Defense official testifies on aid to Ukraine
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Latest on President Donald Trump and the House impeachment inquiry (all times local):
Defense Department official Laura Cooper says she became aware in July that a hold was being placed on military aid to Ukraine and it had been directed by President Donald Trump.
Cooper is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia and Ukraine. She is testifying Wednesday before a House committee in the impeachment inquiry into Trump.
Cooper says she never spoke to the president about the hold, but she heard the hold was placed because of his concerns over corruption in Ukraine.
She says the funds were critical to supporting Ukraine. She says she was under the impression that the money was legally required to be obligated by Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year, and she fought to get it done.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has gaveled in the second session of Wednesday’s impeachment hearings, featuring testimony on President Donald Trump’s moves to hold up military aid to Ukraine and his decision to fire Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
Under Secretary of State David Hale and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper are likely to testify into the evening.
In earlier closed-door testimony, Cooper said she advised other administration officials that Trump held up the aid through instructions to the White House Budget office and said she raised concerns to other government officials about the legality of holding up the aid to Ukraine.
Hale promises to provide details about the ouster of Yovanovitch, who was ousted after a smear campaign by Rudy Guiliani, Trump’s personal lawyer.
President Donald Trump says Republicans scored a victory in Wednesday’s congressional hearing, and he is declaring the impeachment inquiry “over.”
During a visit to an Apple assembly plant in Texas, Trump highlighted the testimony of Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the European Union, who testified that the president wanted “nothing” from Ukraine.
Trump says, “Not only did we win today, it’s over.”
But Sondland also declared that Trump and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, explicitly sought a “quid pro quo” with Ukraine, leveraging a White House meeting for political investigations of Democrats. Sondland testified it was his “understanding” the president was holding up nearly $400 million in military aid in exchange for the country’s announcement of the investigations.
Ambassador Gordon Sondland has finished with almost six hours of testimony in a hearing that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff is calling “a seminal moment in our investigation.”
Sondland, President Donald Trump’s European Union ambassador, told lawmakers that he worked with Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine policy at Trump’s direction and that “everyone was in the loop” as Giuliani and Trump pressured Ukraine for investigations.
Schiff said Sondand’s testimony was “deeply significant and troubling.”
Republicans pushed back. California Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House intelligence panel, said there was “zero evidence” from Sondland’s testimony.
A State Department spokeswoman has called “flat-out false” any suggestion that Ambassador Gordon Sondland told Secretary of State Pompeo that President Donald Trump was linking aid to Ukraine to politically motivated investigations.
Spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters that Sondland “never told Secretary Pompeo that he believed the president was linking aid to investigations of political opponents.”
Ortagus made the remarks to reporters accompanying Pompeo on his plane back to Washington from Brussels.
Sondland testified that he kept top members of the Trump administration, including Pompeo, in the loop about Trump’s pressure on Ukraine for investigations.
Republican Rep. Jim Jordan is disputing a claim by Ambassador Gordan Sondland that he added “two plus two” to conclude that the Trump administration was holding up a planned White House meeting with Ukraine’s new president for a political investigation of Democrats.
Sondland testified Wednesday that there was a “quid pro quo” with regard to the White House meeting and nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine.
But Jordan, one of President Donald Trump’s top defenders, said a meeting between Trump and Ukraine’s president eventually happened, the military was delivered, and no investigation was announced.
Jordan told Sondland, “It’s not two plus two. It’s 0 for three.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has dismissed testimony in the impeachment inquiry that he was kept informed of an effort to pressure the government of Ukraine for investigations.
Pompeo, meeting with NATO officials in Brussels, says he did not watch the testimony by U.S. European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland.
But the secretary says he is proud of the administration’s work in Ukraine and fully supports it.
He said the Trump administration had strengthened relations with Ukraine and provided it with lethal military equipment to help defend it from Russian aggression.
Pompeo says he won’t recuse himself from the process of producing State Department documents to the House impeachment committee, which has complained none have been released.
The comments came after Sondland testified before the committee that Pompeo was aware of the push to open investigations that Trump wanted into a Ukraine gas company, Burisma, and the 2016 elections.
The Energy Department is denying that Energy Secretary Rick Perry knew that President Donald Trump had been pushing for a political investigation in Ukraine.
Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes issued the denial Wednesday in response to U.S. Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s testimony before the House impeachment panel.
Sondland tells impeachment investigators that Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani had let Perry know that Trump wanted Ukraine to publicly promise to investigate a natural gas company that had employed the son of presidential rival Joe Biden.
The Energy Department says Perry never heard any such mention from anyone before the Trump’s conversation with the Ukrainian president became public. Hynes says Perry talked to Giuliani only once at Trump’s request.
Perry so far has declined to appear before the committee to testify.
President Donald Trump’s ambassador to the European Union is disputing other witnesses in the impeachment investigation who have recounted frustration and an abrupt ending to a July meeting between U.S. and Ukrainian officials at the White House.
Diplomat Gordon Sondland tells a House committee that he was “shocked” by testimony from former White House aide Fiona Hill.
