A senior US diplomat told lawmakers on Wednesday that President Donald Trump expressly ordered him and others to help pressure Ukraine into investigating a political rival of the president, providing some of the most significant testimony to date in the House of Representatives impeachment inquiry.
In remarks that also put Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the center of the Ukraine controversy, US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland said Pompeo was “fully supportive” of the efforts to push Ukraine into carrying out two investigations that would benefit Trump politically at home.
Sondland, a wealthy hotel entrepreneur and Trump donor, said he worked with Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine issues on “the president’s orders,” further detailing Trump’s active participation in a controversy that threatens his presidency.
Giuliani’s efforts earlier this year to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son “were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit” for the Ukrainian leader, Sondland said, using a Latin term meaning to exchange a favour for another favour.
The ambassador testified that he told Vice President Mike Pence in September that US security aid to Ukraine had been stalled apparently because of Trump’s demand for the investigations.
Trump has said he did nothing wrong and specifically denied any quid pro quo. On Wednesday, Trump said he does not know Sondland well but he seems like a “nice guy.” Sondland described Trump in May telling him along with Energy Secretary Rick Perry and then-U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker to work with Giuliani on Ukraine policy at a time when the former New York mayor was working to get the Ukrainians to do the politically motivated investigations.
“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 told the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, which is spearheading the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry.