In a dramatic addition in his previous testimony, Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, now says he told Ukrainians they should announce anti-corruption investigations if they wanted to get congressionally-authorized U.S. military aid.
When the push for the statement was being made, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani was trying to persuade the Ukrainians to say they would probe a company whose board included former Vice President Joe Biden’s son. Sondland, who previously said the aid came without strings attached, said that after reading testimony from other impeachment investigation witnesses he freshly recalled details from a conversation with Andriy Yermak, an aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which strings were discussed.
“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,” he said.
The discussions Sondland referenced included pressure from Rudy Giuliani that any statement from the Ukrainians mention Burisma, the company linked to Biden.
The updated testimony represents a major moment in the impeachment proceedings, as the president and his allies have denied anything resembling a quid-pro-quo. And when he testified to Congress last month, Sondland indicated that he never had reason to believe the Ukrainians needed to meet any preconditions to receive the military support.
“And you had never thought there was a precondition to the aid. Is that correct?” asked a Republican staffer who questioned him, according to a newly released transcript of the testimony.
“Never, no,” Sondland replied at the time. “I mean, I was dismayed when it was held up, but I didn’t know why.”
“So to the extent there were any preconditions to anything, it was perhaps with the White House meeting, but not the aid?” the staffer asked.
“I wasn’t aware of it or I wasn’t––I don’t recall being aware of it,” Sondland replied.
In the update to his testimony, however, Sondland said he wasn’t aware of “any credible explanation” for the hold-up, and thus assumed “that the aid suspension had become linked to the proposed anti-corruption statement.”
On November 1, The Daily Beast went to Sondland’s lawyer Robert Luskin at the law firm Paul Hastings with reporting that his client had made substantive and material changes to his testimony and sent a letter addressing those changes to the committee. In a request for comment about whether that sourcing was accurate, Lusking said: “That is not accurate,” saying that House rules do not allow for substantive and material changes to testimonies.
After the revised testimony was released on Tuesday, The Daily Beast asked Luskin why he had said Sondland did not submit a “letter,” He replied: “I said he had not.” When asked for clarification, Luskin did not reply. Paul Hastings submitted the changes to the committees and Sondland signed a “declaration” not a letter.
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