Pence aide testifies in Trump impeachment inquiry, John Bolton a no-show

Clay Curtis
November 11, 2019

We heard him do it previous year with his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland, U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and Energy Secretary Rick Perry were seen as more reliable actors in pressuring Ukraine to undertake the investigations that Giuliani was pushing.

Republicans have also accused Democratic House leaders of holding the inquiry in secret because they are closed-door, although Republican committee members have been present throughout.

House investigators are trying to determine whether the Congress-approved military aid was tied to Trump's request for a personal political favor.

In another episode that day at the White House, Hill testified that Trump's national security adviser John Bolton "immediately stiffened" as Sondland "blurted out" that he had worked out with Trump's acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney just that trade - the Ukrainians' probe for an Oval Office welcome.

At a news conference last month, Mulvaney said Trump withheld the aid over concerns of corruption in the Ukrainian government and how the money would be spent.

"I am writing to respectfully request that you counsel your client on the legal and ethical peril in which he is placing himself", Mr. Bakaj wrote.

But Trump made an exception for Sondland, whom he called "highly respected".

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When pressed by Republicans on how he came to that conclusion, Vindman said there were no expressed words exchanged but that his conclusion was there was a quid pro quo on the table. "He said, by the way - it nearly sounded like in general - he said, by the way, there's 'no quid pro quo.' And there isn't", Trump said.

Vindman took his concerns about the call to the NSC's lead counsel - and about Sondland's comments at the White House to his twin brother, Eugene, an ethics lawyer at the National Security Council.

Sondland, a hotelier and major Republican donor in OR (who has also given to some Democrats), criticized Trump during the 2016 campaign after Trump attacked the parents of late Army Capt. Humayun Khan, a Muslim American who was killed in Iraq in 2004.

But, when Donald Trump was elected, Mr Sondland donated $1m (£781,000) to his inaugural committee.

A story told by Matthew Karnitschnig, the chief European journalist of the Department of Political Affairs, suggests that until recently, Ambassador Sunderland was reluctant to contact reporters. "And I quit", should that hypothetical scenario unfold, he said.

The Post's article says he is unwilling to speak without judicial clearance (unlike other officials who've given testimony), but House Democrats still view him as a high-priority witness due to the "damaging" information he might be able to provide on Trump's Ukraine dealings. Former National Security Council senior director for Europe and Russia, Fiona Hill, who was Trump's top Russia adviser, testified that Sondland had told her he was "in charge" on Ukraine. "[Sondland] was calling for an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma", he said. "The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo's of any kind". And he still says that.

Speaking to reporters as he left on a campaign trip, Trump said he was "not concerned about anything" that has been disclosed so far.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an expert on Ukraine who still works in the White House, and Fiona Hill, an expert on Russian Federation who left her post in July, voiced similar concerns about the demands that Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, was making in Ukraine and how to work with - or around - him.

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