Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland confirmed publicly on Wednesday that Ukraine announcing investigations advantageous to President Trump’s political interests was more important than the investigations themselves.
Sondland made the confirmation while being questioned by House Intel Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) during his testimony in the impeachment inquiry.
“But he had to get these two investigations if that official act was going to take place, correct?” Schiff asked, referencing probes into the 2016 election and Burisma, a gas company that former Vice President Joe Biden’s formerly sat on. The “official act” referenced a working meeting between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“He had to announce the investigations, he didn’t actually have to do them, as I understood it,” Sondland said.
Sondland confirms a public announcement of probes was more important than actually conducting them pic.twitter.com/TeO69bWwMh
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) November 20, 2019
Later while being questioned by Democratic lawyer Daniel Goldman, Sondland added that there was some additional benefit to pressuring to the Ukrainians to publicly announce the probes.
“I never heard, Mr. Goldman, anyone say that the investigations had to start or be completed. The only thing I heard from Mr. Giuliani or otherwise was that they had to be announced in some form. And that form kept changing,” Sondland said, before confirming that the “form” did, in fact, have to be public.
“And you of course recognized that there would be political benefits to a public announcement, as opposed to a private confirmation, right?” Goldman asked.
“Well, the way it was expressed to me was that the Ukrainians had a long history of committing to things privately and then never following through,” he said. “So President Trump, presumably, again communicated through Mr. Giuliani, wanted the Ukrainians on record publicly that they were going to do these investigations. That’s the reason that was given to me.”
Sondland previously testified in private that the public announcement was non-negotiable. This public confirmation from Sondland not only solidifies the political motive for Trump’s push for the probes into the 2016 election and the Bidens, but it also undermines the White House talking point that Trump pushed for the probes in order to dismantle corruption in Ukraine.