Sondland Adds To Pile Of Trump-Ukraine Extortion Smoking Guns

Multiple witnesses told House impeachment investigators that former Ambassador Sondland explicitly relayed a quid pro quo to Ukraine. He just admitted it.
President Donald Trump (AP) and former Ambassador Gordon Sondland (Official Photo)

President Donald Trump (AP) and former Ambassador Gordon Sondland (Official Photo)

There have already been multiple witness confirmations that President Trump extorted Ukraine in an effort to pressure them to investigate his political targets. The latest one comes from former Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who has been at the center of damning witness testimony for weeks. In a nutshell, Sondland confirmed his previously alleged role in President Trump’s extortion campaign of Ukraine. This testimony should put a definitive end to the already false Trump claim that there was “no quid pro quo.”

On Tuesday, Sondland’s October 17 testimony was released by House impeachment investigators. Sondland, who previously denied such interactions to House investigators, sent the House a letter revising his testimony which confirmed that there was indeed a quid pro quo (extortion) effort, and that he explicitly relayed it to Ukrainian officials. This comes after testimony from Ambassador Bill Taylor, National Security Official Tim Morrison, and Lt. Col Alexander Vindman all alleged this.

Sondland’s revision letter, dated November 4, is addressed to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) and begins on page 376 of his newly released testimony doc. In the letter, Sondland writes:

I have reviewed the October 22, 2019, opening statement of Ambassador William Taylor. I have also reviewed the October 31, 2019, opening statement of Tim Morrison. These two opening statements have refreshed my recollection about certain conversations in early September 2019.

Sondland goes on to confirm the central allegations that both Taylor and Morrison made in their testimonies.

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On October 22, Taylor told impeachment investigators that a White House meeting and military aid was withheld in an effort to pressure Ukrainian President Zelensky to investigate the Bidens and the 2016 election. Taylor said that the decision to withhold the aid, and the reluctance to have a White House meeting, was directly from President Trump. Taylor also alleged the quid pro quo was explicitly relayed to President Zelensky by then-Ambassador Gordon Sondland.

Taylor testified that on a September 1 phone call, the day Vice President Mike Pence met with Zelensky, he learned of Sondland relaying the quid pro quo directly to Zelensky aide Andrey Yermak:

“During this same phone call I had with Mr. Morrison, he went on to describe a conversation Ambassador Sondland had with Mr. Yermak at Warsaw. Ambassador Sondland told Mr. Yermak that the security money would not come until President Zelensky committed to pursue the Burisma investigation. I was alarmed by what Mr. Morrison told me about the Sondland-Yermak conversation. This was the first time I had heard that the security assistance – not just the White House meeting – was conditioned on the investigation.”

National Security Official Tim Morrison confirmed the substance of Taylor’s testimony in his opening statement to House investigators. In this revision letter, Sondland confirms this central allegation:

“After the large meeting, I now recall speaking individually with Mr. Yermak, where I said that resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks.”

In the testimony Sondland originally gave to the House, he alleged that the extortion campaign was directly ordered by President Trump.

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National Security Official Lieutenant Colonel Alexander S. Vindman, who was also on the July 25th phone call, alleged that Sondland also relayed this quid pro quo to Ukrainian officials in a meeting separate July meeting. Vindman testified:

“Amb. Sondland started to speak about Ukraine delivering specific investigations in order to secure the meeting with the President, at which time Ambassador Bolton cut the meeting short.”

Bolton may provide some more clarity on that. He has been called to testify, but it’s unclear if he’ll comply.

President Trump has been denying a quid pro quo for weeks, including on Twitter.

There has been reporting that Senate Republicans are prepared to acknowledge that there was a quid pro quo but falsely claim there was nothing impeachable about it. With this testimony, we may see that the GOP has no choice to pivot to that argument and away from their endless disinformation campaign. It appears Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who previously stated that he thinks a quid pro quo would be damning, is taking the “ignore reality” strategy.

Before we close out… there really is a tweet for everything.

News // Donald Trump / Gordon Sondland / Impeachment / Ukraine