A U.S. diplomat whose text message exchange has become a key part of Donald Trump’s impeachment inquiry will defy the president and testify to Congress that Trump personally ordered him to deny wrongdoing in an exchange with a fellow ambassador, a new report claims.
U.S. ambassador Gordon Sondland will apparently go against Donald Trump and the administration’s orders not to cooperate with the House impeachment inquiry, testifying to Congress this week in what could be the most damaging development to date in the fast-moving investigation. As The Washington Post reported, Sondland is set to tell members of Congress that Trump personally told him to deny there was any wrongdoing in relation to Ukraine.
Sondland was named personally in a whistleblower complaint related to Trump’s attempts to pressure Ukraine into digging up dirt on Joe Biden. The whistleblower said that Sondland was working to help Ukrainian officials meet Donald Trump’s request for the investigation, and text message exchanges released by Congress this month showed that Sondland put off a fellow diplomat who raised concerns.
In the exchange, acting ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor made a point to reiterate his opposition to Trump apparently withholding military aid in an attempt to pressure Ukraine into investigating Biden. Taylor at one point wrote to Sondland, “as I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”
Sondland replied several hours later by defending Trump, saying Taylor was “incorrect” and that the president made it clear there were “no quid pro quos of any kind.” Sondland then asked Taylor to stop communication via text message.
A source told the Washington Post that Sondland will tell members of Congress that he does not know if Trump was honest when he said there was no quid prop quo.
“It’s only true that the president said it, not that it was the truth,” the source said that Sondland testified.
As The Daily Beast reported, Sondland’s denial was a major plank of Donald Trump’s defense against the impeachment inquiry. Trump and allies have pointed to Sondland’s denial as proof that there was no quid pro quo, but the new report claims that Sondland spoke to Trump personally in the several hours it took him to reply to Taylor.
Sondland will also testify this week that there was something of a quid pro quo in place — that once Ukraine announced it was investigating corruption at a gas company where Joe Biden’s son was a board member, the Ukrainian president would get a White House visit he had been requesting.
The Trump administration had originally blocked Sondland from testifying this week, but later in the week the diplomat’s lawyer announced that he would be going through with plans to testify.