U.S. Diplomat Sondland Ties Ukrainian Aid to Investigation Request in Impeachment Testimony

U.S. diplomat Gordon Sondland told a Ukrainian official his country would likely not get nearly $400 million in security aid unless they pursued investigations demanded by President Donald Trump, revising earlier testimony to the Trump impeachment inquiry, Reuters informs.

Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union who initially testified in October to the Democratic-led congressional inquiry, offered new details to lawmakers on Monday after his memory was “refreshed.”

The details appeared to bolster the initial whistleblower complaint that led to the investigation by three U.S. House of Representatives committees. The testimony also corroborated other witnesses who said Trump sought to pressure the Ukrainians into conducting investigations that appeared to be aimed at helping his re-election campaign.

The impeachment inquiry is focused on a July 25 phone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to open an investigation into former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

Joe Biden is a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to run against Trump in the November 2020 election. Hunter Biden was on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma that had been investigated for corruption.

The White House said the Sondland transcript undermined the impeachment inquiry. White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham pointed to Sondland’s inability to say who ordered the aid to Ukraine be withheld and that he admitted he “presumed” there was a link between the demand for a statement from the Ukrainians and releasing the aid.

“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,” Grisham said in a statement.

Sondland sent a text message in September in which he said Trump insisted there was “no quid pro quos.”

In his new statement, Sondland said that by the beginning of September “in the absence of any credible explanation,” he concluded that the withheld aid was linked to Trump’s demand that Ukraine publicly acknowledges an investigation. Sondland has said he did not realize early on that the investigation was meant to target the Bidens, Reuters noted.

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