Trump impeachment inquiry: Sondland confirms quid pro quo amid Ukraine scandal
KONFRONTASI - The US ambassador to the European Union says he has followed the orders from US President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to put pressure on Ukraine to launch an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden in exchange for a White House visit for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Gordon Sondland made the revelation while testifying before the House Intelligence Committee as part of an impeachment inquiry into the US president on Wednesday.
"We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani,” Sondland said, referring to himself, US Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Kurt Volker, the then-US envoy to Ukraine.
“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," the top diplomat added.
He also confirmed that it was Trump himself who suggested the idea of a quid pro quo, adding that many officials within the administration have been aware of the fact, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“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?’ As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes,” Sondland noted.
But at the same time he emphasized that he has never directly heard from Trump that Washington would withhold its military aid to Ukraine in case of a negative response to such a demand.
US Democrats launched the impeachment inquiry in September after a whistleblower revealed the Republican president had pressured Ukraine to investigate Biden.
It is illegal in the US to seek foreign help to gain electoral advantage.
If found guilty in a majority vote in the House, Trump will face an impeachment trial in the Senate.
Meanwhile, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, has described the impeachment inquiry against Trump as a "sad thing" for the country, but necessary.
Trump is accused of tying $400 million in military aid to Ukraine to Kiev’s compliance with his request to investigate Biden.[PRESS TV]