U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland implied in revised testimony to House Democrats that a potential meeting between President Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, as well as the release of military aid to the country, was contingent on the announcement of an anti-corruption probe into Burisma Holdings.
The testimony, updated over the past month and released on Tuesday, is part of an impeachment investigation against President Trump by House Democrats, who suspect Trump of pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rivals by withholding aid to the country.
Sondland said that he spoke to Andriy Yermak, a top adviser to Zelensky, on September 1 while Zelensky was meeting with Vice President Mike Pence in Warsaw.
“I now recall speaking individually with Mr. Yermak [at the meeting], 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,” Sondland said in his revised testimony.
The testimony of former special representative to Ukraine Kurt Volker, which was also released on Tuesday, revealed that Volker sent suggestions directly to Yermak for the statement U.S. officials wanted Zelensky to read.
Sondland, who refused to acknowledge the apparent quid pro quo in his initial testimony, said he had “refreshed [his] recollection” after reading testimony by top diplomat William Taylor and Timothy Morrison, the senior director for Europe and Russia at the National Security Council. The ambassador then went on to revise parts of his own testimony to reflect his delivery of the quid pro quo message.
Sondland agreed with investigators that a Trump-Zelensky meet would be conditioned on commitment to investigations into the Bidens and 2016 election interference.
“If you mean that those conditions would have to be complied with prior to getting a meeting, that was my understanding,” Sondland said.
Regarding military aid, Sondland wrote in his revised testimony that he had assumed the aid was being held up in connection with the anti-corruption investigations urged by Trump and Giuliani.
“By the beginning of September 2019, and in the absence of any credible explanation for the suspension of aid, I presumed that the aid suspension had become linked to the proposed anti-corruption statement,” Sondland wrote. The ambassador said he believed “security aid to Ukraine was in our vital national interest and should not have been delayed for any reason.”