The US ambassador to the European Union yesterday told an impeachment hearing that he was following the orders of President Donald Trump in seeking a “quid pro quo” from Ukraine.
Gordon Sondland -- whose appearance before Congress is being watched especially closely as he was a Trump ally -- said he believed the president was pressing Ukraine to investigate his potential 2020 rival Joe Biden.
“We followed the president’s orders,” Sondland said in his prepared testimony to an open hearing of the House Intelligence Committee.
He said that Trump forced US diplomats to work with his personal lawyer, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.
“We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we played the hand we were dealt,” he said.
Sondland said that Trump held off on offering a summit with Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, as Giuliani demanded that Kiev publicly announce that it was investigating a gas company on which former vice president Biden’s son Hunter held a paid board position.
Giuliani also wanted Zelensky to investigate a widely discredited conspiracy theory in which Ukraine planted evidence on a server of Biden’s Democratic Party to show that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
“Mr. Giuliani’s requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky,” Sondland said.
Sondland said he “never received a clear answer” on why US suspended security aid to Ukraine, which is battling Russian-backed separatists, but that he “came to believe” it was also tied to the probes sought by Trump.