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Gordon Sondland Has Some Explaining to Do

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Gordon Sondland has served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Eurpean Union since the summer of 2018. He has been heavily involved in the activities now under investigation in the impeachment hearings and is set to testify publicly on Wednesday morning. As such, he has some major explaining to do when it comes to the deposition he gave previously to the committee. Sondland has already had to issue one update to that testimony.

A crucial witness in the impeachment inquiry reversed himself this week and acknowledged to investigators that he had told a top Ukrainian official that the country would most likely have to give President Trump what he wanted — a public pledge for investigations — in order to unlock military aid.

The disclosure from Gordon D. Sondland, an ally of Mr. Trump who is the United States ambassador to the European Union, confirmed his role in laying out a quid pro quo to Ukraine that conditioned the release of security assistance from the United States on the country’s willingness to say it was investigating former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and other Democrats.

That admission, included in a four-page sworn statement released on Tuesday, directly contradicted his testimony to investigators last month, when he said he “never” thought there was any precondition on the aid.

That was a major reversal for Sondland, which was prompted by testimony from other witness that he claimed refreshed his recollection.

But since that update to Sondland’s testimony, the committee has deposed David Holmes, who serves as a counselor for political affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine. Holmes attended a meeting with President Zelensky on July 26, the day after the call with Trump. Also in the meeting were Ambassadors Taylor, Volker, and Sondland. Following the meeting, Sondland talked privately with Andriy Yermak, a top aide to President Zelensky. Holmes then went out to lunch with Sondland and two embassy staffers.

In his deposition, Holmes reported that during lunch, Sondland called the president on his cell phone, presumably to update him on the meetings with Zelensky and Yermak. Here is what Holmes reported about that call and his conversation with Sonderland about it afterwards.

While Ambassador Sondland’s phone was not on speakerphone, I could hear the President’s voice through the earpiece of the phone. The President’s voice was very loud and recognizable, and Ambassador Sondland held the phone away from his ear for a period of time, presumably because of the loud volume.

I heard Ambassador Sondland greet the President and explain that he was calling from Kyiv. I heard President Trump then clarify that Ambassador Sondland was in Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland replied, yes, he was in Ukraine, and went on to state that President Zelensky “loves your ass.” I then heard President Trump ask, “So, he’s gonna do the investigation?” Ambassador Sondland replied that “he’s gonna do it,” adding that President Zelensky will do “anything you ask him to.”…

After the call ended, Ambassador Sondland remarked that the President was in a bad mood, as Ambassador Sondland stated was often the case early in the morning. I then took the opportunity to ask Ambassador Sondland for his candid impression of the President’s views on Ukraine. In particular, I asked Ambassador Sondland if it was true that the President did not “give a s—t about Ukraine.” Ambassador Sondland agreed that the President did not “give a s—t about Ukraine.” I asked why not, and Ambassador Sondland stated that the President only cares about “big stuff.” I noted that there was “big stuff” going on in Ukraine, like a war with Russia, and Ambassador Sondland replied that he meant “big stuff” that benefits the President, like the “Biden investigation” that Mr. Giuliani was pushing.

Jeremy Stahl summarized what Sondland said during his original deposition.

During his testimony, Sondland did not mention that phone call. Instead, he made it seem as though his only call with Trump in that time frame was not relevant to the inquiry. “I do recall a brief discussion with President Trump before my visit to Kyiv,” Sondland testified. “The call was very short, nonsubstantive, and did not encompass any of the substance of the July 25, 2019, White House call with President Zelensky.”

Even prior to that contradictory evidence, House Democrats were suggesting that Sondland may have perjured himself based on his dismissal of knowledge about a quid pro quo with Ukraine. So the ambassador’s testimony on Wednesday comes with the specter of potential legal peril.

If the reports from these other witnesses are accurate and Sondland testifies truthfully, he will provide a first-hand account that Trump was directly involved in not only pressuring Ukraine to engage in political investigations, but in demanding a quid pro quo. Beyond that, we could have confirmation that the president doesn’t give a s—t about Ukraine and was only interested in what they could do to benefit him personally.

If Sonderland prevaricates in any way, David Holmes is scheduled to testify publicly on Thursday.

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