Sondland testifies Trump team sought announcement of Biden investigation, not its findings

David Knowles

Ambassador Gordon Sondland testified Wednesday that while officials in the Trump administration coordinated a months-long campaign to procure a public announcement from Ukrainian officials of an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden, they didn’t care whether Kyiv followed through with it.

“They would have to announce that they were going to do it,” Sondland said. "I never heard ... anyone say that the investigations had to start or be completed.”

Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, was testifying in the impeachment inquiry before the House Intelligence Committee, discussing the Trump administration’s conditions for a White House meeting for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the delivery of military aid that had been held back by the White House.

His testimony was sharply at odds with the Republican defense of President Trump: that he sought investigations of Biden and his son Hunter out of concern over corruption in Ukraine.

Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman asked Sondland if it was true that Trump “didn’t actually care if they [the Ukrainians] did them.”

"I never heard, Mr. Goldman, anyone say that the investigations had to start or be completed,” Sondland replied. “The only thing I heard, from Mr. Giuliani or otherwise, was they had to be announced in some form and that form kept changing."

“Announced publicly?” Goldman pressed.

“Announced publicly,” Sondland replied.

“And you of course recognized that there would be political benefits to a public announcement as opposed to a private confirmation, right?”

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“The way it was expressed to me was that the Ukrainians had a long history of committing to things privately and then never following through. So, President Trump, presumably, again communicated through Mr. Giuliani, wanted the Ukrainians on record publicly that we’re going to do these investigations. That’s the reason that was given to me.”

“But you never heard anyone say that they really wanted them to do the investigations.”

“I didn’t hear either way,” Sondland answered.

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