US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland dropped a bombshell during the House impeachment hearing on Wednesday, telling House Intelligence Committee members that he discussed President Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political rivals with Vice President Mike Pence.
Sondland told lawmakers he spoke with Pence on September 1, ahead of a meeting between the vice president and newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Poland.
“I mentioned to Vice President Pence before the meetings with the Ukrainians that I had concerns that the delay in [US military aid to Ukraine] had become tied to the issue of investigations,” Sondland said on Wednesday. “I recall mentioning that before the Zelensky meeting.”
Sondland testified that Pence did not respond to the comment.
“He heard what I said,” Sondland testified, adding, “I don’t recall any substantive response.”
“I don’t know exactly what I said to him,” Sondland later said during the hearing. “This was a briefing attended by many people and I was invited at the very last minute — I wasn’t scheduled to be there. But I think I spoke up at some point late in the meeting and said it looks like everything is being held up until these statements get made and that’s my, you know, personal belief.”
“And Vice President Pence just nodded his head?” Democratic counsel Dan Goldman asked.
“Again, I don’t recall any exchange or where he asked me any questions. I think he — it was sort of a duly noted,” Sondland said.
Pence’s bad morning continues.
His reaction to Ukraine aid being held up until Trump got his investigations? WATCH:
GOLDMAN: “He didn’t say, ’Gordon what are you talking about?’”
SONDLAND: “No. He did not.”
G: “He didn’t say, ’What investigations?'”
S: “He did not.” pic.twitter.com/WTgiepn52h
— DNC War Room (@DNCWarRoom) November 20, 2019
Amb. Sondland says he told Vice Pres. Pence ahead of Warsaw meeting with Zelenskiy, "It appears that everything is stalled until this statement gets made, words to that effect."
— ABC News (@ABC) November 20, 2019
According to the Washington Post:
The testimony is the first indication that Pence may have known that congressionally appropriated funds for security assistance was conditioned on a foreign power agreeing to open investigations to assist Trump’s political prospects. The Ukrainians were being pressured to announce probes into Burisma, a gas company that hired former vice president Joe Biden’s son, and a debunked assertion that their country interfered in the 2016 campaign, according to congressional testimony and text messages.
An aide to Pence responded to Sondland’s testimony with a strongly worded statement denying any involvement in the scheme.
“Ambassador Gordon Sondland was never alone with Vice President Pence on the September 1 trip to Poland,” the statement reads. “This alleged discussion recalled by Ambassador Sondland never happened.”
The statement goes on to argue that multiple witnesses testified that Pence did not have any discussions mentioning “Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden, Crowdstrike, Burisma, or investigations” with Zelensky or any Ukrainians “before, during, or after the September 1 meeting.”
Notable: The implication in the final paragraph is that there's something improper about the things Pence is denying. Trump did them all. https://t.co/N1f6F7BSem
— Stephen Hayes (@stephenfhayes) November 20, 2019
Sondland also told lawmakers that “everyone was in the loop” about Trump’s requests of Ukraine, as Vox’s Matthew Yglesias previously reported: