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Trump impeachment inquiry: Sondland revises testimony and admits Ukraine quid pro quo – live – The Guardian, Theguardian.com

Trump impeachment inquiry: Sondland revises testimony and admits Ukraine quid pro quo – live – The Guardian, Theguardian.com


White House hits back over latest impeachment revelations

Where most readers see a quid pro quo admitted to, belatedly, by Gordon Sondland, theWhite Housesees a nothing burger.

Yamiche Alcindor(@ Yamiche)

NEW White House statement on impeachment inquiry:

“Both transcripts released today show there is even less evidence for this illegitimate impeachment sham than previously thought.”pic.twitter.com/GYsv3M1OT7

November 5, 2019

Extract from the appendix to his testimony shows Gordon Sondland “now recalling” a conversation in which he admits the quid pro quo

Here is a section from the declaration submitted to the impeachment inquiry by Gordon Sondland, in which adds to the testimony that he originally gave in his hearing on Capitol Hill last month.

It’s accompanied by a letter from Robert Luskin, a lawyer at the huge firm Paul Hastings LLP, which says that, according to House rules, the declaration should be included as an appendix to the sworn testimony given by Sondland to the committees leading the inquiry when he testified on October 17.

Screen grab of a part of Gordon Sondland’s declaration, submitted in addition to his earlier sworn testimony
Screen grab of a part of Gordon Sondland’s declaration, submitted in addition to his earlier sworn testimony Photograph: Impeachment inquiry

McConnell predicts Trump would be acquitted in impeachment trial

Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell appears to have bulldozed directly through protocol by forecasting, before the articles of impeachment have even been drafted in the House and Trump put on trial in the Senate, that the president will be acquitted.

Sahil Kapur(@ sahilkapur)

“If it were today, I don’t think there’s any question – it would not lead to a removal,”@ SenateMajLdrMcConnell says of a potential impeachment trial in the Senate.

November 5, 2019

“I’m pretty sure I know how it’s going to end. ”

John Bresnahan(@ BresPolitico)

/ 2 McConnell: “I’m pretty sure I know how it’s going to end.” Says Trump will be acquitted by Senate like Clinton & Andrew Johnson

November 5, 2019

McConnell

Trump and Mitch McConnell at the president’s rally in Kentucky last night
Trump and Mitch McConnell at the president’s rally in Kentucky last night Photograph: Yuri Gripas / Reuters

“There were demands, weren’t there?”

Sondland was asked, with respect to the “demands” made byDonald Trumpand Rudy Giuliani to investigate the 2016 election and Burisma, if “those conditions would have to be complied with prior to getting a meeting.”

Q: There were demands, weren’t there, that an investigation take place of 2016 or Burisma? Ultimately those were demands, were they not?

A: Ultimately, yes.

Q: And it’s fair to say that you had to navigate those demands, you had to accommodate what the President and his lawyer wanted, if you were going to set up this meeting you thought very important?

A: I think that’s fair.

Andhere’s that linkto the extra four pages mentioned at the start of this story today, at the end of many pagers of printed testimony.

Updated

How Sondland got in deeper and deeper

In this part of the transcript of Gordon Sondland’s testimony in Washington last month, the release summarizes how Rudy Giuliani’s demands “kept getting more insidious” as Ambassador Sondland “became aware that there might be a link between the White House visit and aid to theUkrainethat was being held up. ”

This all revolves around the allegations that Donald Trump’s cipher / conduit / rogue lip, Giuliani was on a mission ultimately to persuade Ukraine that it must conspicuously agree to investigate 1. (bogus) theories that it was actually Ukraine that tried to tilt the 2016 election for Hillary Clinton, and then framed Russia, and 2. the business activities of Hunter Biden, the son of Trump rival and Democratic 2020 cand idate Joe Biden, in his directorship of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company. In the process, $ 400 million in military aid, already approved by the US Congress for Ukraine, was being held up by theTrump administration, and a coveting meeting at the White House for president Volodymyr Zelenskiy was being dangled.

Q **** from investigating committee: When did you first get an inkling of what Mr. Giuliani was interested in?

A. from Sondland: You know, this whole thing was sort of a continuum, starting at the May 23 rd meeting, ending up at the end of the line when the transcript of the call came out. And as I said to counsel, it started as talk to Rudy, then others talk to Rudy. Corruption was mentioned.

Then, as time went on — and, again, I can’t nail down the dates — then let’s get the Ukrainians to give a statement about corruption.

And then, no, corruption isn’t enough, we need to talk about the 2016 election and theBurismainvestigations. And it was always described to me as ongoing investigations that had been stopped by the previous administration and they wanted them started up again. That’s how it was always described.

