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Ukraine scandal: U.S. ambassador to European Union Gordon Sondland says he followed Donald Trump’s orders

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill on November 20, 2019.   | Photo Credit: AP

In what is likely to be an inflection point in the public impeachment inquiry into whether U.S. President Donald Trump violated his oath of office in his dealings with Ukraine, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, on Wednesday testified that he was part of a pressure campaign on Ukraine, which was undertaken at the direction of Mr. Trump.

At the House Intelligence Committee impeachment hearing on Wednesday, Mr. Sondland also confirmed the existence of a quid pro quo, which is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry. “With regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is ‘yes’,” Mr. Sondland said, of the quid pro quo.

Mr. Trump had wanted a public announcement by the Ukrainian administration that they were launching investigations that are likely to have benefited him politically in return for an invitation to Ukraine President Volodomyr Zelenksy to the U.S.

 

Mr. Sondland said that he eventually came to understand that $391 million in military aid to Ukraine was also tied to the announcement by the Ukrainians. In October, Mr. Sondland had told House investigators that he was not aware of a quid pro quo for the military assistance, a testimony he reversed via a sworn statement in early November.

On Wednesday, Mr. Sondland avoided taking blame for the events and squarely pointed to Vice-President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Acting White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney and others, who he said were aware of the pressure campaign.

“As a presidential appointee, I followed the directions of the President. We worked with Mr. Giuliani because the President directed us to do so,” Mr. Sondland said, referring to Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, who has already been characterised by others testifying thus far as orchestrating a back-channel of diplomacy between Washington and Kiev.

Top officials involved

Mr. Sondland said he had told Mr. Pence that he “had concerns that the delay in aid had become tied to the issue of investigations”.

Mr. Sondland also provided messages, including between him and Mr. Pompeo and his team, as evidence that top administration officials were in on the pressure campaign on Ukraine.

“And not once do I recall encountering an objection,” Mr. Sondland said of his efforts to break the “logjam” and get the aid to Ukraine released, efforts which those above him in the administration were aware of, as per his testimony.


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Printable version | Jul 26, 2021 8:14:20 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/ukraine-scandal-us-ambassador-to-european-union-gordon-sondland-says-he-followed-donald-trumps-orders/article30029432.ece

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