| November 20, 2019 09:39 AM
Updated Nov 20, 2019, 10:38 AM
U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland provided testimony to Congress Wednesday affirming a quid pro quo for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to secure a meeting and phone call with President Trump.
But Sondland, a pivotal witness in the House impeachment investigation, maintained he did not have direct evidence those conditions were directly tied to critical security aid.
Sondland, in his prepared remarks to the House Intelligence Committee, said that conditions were set for the Ukrainian president to be granted a phone call and meeting with Trump.
Democrats are preparing to draft articles of impeachment that accuse Trump of abusing his office by seeking Ukraine’s help investigating former Vice President Joe Biden, a top political rival. Democrats say Trump held back security aid to force Ukraine to cooperate.
“I know that members of this Committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a ‘quid pro quo?’” Sondland said in his opening remarks. “As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”
Sondland, who Democrats accuse of withholding information from lawmakers in his closed-door deposition, pinned the effort to extract the conditions from Ukraine on Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
“Mr. Giuliani conveyed to Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker, and others that President Trump wanted a public statement from President Zelensky committing to investigations of Burisma and the 2016 election,” Sondland said in his written opening testimony, referring to Energy Secretary Rick Perry and U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker. Burisma, the second-largest energy company in Ukraine, had hired Hunter Biden, the then-vice president’s son, for a $50,000 per month position on its board.
“Mr. Giuliani expressed those requests directly to the Ukrainians. Mr. Giuliani also expressed those requests directly to us. We all understood that these prerequisites for the White House call and White House meeting reflected President Trump’s desires and requirements.”
Sondland said he “never obtained a clear answer” for the hold on $391 million in security aid that ultimately lasted 55 days.
In his testimony, Sondland said he drew his own conclusions.
“In the absence of any credible explanation for the hold, I came to the conclusion that the aid, like the White House visit, was jeopardized,” Sondland said.
The block on the aid was lifted on Sept. 11.
“By the end of the August, my belief was that if Ukraine did something to demonstrate a serious intention to fight corruption, specifically addressing Burisma and 2016 server, then the hold on military aid would be lifted,” Sondland said in his prepared remarks.