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Followed Trump’s Orders to Pressure Ukraine

Posted in World

Published on November 22, 2019 with No Comments

The United States ambassador to the European Union told the impeachment inquiry his efforts to press Ukraine to announce investigations were ordered by President Trump, and top officials knew.

An ambassador at the center of the House impeachment inquiry testified  that he was following President Trump’s orders with the full knowledge of several other top administration officials when he pressured the Ukrainians to conduct investigations into Mr. Trump’s political rivals, detailing what he called a clear “quid pro quo” directed by the president.

Gordon D. Sondland, appointed by Donald Trump as the ambassador to the European Union, told the House Intelligence Committee that he reluctantly followed Donald Trump’s directive. He testified that the president instructed him to work with Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, as he pressured Ukraine to publicly commit to investigating former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and an unsubstantiated theory that Democrats conspired with Kyiv to interfere in the 2016 election. “We followed the president’s orders,” Sondland said.

In testimony that amounted to an act of defiance by an official who has been described by other witnesses as a point man in the push to extract the investigations, Sondland linked the most senior members of the administration to the effort — including the vice president, the secretary of state, the acting chief of staff and others. He said they were informed of it at key moments, in an account that severely undercut Trump’s frequent claims that he never pressured Ukraine. Instead, Sondland described an expansive effort at the highest levels of his administration to help the president do just that.

Sondland has repeatedly claimed not to have recalled key episodes and conceded before the committee that he did not take notes that could give him certainty about precisely what happened. He blamed the State Department for not providing him with all his emails, call logs and other records.

Still, the revelations he offered, along with emails corroborating them, were stunning. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed off on parts of the pressure campaign, Sondland testified, and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, was deeply involved. They understood, as he did, that there was a quid pro quo linking a White House meeting for President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to a promise by him to announce investigations into Mr. Trump’s political rivals, he said. “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?” Mr. Sondland said. “As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”

 

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