Hill said then-national security adviser John Bolton told her he didn’t want to be a part of any “drug deal” that Sondland and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney were cooking up.
Witnesses have said Sondland brought up investigations sought by Trump in the July meeting. Several witnesses at that meeting have testified that Bolton abruptly ended it as soon as Sondland raised the issue of investigations.
Sondland says he doesn’t recall an abrupt ending and he says that would have been “memorable.”
President Donald Trump’s ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, insists he didn’t realize that pushing Ukraine to investigate the gas company Burisma could also mean looking into Trump’s political rival Joe Biden and Biden’s son Hunter.
Hunter Biden was on Burisma’s board.
And Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has suggested that former Vice President Joe Biden helped shut down an investigation of Burisma to help Hunter Biden. But there’s no evidence either Biden committed any wrongdoing.
Sondland is testifying to the House Intelligence Committee as part of its impeachment investigation.
The committee chairman, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, asked Sondland this question: “You never put Burisma together with the Bidens?”
Sondland’s answer: “I didn’t.”
Sondland tells the committee that he wasn’t paying attention to what Giuliani “was saying on TV. We were talking to him directly.”
President Donald Trump is insisting Wednesday that he wanted “nothing” from Ukraine and declared that impeachment hearings should be brought to an end.
The president read from handwritten notes when speaking to reporters on the White House lawn nearly an hour later than his scheduled departure for Texas.
Trump addressed the ongoing testimony from Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the European Union, who linked the president to a decision to withhold military aid from Ukraine in exchange for an investigation into a political rival.
But he only highlighted specific, helpful parts from Sondland’s remarks, saying “it is the final word” that he did not demand a quid pro quo.
Trump, who claimed that means “it’s all over” for the impeachment proceedings, did not take questions from reporters.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff says testimony by former Ambassador Gordon Sondland “goes right to the heart of the issue of bribery as well as other potential high crimes and misdemeanors” by President Donald Trump.
Sondland testified during the House impeachment inquiry Wednesday that he worked with Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, on Ukraine at Trump’s “express direction” and pushed a “quid pro quo” with Kyiv because it was what Trump wanted.
Schiff called Sondland’s testimony “a very important moment in the history of this investigation” and said it showed “for the first time that knowledge of this scheme was pervasive.”
Schiff said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other officials were aware of the plan to “to condition official acts … on political favors the president wanted for his reelection.”
Schiff added: “And of course at the very top Donald Trump through his personal lawyer was implementing it.”
A top aide to Vice President Mike Pence says a conversation with EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland about a link between military aid to Ukraine and investigations “never happened.”
Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, says Pence never spoke with Sondland “about investigating the Bidens, Burisma, or the conditional release of financial aid to Ukraine based upon potential investigations.”
He adds that Sondland was “never alone” with Pence during the Sept. 1 trip to Poland. Short says: “This alleged discussion recalled by Ambassador Sondland never happened.”
Sondland testified Wednesday morning in the impeachment inquiry that he told Pence before the Sept. 1 meetings with Ukrainian officials “that I had concerns that the delay in aid had become tied to the issue of investigations.”
Ambassador Gordon Sondland says he never heard President Donald Trump say that military aid to Ukraine was conditioned on a public announcement by the Ukrainian president that the country was investigating Democrats.
Sondland tells a House committee in the impeachment inquiry into Trump that it was clear that a meeting in the White House was conditioned on investigations.
He also said Trump never told him a White House meeting with the Ukrainian president would not happen without a public announcement. He heard that from Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Sondland said it was a personal guess that the military aid was being held up until an announcement, one that others eventually also made.
Trump says he did nothing wrong and has called the inquiry a “kangaroo court.”
Gordon Sondland is questioning details of a July cellphone call with President Donald Trump as recounted by a diplomat who overheard the call from a Kyiv restaurant.
David Holmes said he heard the two men discussing investigations Trump was seeking as Sondland held the phone out. Sondland said it “seems a little strange” that he would hold the phone that way.
Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the EU, is testifying Wednesday in the House impeachment inquiry. Holmes testified earlier behind closed-doors.
Sondland said he doesn’t think he would have told Holmes that Trump only cares about “the big stuff,” as Holmes recounted.
Holmes also said Sondland told Trump the Ukrainian president “loves your ass” – which Sondland said “sounds like something I would say.”
Sondland said that’s how he communicated with Trump: “a lot of four-letter words. In this case three letters.”
Gordon Sondland says the Trump administration’s anticorruption efforts in Ukraine started off as “vanilla” but that more demands and conditions were later added.
He says as more conditions were added by Trump officials, it became harder to schedule a White House visit for Ukraine’s new president.
Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, is testifying Wednesday before House impeachment investigators
He said at one point he asked President Donald Trump what he wanted from Ukraine, and the president said there was no quid pro quo and that he simply wanted Ukraine to do the right thing.
Still, Sondland testified that he did not know until September that the president was seeking an investigation into Democratic rival Joe Biden.
