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Sondland: ‘Everyone Was in the Loop’ on Ukraine ‘Quid Pro Quo’ Plan

Sondland testifies in Washington, U.S., November 20, 2019. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland said in Wednesday testimony that senior Trump administration officials were fully aware of Trump’s Ukraine policy. Sondland said that policy included a “quid pro quo” meant to pressure Ukraine into investigating 2016 election meddling and Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian energy company with ties to 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son Hunter.

The ambassador’s testimony is the latest in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump. Democrats began the inquiry after suspicions arose that Trump may have withheld military aid from Ukraine to pressure the country to investigate the allegations against Biden.

“Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret,” Sondland said. “Everyone was informed via email on July 19 [regarding the policy]…I told President Zelensky in advance that assurances to ‘run a fully transparent investigation’ and ‘turn over every stone’ were necessary in his call with President Trump.”

Those “in the loop” included Vice President Mike Pence, White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The July 19 email was forwarded to Mulvaney, Pompeo, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry. Sondland told the email’s recipients that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “will assure [Trump] that he intends to run a fully transparent investigation.”

Sondland testified that it was “based on my communications with Secretary Pompeo” that he felt confident enough to tell an aide to Zelensky that the U.S. was withholding military aid until the Ukrainian president announced investigations into Biden. The “State Department was fully supportive of our engagement in Ukraine affairs, and was aware that a commitment to investigations was among the issues we were pursuing,” Sondland said.

The ambassador added that he raised concerns the investigations were being tied to military aid with Pence in late August.

“I mentioned to Vice President Pence before the meetings with the Ukrainians that I had concerns that the delay in aid had become tied to the issue of investigations,” Sondland told lawmakers.

Sondland also said that while Trump wanted Zelensky to announce the investigations publicly, he may not have wanted to see them through to completion.

According to Sondland, “[Zelensky] had to announce the investigations. He didn’t actually have to do them, as I understood it.”

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