U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland said Wednesday that there was a “quid pro quo” linking the Ukrainian president’s meeting with President Donald Trump and investigations into the Bidens, Burisma and debunked accusations of 2016 election meddling.
“I know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a ‘quid pro quo?'” Sondland said in his sworn statement at the start of the House Intelligence Committee hearing on the Trump impeachment inquiry. “With regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”
Sondland emphasized that he never went rogue in his actions on Ukrainian policy. “I was acting in good faith,” he said. “As a presidential appointee, I followed the directions of the president.”
The ambassador said that he, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker were first directed by Trump to work with his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, on Ukrainian matters in May.
“Let me say again: We weren’t happy with the president’s directive to talk with Rudy. We did not want to involve Mr. Giuliani. I believed then, as I do now, that the men and women of the State Department, not the president’s personal lawyer, should take responsibility for Ukrainian matters,” he said. “We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we were playing the hand we were dealt.
“Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement of the investigations of the 2016 election/DNC server and Burisma,” Sondland added in his opening statement. “Mr. Giuliani’s requests were a ‘quid pro quo’ for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky.”
Sondland, who described himself as a “lifelong Republican,” said he also became concerned when he learned that military aid to Ukraine was being withheld.
“I was adamantly opposed to any suspension of aid, as the Ukrainians needed those funds to fight against Russian aggression. I tried diligently to ask why the aid was suspended, but I never received a clear answer. Still haven’t today,” Sondland said. “In the absence of any credible explanation for the suspension of aid, I came to believe that the resumption of security aid would not occur until there was a public statement from Ukraine committing to the investigations of the 2016 election and Burisma, as Mr. Giuliani had demanded.”
The corruption accusations connected with Burisma and circulated by Trump’s campaign have claimed that while Joe Biden was vice president, he made efforts to remove a top prosecutor in Ukraine who was investigating Burisma, a natural gas company that Hunter Biden was on the board of. These accusations have been debunked: The prosecutor was fired because he was corrupt and wasn’t investigating Burisma, and there is no evidence that Biden called for his removal in order to benefit his son.