And then finally at some point I made theBiden-Burismaconnection, and then the transcript was released. So I can’t tell you on that continuum when, what dates, but that’s kind of what happened. ”

Sondland spoke to Pompeo about Giuliani

Excerpt from Gordon Sondland’s testimony, where he is giving answers to questions from an unnamed figure on the House committees leading the Trump-Ukraine impeachment inquiry. Here, Sondland says he discussed the seemingly nefarious back-channel diplomacy being led byRudy Giulianiwith secretary of stateMike Pompeo.

State Department officials were “fully aware of the issues” with Giuliani, but “there was very little they could do about it if the President decided he wanted his lawyer involved.”

Q: Did you ever discuss Rudy Giuliani with Secretary Pompeo?

A: Only in general terms.

Q: And what did you discuss?

A: That he’s involved in affairs. And Pompeo rolled his eyes and said: Yes, it’s something we have to deal with.

Q: What about his counselor,Ulrich Brechbuhl? You said you had lots of conversations with Mr. Brechbuhl?

A: On and off, yes.

Q: Did you discuss the linkage between the security assistance, the White House meeting, and the investigations with him?

A: I don’t believe I did, but I don’t recall.

Q: What about Rudy Giuliani, did you discuss Giuliani with Brechbuhl?

A: I may have. Again, people usually smiled when they heard Rudy’s name because he was always swirling around somewhere.

Q: Yeah, but, I mean, he was causing serious issues in the U.S. relationship withUkraine. Did you raise those concerns with –

A: Listen, the State Department was fully aware of the issues, and there was very little they could do about it if the President decided he wanted his lawyer involved.

Q: And does that include Secretary Pompeo and his counselor, Ulrich Brechbuhl?

A: My speculation is yes, that they hit a brick wall when it came to getting rid of Mr. Giuliani.

Rudy Giuliani has coffee with Russian born businessman Parnas at Trump Hotel in Washington, 2019. Parnas has since been charged in New York with crimes related to campaign finance violations, and has also said he will cooperate with the impeachment inquiry
Rudy Giuliani has coffee with Russian born businessman Parnas at Trump Hotel in Washington, 2019.
Parnas has since been charged in New York with crimes related to campaign finance violations, and has also said he will cooperate with the impeachment inquiry Photograph Photograph: Reuters Staff / Reuters

Here’s howGordon Sondlandfirst got sucked into the Trump-Ukraine swamp (just a reminder that he’s ambassador to the European Union and Ukraine is not in the EU , so he was way out of his playground from the off.

During an Oval Office meeting on May 23, 2019, withGordon Sondland, Kurt Volker, and energy secretary Rick Perry(aka the “three amigos”- explanation in a moment, for those who didn’t see the original reference to this colorful description),Donald Trump, according to Sondland’s testimony “just kept saying: Talk to Rudy, talk to Rudy.”

That’s the president’s personal lawyer,Rudy Giuliani, not officially a member of the Trump administration, let alone the foreign service personnel.

Excerpt from testimony just released:

Q:When President Trump told you to — you and the others, I understand, everyone at that meeting, and we’ll get to that meeting in more detail — but when he told you to discuss with Rudy Giuliani concerns aboutUkraine, did you know at that point what he was referring to?

A:He didn’t even — he wasn’t even specific about what he wanted us to talk to Giuliani about. He just kept saying: Talk to Rudy, talk to Rudy.

Q:Right , I understand that, and I understand he wasn’t specific. But when he said that, did you know what he was talking about?

A:I didn’t, other than he said: Ukraine is a problem.

Updated

Sondland admits quid pro quo with Ukraine testimony

The explosive revelations in the extra four pages of testimony from Gordon Sondland are detailed inthis storyfrom the New York Times.

Crucially, Sondland said that “resumption of the US aid would likely not occur untilUkraineprovided the public anticorruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks ”.

The Times writes of these new facts thus:

A critical witness in the impeachment inquiry offered Congress substantial new testimony this week,revealing that he told a top Ukrainian official that the country likely would not receive American military aid unless it publicly committed to (President

The disclosure from Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, in four new pages of sworn testimony released on Tuesday , confirmed his involvement in essentially laying out a quid pro quo to Ukraine that he had previously not acknowledged.

[…] In his updated testimony, Mr. Sondland recounted how he had discussed the linkage with Andriy Yermak, a top adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, on the sidelines of a Sept. 1 meeting between Vice President Mike Pence and Mr. Zelensky in Warsaw. Mr. Zelensky had discussed the suspension of aid with Mr. Zelensky Pence, Mr. Sondland said: “I said that resumption of the U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anticorruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks, ”Mr. Sondland said in the document, which was released by the House committees leading the inquiry, along with the transcript of his original testimony from last month.

