Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland confirmed that no one told him President Donald Trump tied foreign aid to the investigations he had requested of the Ukrainians.
Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) asked about Sondland’s answers regarding the $400 million in military aid to Ukraine during his testimony at Thursday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing. Democrats allege that Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and Hunter Biden in return for military aid. Trump, Ukranian officials, and other White House officials have categorically denied the claim.
“After you testified, Chairman Schiff ran out and gave a press conference and said he gets to impeach the president of the United States because of your testimony,” Turner told Sondland. “If you pull up CNN today, right now their banner says, ‘Sondland ties Trump to withholding aid.’ Is that your testimony today, Ambassador Sondland? That you have evidence that Donald Trump tied the investigations to the aid? Because I don’t think you’re saying that.”
Sondland responded that he was “presuming” such allegations.
“No one told you?” Turner then asked him. “Not just the president, Giuliani didn’t tell you, Mulvaney didn’t tell you, nobody, Pompeo didn’t tell you? Nobody else on this planet told you that Donald Trump was tying aid to these investigations. Is that correct?”
He continued, “No one on this planet told you that Donald Trump was tying this aid to the investigations? If your answer is yes, then the chairman is wrong, and the headline on CNN is wrong. No one on this planet told you that President Trump was tying aid to investigations. Yes or no?”
To those questions, Sondland replied with “yes” and said he has no testimony “other than my own presumption.”
Sondland said that he received no direct orders or much communication from Trump himself, but that he was acting on behalf of Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney. Giuliani has denied his assertion.
Earlier, Sondland testified that “it was abundantly clear that there was a link” between the actions Ukraine that desired and an announcement on investigations on behalf of Kyiv. He didn’t specifically make a link to the military aid.
“Was there a quid pro quo?” Sondland rhetorically asked himself. “The answer is yes.”
Amid Sondland’s testimony, the White House, Vice President Mike Pence’s office, and Giuliani denied some of his claims.
“Ambassador Sondland previously testified that the president told him directly that he was not interested in a quid pro quo,” the White House said in an emailed statement. “He testified that President Trump repeatedly made it clear he wanted no quid pro quo.”
Giuliani, in a Wednesday tweet that was later deleted, wrote that “Sondland is speculating based on VERY little contact. I never met him and had very few calls with him, mostly with [former special envoy Kurt] Volker. Volker testified I answered their questions and described them as my opinions, NOT demands. I.E., no quid pro quo!”
“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,” a Pence spokesperson said in a statement.
Sondland had said he raised concerns with Pence about the withheld military aid.
“Ambassador Gordon Sondland was never alone with Vice President Pence on the September 1 trip to Poland. This alleged discussion recalled by Ambassador Sondland never happened. Multiple witnesses have testified under oath that Vice President Pence never raised Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden, Crowdstrike, Burisma, or investigations in any conversation with Ukrainians or President Zelensky before, during, or after the September 1 meeting in Poland,” Pence’s spokesman said.