U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland testified on Wednesday morning that “quid pro quo” did exist in dealings with Ukraine and it was widely understood — a claim inconsistent with other witnesses, such as former special envoy Kurt Volker, with who Sondland worked closely.
“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?’ As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes,” Sondland said.
Watch the live testimony below:
Sondland said “Everyone was in the loop … it was no secret” that meetings Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy wanted with Trump were contingent on Ukraine’s investigation into the 2016 U.S. presidential election and Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, which Sondland said came at the “express direction” of President Trump.
Days before the July 25 call between Trump and Zelenskiy, a White House meeting was held between staff at the White House, State Department and Energy Department, during which Sondland said “we all understood” about the existence of quid pro quo.
Sondland also said Vice President Mike Pence was informed on the issue and knew that military aid was halted over the investigations, and he and Zelenskiy raised their concerns about it to Pence himself.
Sondland maintains that the conditions for the meeting with Ukraine increased over time. He said he asked Trump at one point about the matter, and Trump denied quid pro quo, saying he only wanted Ukraine to do what was right.
He also refuted accusations of a supposed “rogue diplomacy” effort surrounding the issue, insisting that he and others involved in Ukraine matters knew about the strategy to pressure Ukraine for an investigation.
He insisted that he did not want to work with Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, on Ukrainian matters, but claimed he “followed the president’s orders” and did so, although he didn’t consider it to be improper despite his personal preference.
“Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president of the United States, and we knew that these investigations were important to the president,” Sondland said in his opening statement on Wednesday.
Some of Sondland’s testimony has been inconsistent with other witnesses, which he attributes to lack of access to State Department documents, calendars, and phone records, and his own lack of memos and note-taking.