Updated (at 2.) PM EST

Sondland and Volker testimony released

The four new pages of testimony from Sondland referenced in the last post are from an addendum to what’s just been released – the link has crashed it’s so popular, so we’ll bring you that asap!

Meanwhile, the main documents of the testimony ofGordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, andKurt Volker, former US envoy to Ukraine, have both been released.
Sondlandhere. Volkerhere.

Testimony from European Union ambassadorGordon Sondlandto the impeachment inquiry reveals that he told a top Ukrainian official that they wouldn’t get vital US military aid unless the country publicly committed to investigations thatDonald Trumphad been demanding from Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, into the president’s domestic political rival, Joe Biden.

Four new pages of sworn testimony released moments ago, from Sondland’s closed-door testimony last month, confirm he was involved in the quid pro quo between the US andUkrainethat is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry, and which Sondland hasn’t admitted to before.

Updated

Testimony from Sondland and Volker damaging for Trump

Some details of the testimony from EU ambassador Gordon Sondland and formerUkraineenjoy Kurt Volker to the impeachment inquiry last month are dribbling out, via CNN journalists so far.

There is a clear indication that they detailed a parallel foreign policy being carried out in Ukraine via Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Sondland indicated that secretary of state Mike Pompeo was told about it. Volker spoke of Giuliani as a conduit to Trump.

Typically, that would be official US diplomats, it almost goes without saying.

Nothing about this is normal!

Shimon Prokupecz(@ ShimonPro)

Volker says Giuliani was a problem. Was hurting relations.pic.twitter.com/o7SsujHGxz

November 5, 2019

Updated

First trickle

The latest transcripts from the closed-door testimony in the impeachment inquiry are making their way rather painfully and fitfully into the public domain today. They’re kind of out, apparently, but most reporters don’t have them yet.

Here’s a tiny snippet from CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz, about back door diplomacy.

Shimon Prokupecz(@ ShimonPro)

Excerpt from Volker’s testimony !!!

So official channels wouldn’t work, they decided on a back door. Here’s the counter intelligence concern. They knew their info would get to Trump.

Ukrainian’s “asked to be connected” to Mr. Giuliani as a direct conduit to President Trump.pic.twitter.com/8WSCp9XlGZ

November 5, 2019

More to come, hang in there.

******

What about the “blue wave” in Virginia?

Virginiansgo to the polls today to choose their state legislature. Despite a surge of Democratic success in the 2017 statewide elections, the Republicans hung on by a whisker to their traditionally-solid majority in the general assembly in Richmond.

Will itfliptoday? The so-called blue wave, which also elected a record number ofwomento the general assembly, was (echoed) ************ (in the) 2018 national mid-term elections.

Key Republican districts flipped, notably giving the US Congress Virginia freshman DemocratsJennifer Wexton, who ousted moderate (ish) RepublicanBarbara Comstockon the outskirts of DC, andAbigail Spanberger, who beat glowing red RepublicanDave Bratin a district closer to Richmond (with his infamously sexist remarks on the campaign trail).

There is a lot of interest to see if, this time also, what happens in Richmond in the election today is a forbearer of how Virginia will vote in 2020.

Since this time last year, Trump has been castigated in the Mueller report and engulfed by the impeachment inquiry centering on his conduct in relation toUkraine.

And Virginia’s Democratic governorRalph Northamnarrowlysurvived ascandalover black-face photographs from the past , while his deputy,Justin Fairfax, was at the center of sexual assault allegations.

Local media aretalking aboutthe key districts voting today.

Voters waiting to cast their ballots to vote in state and local elections at Robious Elementary School in Midlothian, a suburb of Richmond, Virginia, today.
Voters waiting to cast their ballots to vote in state and local elections at Robious Elementary School in Midlothian, a suburb of Richmond, Virginia, today. Photograph: STRINGER / Reuters

Mick Mulvaney to be called as witness

He won’t turn up willingly, of course, but the impeachment inquiry investigators want to depose him to testify on Capitol Hill.

Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff to Donald Trump, will no doubt hove to thegag orderimposed by the White House that pledges non-cooperation with the inquiry.

Aaron Blake(@ AaronBlake)

House impeachment inquiry now calling Mick Mulvaney for a deposition.

(Not without a fight, of course.)

(November 5, 2019

Last month Mulvaneysuggestedthat there was aquid pro quoin relations with Ukraine in a rare, official White House press briefing, no less. He embarrassingly tried to walk back that statement later in the day. It was another unforced error from the Trump administration in theimpeachment inquiry.

