[gallery type="rectangular" ids="517157,513654"]
WASHINGTON (CN) – Releasing a transcript of the closed-door deposition, impeachment investigators confirmed Tuesday that U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland told Ukraine officials the country would not receive military aid unless it agreed to launch investigations sought by President Donald Trump.
Sondland also described Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as aware that Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, was pushing Ukraine-U.S. policy outside of the formal State Department scope.
The information became public Tuesday as the House Intelligence Committee enters the public phase of Trump's impeachment inquiry, releasing transcripts of confidential witness depositions that have taken place this fall.
Sondland testified under oath, the transcript shows, that he felt certain by early September that any military assistance to Ukraine came with a set of conditions.
The testimony conflicts with text messages Sondland sent to senior U.S. diplomat to Ukraine Bill Taylor, stating Trump was clear that no quid pro quo was occurring between he and Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky and that he was not conditioning aid on the launch of an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian energy firm where Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden served on the board.
Sondland had been one of the “three amigos," as described last month in secret testimony from George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. According to an account of the interview by Representative Gerry Connolly, D-Va., Kent testified he was instructed to “lay low” and leave issues involving Ukraine diplomatic policy to Sondland and fellow amigos Energy Secretary Rick Perry and the special envoy to Ukraine at the time, Kurt Volker.
“You know, this whole thing was sort of a continuum starting at the May 23 meeting, ending up at the end of the line when the transcript of the call came out,” Sondland said in the closed hearing. “And as I said to counsel, it started as talk to Rudy, then others talk to Rudy. Corruption was mentioned. Then, as time went on and again, I can’t nail down the dates – then let’s get the Ukrainians to give a statement about corruption. And then no, corruption isn’t enough, we need to talk about the 2016 elections and the Burisma investigations.”
The ambassador also told lawmakers the investigation was “always described” to him as a project that was ongoing and but one that Trump was reigniting after the previous administration stopped it.
“And then finally at some point, I made the Biden-Burisma connection and then the transcript was released,” Sondland told lawmakers, referring to the summary released by the White House of Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky.
Describing a Sept. 1 conversation with Zelensky’s top aide, Sondland said he told Andriy Yermak, the adviser to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, that the assistance would not resume until Ukraine provided “the anti-corruption statement” officials had discussed for several weeks.