Sondland to Testify Before Congress 10/17 06:17
The U.S. ambassador to the European Union is expected to tell House
lawmakers conducting an impeachment inquiry that he was merely repeating
President Donald Trump's reassurances when he told another envoy that there was
no quid pro quo in the administration's dealings with Ukraine.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. ambassador to the European Union is expected to
tell House lawmakers conducting an impeachment inquiry that he was merely
repeating President Donald Trump's reassurances when he told another envoy that
there was no quid pro quo in the administration's dealings with Ukraine.
Gordon Sondland, scheduled to appear Thursday, would be the latest in a
series of witnesses to be interviewed behind closed doors by House lawmakers.
Trump blocked his appearance last week, but Democrats promptly subpoenaed
His appearance is especially anticipated since text messages and other
witness testimony place him at the center of a foreign policy dialogue with
Ukraine that forms the basis of the impeachment inquiry and that officials
feared circumvented normal channels. Part of that effort involved pushing the
former Soviet republic to commit to politically charged investigations sought
by Trump, including into a gas company connected to the son of Democratic rival
Sondland, whose name surfaced in a whistleblower complaint in August, is
certain to be asked about text messages that show him working with two other
diplomats to navigate the interests of Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy
Giuliani. The messages show the diplomats discussing an arrangement in which
Ukraine's leader would be offered a White House visit in exchange for a public
statement by Ukraine committing to undertake investigations into the 2016 U.S.
presidential election and into Burisma, the gas company.
One text exchange that has attracted particular attention involves one
diplomat, William "Bill" Taylor, telling Sondland that he thought it was
"crazy" to withhold military aid from Ukraine "for help with a political
campaign." Sondland said in response that Trump had been clear about his
intentions and that there was no quid pro quo.
Now, Sondland is prepared to tell lawmakers that Trump told him by phone
before he sent the text that there was no quid pro quo and that he was simply
parroting those reassurances to Taylor, according to a person familiar with his
account. He is expected to say that though he did understand there to be a quid
pro quo involving a White House visit, he did not associate Burisma with the
Biden family and believed that an anti-corruption public statement was a goal
widely shared across the administration.
Sondland will be testifying three days after Fiona Hill, a former White
House aide, said that his actions so unnerved then-national security adviser
John Bolton that Bolton said he was not part of "whatever drug deal Sondland
and Mulvaney are cooking up" --- a reference to White House chief of staff Mick
Mulvaney. But Sondland is prepared to say that neither Hill nor Bolton
personally raised concerns about the Ukraine work directly with him, according
to the person familiar with his account. The person spoke on condition of
anonymity to describe the private information.
House lawmakers have been hearing over the last two weeks from other
diplomats and administration officials, including from the State Department.
The most recent was Michael McKinley, a career service officer and Secretary of
State Mike Pompeo's de facto chief of staff, who testified that the Trump
administration's politicization of foreign policy contributed to his