At the time he said the Trump administration’s decision to withhold millions of dollars in military aid toUkrainewas part of efforts to clean up corruption in the country. He was apparently referring, at least in part, to unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about a purported Ukrainian link to Russia’s hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) during the 2016 presidential election.

“The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about in corruption with that nation, ”Mulvaney told reporters in the White House briefing room.

“Did he also mention to me in the past the corruption that related to the DNC server? Absolutely, no question about that, ”Mulvaney continued. “But that’s it. That’s why we held up the money. ”

Asked about mixing politics with foreign policy, Mulvaney replied: “We do that all the time with foreign policy… I have news for everybody. Get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy. Elections have consequences. ”

Mulvaney’s statement contradicted Trump’s repeated denials that his administration had made military aid to Ukrainecontingent uponKyiv’s willingness to open an investigation into the debunked DNC theory and the dealings of Hunter Biden, the son of Trump’s2020Democratic election rival(Joe Biden), inUkraine.

Mick Mulvaney
Mick Mulvaney Photograph: Leah Millis / Reuters

Mulvaney’s been asked to appear on Capitol Hill on Saturday. Don’t hold your breath.

Zachary Cohen(@ ZcohenCNN)

Inbox: House committees have sent a letter asking Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney to appear at a deposition on November 9, as part of the impeachment inquiry .

November 5, 2019

Updated

Stone supporter holds up jury selection

Roger Stonetrial was delayed briefly today by this chap.

David Smith(@ SmithInAmerica)

At US District Court for DC. Roger Stone trial was delayed when this supporter, Anthony Haydenn, fell ill and ambulance was called. Haydenn, 54, from New York, said: “I suddenly got a confused, unstable, blackout feeling. I didn’t mean to embarrass him. He’s a good guy. ”pic.twitter.com/4kNgQa2jCO

November 5, 2019

Jury selection had been slow to get underway anyway. Hoping for opening arguments to begin asap tomorrow – we’ll keep you posted and let you know when the jury has been picked so that this federal trial can get underway.

This associate of Donald Trump is accused of lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction of justice, chiefly relating to the release to the public on Wikileaks of emails from Hillary Clinton’s election campaign, hacked by Russian operatives in 2016.

Harris on the ballot in New Hampshire – officially

Democratic (candidate)Kamala Harrisis struggling to keep up in the election race, as her outgoing funds exceed the cash coming in from fundraising efforts and her poll numbers stay stubbornly paltry.

She’s made the Democratic debate inAtlanta, Georgia, this month (Nov 20) and has qualified for the December debate.

I. T’s 90 days to theIowacaucuses, the first voting in the decision process to decide the Democratic party nominee for president, and the former California attorney general and now Senator Harris is focussing her efforts there.

But in the “Live free or die” granite state,New Hampshire, she is now also formally on the ballot. The NH primary is on February 11, 2020.

Amanda Golden(@ amandawgolden)

NEW:@ KamalaHarris‘New Hampshire state director Craig Brown just filed on her behalf at the state house in Concord, NH to have Harris be officially on the ballot for the New Hampshire primary in February, a campaign aide confirms to NBC News.https: // t .co / ECnHdH8YkK

(November 5,)

The impeachment inquiry, which is likely to move to the congressional trial phase in the US Senate early next year, will take 2020 candidates and senators Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar and Harris off the campaign trail, but it will also give them a potentially useful platform to show off their chops in the questioning process – on TV.

Harris on the campaign trail.

Elizabeth Warren is not the only candidate into selfies. Harris and a fan in Iowa at the weekend
Elizabeth Warren is not the only candidate into selfies. Harris and a fan in Iowa at the weekend Photograph: Scott Olson / Getty Images

No-shows in impeachment inquiry

As we wait for the expected release, hopefully very soon, of transcripts from the testimony behind closed doors last month ofGordon Sondland, EU ambassador, andKurt Volker, former envoy to Ukraine, it’s pretty certain that the two new witnesses expected on Capitol Hill today will not show up. This time yesterday, the first two transcripts to be made public were out, with anextraordinary accountof the smear and ambush of since-oustedUkraineambassadorMarie Yovanovitch.

In Yovanovitch’s transcript we see her describing her “shock” at discovering thatRudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal emissary who has also worked for Ukrainian and Russian interests, was attempting to destroy her reputation.

Meanwhile, today,Wells Griffith, the US national security council’s international energy and environment director didn’t show this morning andMichael Duffey, associate director for national security programs in the office of management and budget, had never been expected to show up for his 2PM appointment with the House intelligence committee, so if he turns up out of the blue that would be a huge surprise.

Here is a handy recent piece on some of the main players in the impeachment inquiry.

Updated

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