U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland told lawmakers last week that efforts by President Donald Trump to press Ukraine to probe his political rivals amounted to a quid pro quo, his lawyer revealed.
Sondland asserted to investigators in the House of Representatives his belief that an agreement from Ukraine to probe Burisma Group, a gas company where former Vice President Joe Biden's son once sat on the board, and alleged interference in the 2016 election was a condition for a sought-after White House meeting between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The ambassador told lawmakers that although he was not a lawyer, he believed the arrangement represented a quid pro quo, his attorney told the newspaper.
Sondland claimed that Trump told him "there's no quid pro quo — but Zelensky's got to get out there and do the right thing," his lawyer, Robert Luskin, revealed.
Trump has repeatedly denied the existence of a quid pro quo in relations to efforts to solicit Ukraine to open such investigations.
Sondland testified as part of an impeachment inquiry, which is examining efforts by Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to push Ukraine to launch investigations related to the Biden family and the 2016 election cycle.
Democrats believe that Trump abused the power of his office to press a foreign leader to interfere in the 2020 presidential election. Trump, who has defended his dealings with Ukraine, decried the investigation as a "hoax."
Sondland's testimony has come under fresh scrutiny since the bombshell testimony earlier this week of Bill Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Taylor's testimony focused in part on a separate issue, in which he told investigators that Trump had ordered nearly $400 million in military aid for Ukraine to be withheld unless Zelensky opened the investigations. Taylor did not use the term "quid pro quo" but reportedly said he understood the aid to be "conditioned" on the investigations requested by Trump.
Sondland, a wealthy hotelier turned diplomat who was appointed by the president, testified that he was unaware of a link between the withholding of military aid and Zelensky launching the investigations, his lawyer told the Wall Street Journal.
Taylor's account of what happened in Ukraine raised questions about Sondland's earlier testimony, leading some lawmakers have called for Sondland to return for more questions. Sondland's lawyer, Robert Luskin, told the newspaper that his client would likely return for further questioning if asked.