US Ambassador to EU says there was quid pro quo on Ukraine

Lalit K Jha

Washington, Nov 21 (PTI) US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland has told lawmakers that there was a quid pro quo between the politically motivated investigation in Ukraine and a meeting between its president with Donald Trump.

'I know that members of this committee 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 the White House meeting, the answer is yes,' Sondland told members of the House Select Committee on Intelligence on Wednesday.

The powerful congressional committee of House of Representatives, where the opposition Democratic Party has a majority, conducted its fourth day of public hearings on the impeachment proceedings against President Trump.

The proceedings have been initiated by the Democratic Party which alleges that Trump violated the law and misused his position in his dealings with Ukraine.

The Democrats allege that a phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25 is the prime testimony and example of this quid pro quo. Trump and the White House have denied this and described it as an impeachment hoax and kangaroo court, wherein the Republicans are not being given any chance.

Talking to reporters on the South Lawns of the White House, Trump referred to the testimony of Sondland.

'I just noticed one thing, and I would say that means it's all over. 'What do want from Ukraine?' he asks me, screaming. 'What do you want from Ukraine? I keep hearing all these different ideas and theories.' This is Ambassador Sondland speaking to me. Just happened. To which I turned off the television,' Trump said.

'It was a very short and abrupt conversation that he had with me. They said, 'He was not in a good mood'. I'm always in a good mood. I don't know what that is. He just said -- now he's talking about what my response,' he said.

'I want nothing. That's what I want from Ukraine. That's what I said. I want nothing. I said it twice. So, he goes -- he asks me the question: 'What do you want? I keep hearing all of these things. What do you want?'' Trump said and accused the media of a biased coverage.

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham asserted that no quid pro quo ever occurred.

'Ambassador Sondland's testimony made clear that in one of the few brief phone calls he had with President Trump, the President clearly stated that he ‘wanted nothing’ from Ukraine and repeated ‘no quid pro quo over and over again.’ In fact, no quid pro quo ever occurred,” she said.

“The US aid to Ukraine flowed, no investigation was launched, and President Trump has met and spoken with President Zelensky. Democrats keep chasing ghosts,” Grisham said.

However, mainstream American media described Sondland's testimony as explosive.

'Sondland's testimony, the most explosive in a series of public impeachment hearings, riveted lawmakers, portraying Trump as the driver of an effort to pressure a foreign power to investigate his political rivals. Democrats quickly seized on the bombshell testimony as they seek to make the case that Trump abused his power by conditioning official acts to benefit his re-election campaign,” Politico reported.

The top American Envoy to European Union told lawmakers that there was no secret about it.

'Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret. Everyone was informed via email on July 19 days before the presidential call. As I communicated to the team, I told President Zelensky in advance that assurances to run a fully transparent investigation and turn over every stone were necessary and his call with President Trump,” Sondland said.

Sondland also dragged in the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, on this.

'On August 22, I emailed Secretary Pompeo directly copying Secretariat Kenna. I wrote, this is my email to Secretary Pompeo, 'Should we block time in Warsaw for a short pull aside for POTUS to meet Zelensky? I would ask Zelensky to look him in the eye and tell him that once Ukraine's new Justice folks are in place in mid-September, that Zelensky, he, Zelensky, should be able to move forward publicly and with confidence on those issues of importance to POTUS and the US... Hopefully, that will help break the logjam.' The secretary replied, 'yes.',” he said.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff accused Trump of obstructing impeachment hearings. “We can see why Secretary Pompeo and President Trump have made such a concerted and across the board effort to obstruct this investigation and this impeachment inquiry and I will just say this, they do so at their own peril,” he said during the hearing.

“I remind the President that article 3 of the impeachment articles drafted against President Nixon was his refusal to obey the subpoenas of Congress,” Schiff said. PTI LKJ SMNSMN