Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland relayed an exchange he had with Vice President Mike Pence when he alluded to the quid pro quo, and Pence nodded in response.
Sondland said that it happened at a “briefing” with multiple people in the room just before Pence left to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Warsaw on September 1. Sondland was addressing the withheld military aid that Zelensky would likely be upset about when Pence met with him.
“I just spoke up and I said, ‘it appears that everything is stalled until this statement gets made,’ something, words to that effect,” Sondland said, referring to the statement President Donald Trump wanted Zelensky to make announcing the bogus investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 election. “And that’s what I believed to be the case, based on, you know, the work that the three of us had been doing: Volker, Perry and myself. And the Vice President nodded like, you know, he heard what I said and that was pretty much it as I recall.”
Democrats’ staff attorney Daniel Goldman later picked up that line of questioning started by committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA). Sondland added that after Pence nodded, he didn’t ask any further questions or ask Sondland for an explanation about what he was alluding to.
Pence’s Chief of Staff Marc Short quickly shot a statement out, though none of it actually contradicted what Sondland claims happened:
“The Vice President never had a conversation with Gordon Sondland about investigating the Bidens, Burisma, or the conditional release of financial aid to Ukraine based upon potential investigations.
Ambassador Gordon Sondland was never alone with Vice President Pence on the September 1 trip to Poland. This alleged discussion recalled by Ambassador Sondland never happened.
Multiple witnesses have testified under oath that Vice President Pence never raised Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden, Crowdstrike, Burisma, or investigations in any conversation with Ukrainians or President Zelensky before, during, or after the September 1 meeting in Poland.”
Sondland never claimed that the two had a conversation or discussion, per se. He testified that he made a comment alluding to the aid being withheld in exchange for an announcement about the investigations, and that Pence nodded in response. He also never claimed that he was in the meeting alone with the Vice President or that Pence is the one who raised the issue.
Pence has long been a character in the Ukrainian pressure campaign story, but has defied a congressional subpoena and hewed close to Trump’s talking points in attempt to stay out of the line of fire.
Per CNN, Pence purposefully skipped town just as Sondland’s testimony was beginning. He’s headed for a ship tour in Wisconsin and an education event in Indiana, all part of an apparent plan to protect him from impeachment inquiry fallout.