Diplomat and Oregon businessman Gordon Sondland will voluntarily testify next week on Trump-Ukraine scandal
Oct. 03, 2019
This story is breaking and will be updated.
Gordon Sondland , the Portland hotelier turned senior diplomat for President Donald Trump, will testify Oct. 8 before Congress as part of the Trump impeachment inquiry , a source close to Sondland confirmed Thursday. Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, will be the first current federal employee to testify.
Sondland reportedly has not been subpoenaed and will appear before Congress voluntarily.
A whistleblower’s report raised concerns about Trump’s dealings with Ukrainian leaders. The report revealed that Sondland has made at least two trips to Ukraine, the country Trump asked to investigate his political rival former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s son, Hunter. Trump’s request has set off an explosive political dispute in Washington D.C., where Democrats in the House of Representatives have launched a formal impeachment inquiry.
Democrats argue that Trump asked a foreign power to interfere in the U.S. presidential election and in turn, withheld hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military assistance to assure cooperation. Trump denies it. His personal attorney Rudy Giuliani has made repeated trips to Ukraine, as have Sondland and Kurt Volker , the administration’s special envoy to Ukraine. Volker, who suddenly resigned his post last week, testified on Thursday before the three House committees overseeing the impeachment process.
It’s unclear what Volker said in the closed-door sessions. It’s also unclear what Sondland will tell the House committees. Unlike Volker, he has not resigned and has recently defended the president. ABC News reported Thursday about a group text messages exchanged among Trump’s diplomatic personnel. At least one of the diplomats voiced concern about the appearance of a quid pro quo between Trump and Ukrainian leaders.
“I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” wrote State Department official Bill Taylor, according to the ABC report.
Sondland then allegedly replied: “Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear: no quid pro quo 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.”
ABC reports that Sondland then suggests that the diplomats stop having the conversation in writing. “I suggest we stop the back and forth by text,” he wrote.
The whistleblower’s report mentions Sondland by name and claims he met twice with Ukrainian officials along with Volker, to help them “understand and respond to the differing messages they were receiving from official U.S. channels on the one hand and from Mr. Giuliani on the other.” That’s despite the fact that Ukraine is not a part of the EU.
The report also mentioned that Volker and Sondland advised Ukrainian officials “how to ‘navigate’ demands that the President had made of Mr. Zelenskyy.”
After Trump’s surprise victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016, companies controlled by Sondland contributed $1 milllion to the new president’s inauguration. Trump then appointed Sondland ambassador to the European Union. His primary job there is to look after the U.S.'s trade with the European Union.