Nov 20, 2019

Gordon Sondland: I worked "at the express direction of the president"

EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland said Wednesday in the opening statement to his impeachment testimony that he worked with Rudy Giuliani "at the express direction" of President Trump on matters involving Ukraine.

Driving the news: Sondland also confirmed that a quid pro quo preconditioning a White House meeting in exchange for an investigation into the Biden family's business dealings in Ukraine took place and "reflected President Trump's desires and requirements."

  • He also said that he believed that the resumption of military aid to the country came to be conditioned on a Biden-linked investigation as well.

Why it matters: Sondland has spoken with President Trump about the political investigations central to the impeachment inquiry. His testimony gives the House Intelligence Committee the chance to grill someone with firsthand knowledge of what Trump himself knew — and when he knew it.

What he said:

  • "We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we played the hand we were dealt. We all understood that if we refused to work with Mr. Giuliani, we would lose an important opportunity to cement relations between the United States and Ukraine. So we followed the President’s orders."
  • "[A]t all times, I was acting in good faith. As a presidential appointee, I followed the directions of the president. We worked with Mr. Giuliani because the President directed us to do so. We had no desire to set any conditions on the Ukrainians."
  • "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."
  • "By the end of August, my belief was that if Ukraine did something to demonstrate a serious intention to fight corruption, specifically addressing Burisma and 2016 server, then the hold on military aid would be lifted."
  • "[A]t all times, our efforts were in good faith and fully transparent to those tasked with overseeing them. Our efforts were reported and approved. Not once do I recall encountering objection."

Read his full statement.

Go deeper: Live updates on Sondland's impeachment testimony

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Hill: Giuliani pushed views on Ukraine "that would probably come back to haunt us"

Fiona Hill, President Trump's former top Russia expert, testified during Thursday's impeachment hearing that Rudy Giuliani pushed views on Ukraine both publicly and privately "that would probably come back to haunt us."

The big picture: EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland testified yesterday that Giuliani headed up the White House's diplomatic efforts in Ukraine, saying that he only worked with Trump's personal lawyer "because the president directed us to do so."

Go deeperArrowNov 21, 2019

Highlights from Gordon Sondland's impeachment testimony

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland testified Wednesday in one of the week's most-anticipated impeachment hearings.

Driving the news: In his opening statement, Sondland said that he worked with Rudy Giuliani "at the express direction" of President Trump on matters involving Ukraine.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Nov 20, 2019

What Lindsey Graham said about a quid pro quo in October

Sen. Lindsey Graham told "Axios on HBO" last month that he'd be open to changing his mind on impeachment if he was shown Trump was engaged in a quid pro quo with Ukraine outside of the July 25 phone call.

Why it matters: Today, EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland publicly testified in an impeachment hearing that a quid pro quo preconditioning a White House meeting in exchange for an investigation into the Biden family's business dealings in Ukraine took place and "reflected President Trump's desires and requirements."

Go deeperArrowNov 20, 2019