Gordon Sondland’s highly anticipated testimony in the Donald Trump impeachment investigations began today. Reportedly, in his opening statement before the House committee, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union testified that Donald Trump asked his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to seek a “quid pro quo” with Ukraine.
According to CNBC, Sondland is a key witness in the controversy that led House Democrats to pursue an impeachment investigation against the president. Trump is accused of withholding aid approved by Congress for the eastern European country in order to persuade Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate his chief political opponent in the 2020 presidential election.
Sondland appeared before the House investigative committee on Wednesday to speak about what he witnessed in relation to key phone calls with Zelensky and the actions around the situation in order to determine if Trump abused his powers for his own political benefit.
“Mr. Giuliani’s requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit,” Sondland said in his opening statement.
“Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing investigations,” he added.
Sondland reportedly made it clear that Giuliani was acting on behalf of Trump and everyone knew that was the case.
“Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the President of the United States, and we knew that these investigations were important to the President,” he said.
Sondland’s comments, while not unexpected, could be an explosive condemnation of the president by one of the individuals who had direct contact with Trump during the Ukraine conversations. Previous witnesses in the inquiry have reportedly testified that Sondland had conversations with Trump about the impeachment inquiry.
The ambassador’s comments are also a direct condemnation of multiple people working close to Trump in his administration, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
Sondland says that he communicated with Pompeo via email about the president’s policy regarding Ukraine and his attempts to persuade the country to open an investigation into Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden, and the company Burisma.
Sondland apparently confirmed that everyone involved was clear about the president’s intentions.
“Everyone was in the loop,” Sondland said. “It was no secret.”
The EU ambassador stated in the email that he told Pompeo that Ukraine “intends to run a fully transparent investigation and will ‘turn over every stone.'”
His statement confirms what other witnesses have purportedly testified.
GOP witness Tim Morrison on aid conditions:
Q: And what did Ambassador Sondland tell you that he told Mr. Yermak?
Morrison: That the Ukrainians would have to have the prosecutor general make a statement with respect to the investigations as a condition of having the aid lifted. pic.twitter.com/k4NO9GO1Xf
— House Foreign Affairs Committee (@HouseForeign) November 19, 2019
Sondland’s testimony is expected to continue throughout Wednesday.