U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland said that he and other members of the Trump administration were directed by President Donald Trump to work with his personal lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, on matters relating to Ukraine, despite the fact that they did not want to.
“Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker and I worked with Mr. Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the president of the United States,” Sondland said per The New York Times. “We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we played the hand we were dealt.”
Sondland continued, saying that if he had prior knowledge of Giuliani’s previous interactions and dealings with Ukraine, he would not have solicited the former mayor’s help in dealing with the president’s requests. Sondland said that Giuliani’s requests were in fact a quid pro quo on behalf of the president, saying that Giuliani was expressing Trump’s “desires” that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had to fulfill in order to secure a meeting with him at the White House.
During his testimony Wednesday, Sondland also claimed he believed the Trump administration was withholding funds from Ukraine until it made a public announcement that it was investigating the theories the president mentioned on the July phone call, including theories about the 2016 election, a DNC server, and Burisma Holdings, the company connected to former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.
“I tried diligently to ask why the aid was suspended, but I never received a clear answer. Still haven’t to this day,” Sondland went on. “In the absence of any credible explanation for the suspension of aid, I later came to believe that the resumption of security aid would not occur until there was a public statement from Ukraine committing to the investigations of the 2016 election and Burisma, as Mr. Giuliani had demanded.”
The ambassador implied that working with the former New York City mayor was the only way to get the administration to release aid to Ukraine, which is why Sondland said he ultimately worked with him, per Five Thirty Eight.
As Five Thirty Eight notes, Sondland’s testimony — in which he admitted he asked about the investigations during a July 10 meeting with Ukrainian officials — is a departure from his previous statements, where he said he did not remember asking for such investigations. Sondland blamed any discrepancies between his testimony and his previous statements on the State Department, claiming he did not have access to the necessary materials to make an accurate statement.
“Having access to the State Department materials would have been very helpful to me in trying to reconstruct with whom I spoke and met, when, and what was said,” Sondland said, per CNN anchor John Berman via Twitter.
Giuliani has been the subject of questions relating to his relationship to Ukraine since the White House first released a transcript of a July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky that showed Trump had mentioned involving his personal lawyer.