US envoy linked Ukraine aid to investigations demanded by Trump
Donald Trump’s envoy to the EU has acknowledged linking military aid for Ukraine to a commitment by Kyiv to pursue investigations demanded by the US president, in what Democrats said was the most direct evidence to date of a presidential quid pro quo.
The disclosure by Gordon Sondland came in revised testimony to House impeachment investigators, which was released Tuesday along with a transcript of his appearance before Congress in a closed-door session on October 17.
Mr Sondland said in a sworn statement that he now recalled telling a Ukrainian official that “resumption of US aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks”.
Mr Sondland said he was reminded of the conversation on September 1 with Andrey Yermak, a top adviser to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, by testimony given by William Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, Mr Trump’s leading Russia adviser.
On Monday, Mr Sondland’s lawyers sent Adam Schiff, the Democrat chairing the House intelligence committee and de facto leader of the impeachment inquiry, a signed statement from the ambassador saying his “recollection about certain conversations in early September 2019” had been “refreshed”.
Other US officials who have testified before the impeachment inquiry have described how Mr Sondland and Mr Trump urged Mr Zelensky to publicly launch an investigation into former US vice-president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, who had held a board position at Burisma, a Ukrainian oil and gas company. Mr Trump also reportedly sought an investigation into alleged interference in the 2016 US presidential election.
The congressional committees leading the impeachment inquiry also released a transcript of testimony from the former US envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, and copies of text messages between Mr Volker and other US officials. The disclosures followed the publication on Monday of transcripts from closed-door sessions with Marie Yovanovitch, the former US ambassador to Ukraine, and Michael McKinley, a former top aide to US secretary of state Mike Pompeo.
The impeachment inquiry was conducted behind closed doors for much of October. But after the House of Representatives passed a resolution last week paving the way for a new public phase of the probe, the committees have started releasing transcripts and indicated that televised hearings may begin as soon as next week.
The White House has said it will not co-operate with the impeachment inquiry, taking issue with the way the probe has been conducted. However, many Trump administration officials have either willingly given evidence or appeared for testimony under subpoena since the investigation was launched last month.
John Bolton, Mr Trump’s former national security adviser, has been asked to appear before the committees later this week. Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was asked to appear at a deposition on Friday.