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Features & Columns

Gordon Sondland’s Impeachment Testimony: What We Know So Far

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Gordon Sondland’s Impeachment Testimony: What We Know So Far

2019-11-20 22:14:56

By Chanel Adams,  Image source: U.S. Mission to the European Union

Gordon Sondland has made his blockbuster testimony during the impeachment inquiry on Wednesday, Nov. 20. Sondland is one of the most highly anticipated and important witnesses in the White House’s impeachment inquiry. Gordon Sondland, Ambassador to the European Union, is one of those who worked closely with President Donald Trump. During his opening statement on Wednesday, Sondland revealed that he was connected to Trump during the Ukraine quid pro quo.

You can read Sondland’s full opening statement before the White House Intelligence Committee on The Washington Post. The statement made Sondland appear blunter than he has ever before about his working relationship with President Trump. There are several key takeaways from his opening statement and testimony that took place today. We will continue to add more as the hearing goes on.

First, the testimony revealed Sondland’s connection to the president. Pretty much every witness has agreed there was something odd about asking Ukraine to launch an investigation, including one involving former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. But none of them have ever suggested that Trump wanted the U.S. aid or even a White House meeting to be conditioned during these investigations.

In his opening statement, Sondland acted as if he didn’t commit a crime even though he has very close ties to Trump.

“... [Trump attorney Rudolph W.] Giuliani’s requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky,” he said. “Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing investigations of the 2016 election/DNC server and Burisma. Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president of the United States, and we knew that these investigations were important to the president.”

The statement also revealed a lot of finger-pointing among White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Vice President Mike Pence. It’s not clear whether Sondland was directly pointing the finger at Trump. But he’s been pointing the finger at everyone but himself. He made an effort to say that “everyone” was very much aware of the Ukraine quid pro quo, and he named names.

Sondland revealed that Pompeo asked him to work with Rudy Giuliani on Sept. 24 – which was after the whistleblower situation erupted. He also revealed that Pompeo asked him how to fix what Sondland described as a “logjam” with Ukraine. He also revealed the following text message with Mulvaney from July 19, which happened six days before Trump’s phone call with President Zelensky:

[Sondland said:] “I Talked to Zelensky just now … He is prepared to receive Potus’ call. Will assure him that he intends to run a fully transparent investigation and will ‘turn over every stone’. He would greatly appreciate a call before Sunday so that he can put out some media about a ‘friendly and productive call’ (no details) before Ukraine election on Sunday.” Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney responded: “I asked NSC to set it up for tomorrow.”

It's safe to say that Sondland’s statement and testimony is causing a rift among the “three amigos.” Sondland revealed in his opening statement that Energy Secretary Rick Perry and the other two members of the “three amigos” handled the communications with Giuliani after Trump told them to “talk to Rudy” on May 23.

“Secretary Perry volunteered to make the initial calls with Mr. Guiliani, given their prior relationship,” Sondland said. “Ambassador Volker made several of the early calls and generally informed us of what was discussed.”

The “talk to Rudy” comment was a directive from Trump – which isn’t what Volker revealed. During his testimony on Tuesday, Nov. 19, Volker was asked about Trump’s May 23 order that he, Sondland, and Perry were told to “talk to Rudy,” and that it wasn’t a direct order from the president.

“I didn’t take it as an instruction, I want to be clear about that,” Volker said, adding: “You know, when we were giving him our assessment about President Zelensky and where Ukraine is headed, he said, ‘That’s not what I hear. I hear terrible things; he’s got terrible people around him. Talk to Rudy.' And I understood in that context, him just saying, that’s where he hears it from. I didn’t take it as an instruction.

Instead, Volker said that it was “part of the dialogue” that Trump used. But Sondland made it clear on Wednesday that it was a directive order, which means this wasn’t an option. Trump made it clear that he wanted those three men to speak to Giuliani. This also reveals Sondland’s connection to Trump – in a way that Volker previously denied. Keep checking AllMediaNY for more updates on the White House impeachment inquiry.

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