U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland acknowledged in public testimony Wednesday that there was a quid pro quo between the U.S. and Ukraine, saying a White House meeting was conditioned on Ukraine agreeing to announce investigations into President Donald Trump’s rivals.
Here are videos of that and the other key moments from Wednesday’s testimony:
Was there a ‘quid pro quo’? ‘The answer is yes,’ Sondland says
In his opening statement, Sondland corroborated allegations that a White House meeting call between Presidents Trump and Zelensky was conditioned on Ukraine publicly announcing investigations into President Donald Trump’s political rivals. The issue of whether a “quid pro quo” took place between the Ukraine and Trump administrations is at the heart of the impeachment investigation.
“Mr. Giuliani conveyed to Secretary [Rick] Perry, Ambassador [Kurt] Volker and others that President Trump wanted a public statement from President Zelensky, committing to investigations of Burisma and the 2016 election,” Sondland said. “We all understood that these prerequisites for the White House call and the White House meeting reflected President Trump’s desires and requirements,” he continued.
Sondland says Trump never directly discussed ‘preconditions’ for military aid with him
Sondland said his understanding of a quid pro quo was based on his communications with Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Sondland said the president never personally informed him about any preconditions for the release of military aid to Ukraine, when asked by GOP counsel Stephen Castor.
“You testified that Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president, correct?” Castor asked.
“That’s our understanding, yes,” Sondland replied.
“But how did you know that? Who told you?” said Castor.
“Well, when the president says ‘talk to my personal attorney,’ and then Mr. Giuliani as his personal attorney makes certain requests of demands we assume it’s coming from the president,” Sondland responded.
Sondland names names
At several points in his public hearing, Sondland indicates that high-level Trump administration officials knew about the link between Ukraine military aid and the interest in opening investigations. “It was no secret,” Sondland said in his opening statement. Sondland names Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Vice President Mike Pence in his testimony.
During questioning from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, Sondland says he discussed Trump’s interest in opening investigations into Burisma and the 2016 election with Pompeo.
“[Pompeo] was aware of the connections you were making between the investigations and the White House meeting and security assistance?” Schiff asked.
“Yes,” Sondland responded.
“Did he ever take issue with you, and say ‘no that connection is not there’ or ‘you’re wrong’?” Schiff asked.
“Not that I recall,” Sondland replied.
Rep. Michael Turner backs Sondland into a corner
Sondland testified that he “presumed” military aid to Ukraine was conditioned on a public announcement of investigations, based on his interactions with Giuliani and Trump administration officials. Turner, R-Ohio, pushed Sondland on whether he could definitively link Trump to his “quid pro quo” assertion.
“…nobody else on this planet told you that Donald Trump was tying aid to these investigations, is that correct?” Turner said.
“I think I already testified –,” Sondland said.
“No, answer the question. Is it correct?” Turner pushed. Sondland ultimately responded “yes.”
“So, you really have no testimony today that ties President Trump to a scheme to withhold aid from Ukraine in exchange for these investigations,” Turner responded.
Schiff fires back at GOP denial of a quid pro quo
Schiff mocked Republicans’ efforts to claim that Sondland’s conclusion that the U.S. withheld aid from Ukraine in exchange for investigations were based on Sondland’s assumptions.
“My colleagues seem to be under the impression that unless the president spoke the words, ‘Ambassador Sondland I am bribing the Ukrainian president,’ that there is no evidence of bribery,” Schiff said. He later added: “They also seem to say that ‘well, [Ukraine] got the money. The money may have been conditioned, but they got the money.’”
“Yes,” Schiff said. “They got caught.”
“President Zelensky ‘loves your ass’”
Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman asked Sondland about closed-door testimony from David Holmes, a State Department official who says he overheard a phone call between Sondland and Trump.
“[Holmes] testified that you confirmed to President Trump that you were in Ukraine at the time and that President Zelensky ‘loves your ass.’ Do you recall saying that?” Goldman asked.
“That sounds like something I would say,” Sondland responded. “That’s how president Trump and I communicate: a lot of four-letter words. In this case, three letter.”
Hale says using aid to push Ukraine to open investigations would be “inconsistent” with U.S. foreign policy
David Hale, the under secretary of state for political affairs, agreed that it would be “very unusual” to hold military aid in order to leverage a foreign country to investigate a political opponent.
“I take it, you would agree that, that would be completely inappropriate,” Schiff said.
“That would be inconsistent with the conduct of our foreign policy in general,” Hale replied.
“It would also be wrong, wouldn’t it?” Schiff pressed.
“Certainly not what I would do,” Hale said.
‘That was corruption,’ Schiff says about Trump’s actions in Ukraine
In his closing remarks on Day 4, Schiff said Trump’s claims that he wants to fight corruption in Ukraine do not match his actions.
“We are supposed to believe, I imagine listening to my colleagues, that Donald Trump is a great anti-corruption fighter,” Schiff said. “That his only concern about Ukraine was that it would fight corruption.” Schiff proceeded to list the allegations against Trump at issue in the impeachment inquiry.
“Ambassador Sondland testified today that there was unquestionably a ‘quid pro quo’ and everybody knew it. Conditioning a White House meeting that Ukraine desperately wanted to show its friend and foe alike it had the support of the president of the United States,” Schiff said. “When that was conditioned, that official act was conditioned on the receipt of things of value to the president: political investigations. That was not anti-corruption. That was corruption.”