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Pence Denies He Knew of Ukraine Plan, Going Against Sondland Testimony

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Pence Denies He Knew of Ukraine Plan, Going Against Sondland Testimony

2019-11-21 13:49:57

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Mike Pence (Image source: (Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons)

Mike Pence is sticking with Donald Trump and the party line with the issue of the shadow Ukraine policy. He is not throwing the president or anyone else under the bus, unlike U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. His official line after the diplomat's testimony in Wednesday's impeachment hearing is that he didn't know. 

On Wednesday Sondland fingered Pence, as well as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as knowing about the plans being pushed by Trump and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to force Ukraine to carry out investigations in return for a White House visit and $400 million in military aid.

The investigations were to be on Trump's Democratic political opponents. One investigation would be focused on whether Ukraine was behind the theft of the Democatic National Committee emails with the goal of helping former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her campaign. This is a conspiracy theory that has been debunked. 

The other would be focused on current 2020 presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter, and the Ukrainian energy company Hunter once did work for, Burisma. It's been alleged that Biden tried to remove the Ukrainian prosecutor general from office in order to help Burisma. This claim has also been found to be untrue.

Sondland testified he had directly mentioned to the vice preisdent his concerns that in delaying the aid to Ukraine, it was connected to the investigations. He remembered the conversation happening while the two were attending a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Warsaw. 

"I mentioned to Vice President Pence before the meetings with the Ukrainians that I had concerns that the delay in aid had become tied to the issue of investigations," the ambassador testified. "I recall mentioning that before the Zelensky meeitng."

"This security aid was critical to Ukraine's defense and should not have been delayed. I expressed this view to many during this period. But my goal, at the time, was to do what was necessary to gte the aid released, to break the logjam. I believed that the public statement we had been discussing for weeks was essential to advancing that goal, he added. 

Pence's chief of staff Marc Short issued a statement thar said 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."

"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," the statement continued. 

Previously, Pence had never said one way or the other whether he was aware of the Trump and Giuliani request for investigations, even during an interview on "Face the Nation" last month when he was asked four times if he was aware of the aid-for-investigation deal. He kept reiterating there was no quid pro quo and that Trump "did nothing wrong."

The show moderator, Margaret Brennan, queried, "But are you saying that you did not ever hear of such a deal? Is that what I understand you're describing?" 

The vice president replied, "I'm telling you that all of my interactions with the president, all of my conversations with President Zelensky, were entirely focused on issues of importance to the American people, ending corruption, enlisting more European support, and supporting Ukraine in a way that would restore its territorial integrity and stand by Ukraine for its sovereignty."

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