In new testimony, the United States ambassador to the European Union Gordon D Sondland on Tuesday revealed that he told a top Ukrainian official that no military aid will be provided unless it publicly committed to investigations President Donald Trump wanted.
Sondland, a critical witness in the impeachment inquiry, in four new pages of sworn testimony released on Tuesday confirmed his involvement in laying out a quid pro quo to Ukraine which he previously had not acknowledged.
The testimony revealed several major new details beyond the inquiry in a 10-hour interview last month. It is his first admission that revealed Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate his political rivals including Joe Biden and his son.
In his updated testimony, Sondland stated how he had discussed the link with Andriy Yermak, a top adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, on the sidelines of a September 1 meeting between Vice President Mike Pence and Zelensky in Warsaw. Zelensky had discussed the suspension of aid with Pence, Sondland said.
"I said that resumption of the US aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks," Sondland said in the document, which was released by the House committees leading the inquiry, along with the transcript of his original testimony from last month.
In the closed-door meeting last month, Sondland denied any wrongdoing and said that he was trying to discuss American foreign policy with Ukraine with the full backing of the State Department. However, some Democrats described him as an agent of the shadow foreign policy on Ukraine. They also claimed that Sondland had evaded crucial questions during his testimony.
Other witnesses have pointed to him as a central player in the irregular channel of Ukraine policymaking being run by Trump and his lawyer Giuliani, and the instigator of the quid pro quo strategy.
On October 31, the US House of Representatives had passed a resolution to formally proceed with the Democrat-led impeachment enquiry against Trump. The resolution sets the stage for the next phase of investigation into a whistleblower's complaint which alleges that the US President attempted to pressure Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 presidential elections by investigating the family of his potential political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, CNN reported.
The resolution establishes procedures for public hearings, authorise the release of witness deposition transcripts and outline the process for transferring evidence to the House Judiciary Committee, which would be tasked with drafting and approving articles of impeachment, according to the US-based newspaper.
In September, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had announced that the House would launch a formal impeachment inquiry into the allegations that the President abused his power by pushing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to "look into" Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Trump has denied any wrongdoing, insisting that no pressure was put on Zelensky.
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