Who is Gordon Sondland and Why is He Important to Trump Impeachment Inquiry?


Image via DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images

The impeachment hearings continue tomorrow with one of the central figures in this Ukraine scandal, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, so here is a brief overview on his relevance to the investigation.

Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union and former hotelier/Republican mega-donor, got public attention following the release of the whistleblower complaint, followed by the text messages he exchanged with Kurt Volker and Bill Taylor, including the following:

TAYLOR: As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.

SONDLAND: Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind. The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign I suggest we stop the back and forth by text If you still have concerns I recommend you give Lisa Kenna or S a call to discuss them directly. Thanks.

Witnesses have testified to Sondland’s involvement in the Ukraine pressure campaign, and then last week Taylor testified he was made aware of a call between Sondland and the president overheard by one of his aides.

That aide, David Holmes (also testifying this week), said that he was present when Sondland was on the phone with POTUS and heard them discussing Ukraine:

I heard Ambassador Sondland greet the President and explain that he was calling from Kyiv. I heard President Trump then clarify that Ambassador Sondland was in Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland replied, yes, he was in Ukraine, and went on to state that President Zelenskyy “loves your ass.” I then heard President Trump ask, “So, he’s gonna do the investigation?” Ambassador Sondland replied that “he’s gonna do it,” adding that President Zelenskyy will do “anything you ask him to.” Even though I did not take notes of these statements, I have a clear recollection that these statements were made. I believe that my colleagues who were sitting at the table also knew that Ambassador Sondland was speaking with the President.

After the call, Holmes testified that he directly asked Sondland if Trump “gives a shit” about Ukraine. He said Sondland responded that Trump did not and only cared about “big stuff” like things that benefits him.

The White House had blocked Sondland from testifying, but the House Democrats later subpoenaed him and he testified behind closed doors. That testimony was later amended with the following:

“This brief pull-aside conversation followed the larger meeting involving Vice President Pence and President Zelensky, in which President Zelensky had raised the issue of the suspension of U.S. aid to Ukraine directly with Vice President Pence. After that larger meeting, I now recall speaking individually with Mr. Yermak, where I said that resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks. I also recall some question as to whether the public statement could come from the newly appointed Ukrainian Prosecutor General, rather than from President Zelensky directly.”

There’s a lot of anticipation for what Sondland will say publicly tomorrow. Sondland is one of multiple witnesses testifying Wednesday, along with Laura Cooper and David Hale.

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