with no previous diplomatic experience who donated $1 million to Mr. Trump's inauguration, also provided his view on several key meetings and conversations regarding Ukraine that have come to light in recent weeks. "There is no quid pro quo".

Mulvaney: OK, There Was a Quid Pro Quo
Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee leading the impeachment probe, said, "I think Mr. They also were looking at levels of assistance European nations were providing to Ukraine, he said .

Sondland was no fan of Giuliani. He has become central to the House impeachment inquiry, after being named in an anoymous whistleblower complaint that alleged that Trump pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate potential political rival Biden.

When the phone call finally did occur, on July 25, Trump repeatedly prodded Zelenskiy to investigate the Bidens at the same time that the USA was withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid from Ukraine. "This was a very short call", Sondland was expected to tell lawmakers.

A lawyer for Sondland didn't immediately respond to ABC's request for comment.

Burisma is the Ukrainian firm whose board included Hunter Biden.

"We emphasised the strategic importance of Ukraine and the strengthening relationship with President Zelensky, a reformer who received a strong mandate from the Ukrainian people to fight corruption and pursue greater economic prosperity", Sondland said in the written testimony.

"Inviting a foreign government to undertake investigations for the objective of influencing an upcoming US election would be wrong", Sondland said.

Sondland was a go-between linking Trump's circle to the government in Kiev, amid allegations the White House conditioned incentives - including hundreds of dollars in military aid - on Ukraine's willingness to open an investigation into the President's possible 2020 foe, Joe Biden.

His remarks solidify the picture other officials questioned by Congress have already painted: a highly irregular process that effectively took control of US policy towards Ukraine away from official diplomatic channels, and dispensed with State Department rules for such missions. 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". Sondland replied that Trump had been clear about his intentions and there was no quid pro quo.

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