U.S. envoy admits Ukraine quid pro quo

Making a U-turn: U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, centre, in Washington .  

In a significant development in the Trump impeachment inquiry, the U.S.’s EU Ambassador, Gordon Sondland, has said he had told a Ukrainian official that military assistance to the country was tied to a commitment to open certain investigations at President Donald Trump’s behest, against his political rivals. Mr. Sondland had testified on October 19 that he did not believe there was a quid pro quo for the aid to Ukraine.

The reversal in position came via a sworn statement Mr. Sondland had submitted to House of Representatives investigators, which was released on Tuesday. The Trump donor-turned Ambassador had said the testimonies of other witnesses had “refreshed my recollection about certain conversations”.

Mr. Sondland said he had a conversation with a Ukrainian official about the deal. “I said that resumption of the U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks,” the statement said, about that conversation which occurred in Warsaw. House investigators also released hundreds of pages from Mr. Sondland’s original testimony from last month as well as the one by the U.S.’s special Ukraine envoy, Kurt Volker.

The transcripts point to the central role of the President’s personal lawyer, Rudy Guiliani, in orchestrating a back-channel for U.S.-Ukraine diplomatic relations. Mr. Sondland testified that he had discussed Mr. Guiliani’s role with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who “rolled his eyes”, saying it was something they had to deal with.

The impeachment inquiry is looking into whether Mr. Trump violated his oath of office by pressuring the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden, currently the frontrunner for the Democratic ticket to the 2020 Presidential race and his son, Hunter Biden, who was a director at Ukrainian gas company Burisma. They are also investigating any alleged interference by Ukraine in the 2016 election.

Impeachment sham

The White House dismissed Tuesday’s transcript release. “Both transcripts released today show there is even less evidence for this illegitimate impeachment sham than previously thought, “ Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.

“Ambassador Sondland squarely states that he ‘did not know, (and still does not know) when, why or by whom the aid was suspended.’ He also said he ‘presumed’ there was a link to the aid — but cannot identify any solid source for that assumption. By contrast, Volker’s testimony confirms there could not have been a quid pro quo because the Ukrainians did not know about the military aid hold at the time,” the statement said.

“No amount of salacious media-biased headlines, which are clearly designed to influence the narrative, change the fact that the president has done nothing wrong,” Ms. Grisham said.

White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney has been invited to testify before the House investigators on Friday, a request Mr. Mulvaney is unlikely to comply with.

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2021 1:36:06 PM |

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