U.S. envoy to EU acknowledges Ukraine quid pro quo in impeachment testimony


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland presumed there was a quid pro quo in the Trump administration’s withholding of U.S. aid to Ukraine pending an anti-corruption investigation, according to an excerpt released by congressional impeachment investigators on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO – U.S. House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) speaks to reporters during a break in a closed-door deposition of U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland as part of the U.S. House of Representatives impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Trump led by the House Intelligence, House Foreign Affairs and House Oversight and Reform Committees on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 28, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott

In supplemental testimony, Sondland said that by the beginning of September, “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.”

The House of Representatives’ impeachment investigation is focused on a July 25 phone call in which President Donald Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democratic rival, and his son Hunter Biden. Hunter Biden was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company that had been investigated for corruption.

Trump froze nearly $400 million in U.S. military assistance to Ukraine shortly before speaking to Zelenskiy, prompting accusations from Democrats that he had misused taxpayer dollars destined for a vulnerable U.S. ally for personal gain.

Sondland had initially denied knowledge of any link between the aid and Trump’s request that Ukraine investigate the Bidens.

Congressional Democrats also released testimony from Kurt Volker, Trump’s former special representative for Ukraine negotiations.

Witnesses have testified that Volker and Sondland, with Trump’s secretary of energy, Rick Perry, were known as the “three amigos,” responsible for Trump’s unofficial channel to Ukrainian government officials.

Volker resigned as special representative in September. He testified to the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight panels for more than eight hours behind closed doors on Oct. 3.

Sondland, a major Trump donor, testified on Oct. 17.

Perry, a former Texas governor who said he was resigning from his Cabinet post as of Dec. 1, has refused to testify so far.

Trump has denied wrongdoing and accused Democrats of unfairly targeting him in hope of reversing his surprise victory in the 2016 presidential election. So far, he has maintained strong support from fellow Republicans in Congress.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Andy Sullivan, Peter Cooney and Paul Simao

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