20 November 2019 18:38
Ambassador Gordon Sondland has said Rudy Guiliani pushed a "quid pro quo" with Ukraine because it was what US President Donald Trump wanted. In prepared testimony, the ambassador said he "followed the president's orders" to work with the Mr Trump's personal lawyer Mr Giuliani on pressuring Ukraine into investigating political rival Joe Biden. Mr Sondland has said it involved arranging a White House visit for Ukraine's new president Volodymyr Zelenskiy in return for Mr Zelenskiy announcing investigations of Mr Biden and a discredited conspiracy theory that Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 US presidential election. He said: "As I testified previously, Mr Giuliani's requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelenskiy." Speaking to reporters outside the White House as the hearing went on, Mr Trump rattled off a number of lines of evidence given by Mr Sondland in a bid to prove his innocence - and insisted he "wanted no quid pro quo". The impeachment inquiry has focused largely on allegations that Mr Trump sought investigations of Democrat political rival Mr Biden and his son, as well as the discredited idea that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 US election rather than Russia in return for military aid and a White House visit.
"I know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a 'quid pro quo?' As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes," he said. Mr Sondland said he specifically told Vice President Mike Pence he "had concerns" that US military aid to Ukraine "had become tied" to the investigations. Mr Pence's office denied testimony by Mr Sondland, saying in a statement: "The Vice President never had a conversation with Gordon Sondland about investigating the Bidens, Burisma, or the conditional release of financial aid to Ukraine based upon potential investigations". US ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland implicated Donald Trump in a 'quid pro quo' with Ukraine for material on Joe Biden's son. Sondland alleges that the quid pro quo was a coveted invite to the White House issued to new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky – as well as nearly $400 million in military aid that withheld from Ukraine, which is the center of the impeachment inquiry.
Trump impeachment: Who's who in the Ukraine scandal 1/22 Donald Trump Accused of abusing his office by pressing the Ukrainian president in a July phone call to help dig up dirt on Joe Biden, who may be his Democratic rival in the 2020 election. Getty Images 1/22 Donald Trump Accused of abusing his office by pressing the Ukrainian president in a July phone call to help dig up dirt on Joe Biden, who may be his Democratic rival in the 2020 election. Sondland told House investigators during October 2019 testimony that he had been disappointed with Trump's decision to involve his personal lawyer in dealings with Kiev — and stated that the president refused counsel from his top diplomats, and demanded Volodymyr Zelensky satisfy his concerns about corruption. He planned to tell the House impeachment inquiry that he heard Donald Trump appeal to Ukraine's president to investigate his leading political rivals. He is the first person to testify before the House impeachment inquiry who actually listened in on the 25 July phone call, in which Trump urged Volodymyr Zelensky to start an investigation into Joe Biden.