Sondland says Washington asked Kyiv for 'favor' by investigating Biden
The investigation involving former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and his son in Ukraine was supposed to be a 'favor' in exchange for a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland has said during a public hearing in Congress.
"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?" Mr. Sondland said.
"As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes," Sondland added. The hearings were broadcast live on CNN.
Sondland told the committee that he, along with U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry and former US Special Representative in Ukraine Kurt Volker, had been working with Mr. Rudy Giuliani (Trump's personal lawyer) on issues related to Ukraine, on direct instructions from Trump.
"Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker and I worked with Mr. Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the President of the United States. We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we played the hand we were dealt. We all understood that if we refused to work with Mr. Giuliani, we would lose an important opportunity to cement relations between the United States and Ukraine. So we followed the President's orders," Sondland said.
According to Sondland, in July-August 2019, he learned that the White House had suspended the provision of security assistance to Ukraine and he strongly opposed this, since Ukrainians needed these funds to counter Russian aggression.
"I tried diligently to ask why the aid was suspended, but I never received a clear answer. In the absence of any credible explanation for the suspension of aid, I later came to believe that the resumption of security aid would not occur until there was a public statement from Ukraine committing to the investigations of the 2016 election and Burisma, as Mr. Giuliani had demanded," Sondland said.
As reported, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives began an impeachment inquiry against Trump on September 24, 2019 after a whistleblower expressed concern about Trump's telephone conversation with Zelensky on July 25, 2019 this year. During the conversation, Trump urged Zelensky to start an investigation against Joe Biden and his son Hunter, as well as one into alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.