Ambassador Gordon Sondland says State Department leadership expressed “total support” for his diplomatic efforts on Ukraine.
Sondland is testifying Wednesday before the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, who held up military aide to Ukraine while pushing the Ukrainians to investigate a Democratic political rival.
Sondland says he wrote Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to ask for help in dealing with the “logjam” between Trump and Ukraine’s president after Ukraine became aware the military aid was held up.
In an email, he asked Pompeo for help in figuring out a way for them to move forward on the “issues of importance” for Trump.
Pompeo replied: “Yes.”
Sondland also included an email from Pompeo where he told Sondland he was doing “great work.”
Gordon Sondland is denying that in carrying out President Donald Trump’s Ukraine policy he was engaging in “some kind of rogue diplomacy” or that he “muscled” his way into the issue.
Trump’s EU ambassador is testifying Wednesday in the House’s impeachment inquiry into Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democrat Joe Biden and his son while holding up military aide
Other witnesses have been generally consistent in saying that Sondland operated a parallel diplomatic effort orchestrated by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
Sondland said Wednesday that the suggestion that he was engaged in “rogue diplomacy is absolutely false.” He said others were informed about the Ukraine strategy.
Ambassador Gordon Sondland says his recollection of a July 10 meeting with Ukrainian officials at the White House doesn’t square with those of other U.S. officials who have testified before the House committee in an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
Sondland said Wednesday he doesn’t recall former White House national security adviser John Bolton cutting the meeting short.
Others have said Bolton abruptly ended the meeting after he became angry when the issue of investigations was raised. One witness said Bolton later said he didn’t want to be part of any “drug deal” being cooked up by Sondland and chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
Instead, Sondland said, after the meeting, they all went outside and took photos on the White House lawn.
Gordon Sondland says his testimony has “not been perfect” because President Donald Trump’s administration has refused to give him access to calendars, phone records and other State Department documents that he says might have helped him accurately answer questions.
Trump’s ambassador to the EU told House impeachment investigators Wednesday that he’s “not a note taker or a memo writer. Never have been.” Any discrepancies in his testimony, he is suggesting, are due to the lack of documentation.
Sondland, who played a major part in carrying out Trump administration policy toward Ukraine, is testifying under oath and penalty of perjury. He has said in previous testimony that he doesn’t recall key details, and what he does remember differs from the recollections of others.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has ignored questions about testimony from the U.S. ambassador to the European Union that he and others were aware of a “quid pro quo” involving military aid to Ukraine.
Pompeo three times declined to respond to shouted questions from reporters about what Gordon Sondland has told the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
Pompeo is in Brussels attending a NATO foreign ministers meeting. Pompeo was asked about Sondland at photo ops at the start of meetings with the foreign ministers of Romania and Turkey and the secretary general of NATO.
Pompeo rarely answers questions at such events and is scheduled to have a formal press conference later Wednesday.
He is scheduled to return to Washington on Thursday.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has opened Wednesday’s impeachment hearing with a warning for President Donald Trump’s administration.
Schiff said the House has “not received a single document” from the administration as it has investigated Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. He said Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have made “a concerted and across the board effort” to obstruct the investigation and “they do so at their own peril.”
Democrats have said they are considering an article of impeachment against Trump for obstruction of Congress.
The committee is hearing testimony Wednesday from Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who says that “everyone was in the loop” in Trump’s administration as the president pushed Ukraine to open investigations into Democrats.
Schiff says, “The knowledge of this scheme was far and wide.”
Was there a “quid pro quo?”
The ambassador entangled in an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump is telling House lawmakers: “Yes.”
Gordon Sondland is testifying Wednesday publicly.
Sondland says “we all understood” that a meeting at the White House for Ukraine’s president and a phone call with Trump would happen only if President Volodymyr Zelenskiy agreed to an investigation into the 2016 U.S. election and the son of former Vice President Joe Biden.
He says he sent an email on July 19, just days before the July 25 call at the center of the impeachment inquiry, where he laid out the issue in detail to members of the State and Energy departments and White House staff.
Sondland said: “It was no secret.”
A key witness in the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump says that Vice President Mike Pence was informed about concerns that military aid to Ukraine had been held up because of the investigations.
Ambassador Gordon Sondland is testifying Wednesday publicly. He already appeared behind closed doors.
He tells lawmakers that Trump was supposed to meet Ukraine’s new leader Sept. 1 in Warsaw, Poland, but Trump couldn’t make it because of a hurricane in the U.S. so Pence attended instead.
Sondland said he told Pence before the meetings that he had concerns that the delay in military aid to Ukraine had become tied to the issue of investigations.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy raised the issue of security aid to Pence. But he didn’t specifically mention whether the idea of the hold-up was related to investigations.
Pence has denied that he knew about a link between military aid and the investigations
Pam Bondi, a White House adviser assisting the administration on impeachment messaging, says President Donald Trump didn’t know his European Union ambassador very well.
Bondi said on “CBS This Morning” that Sondland was a “short-term ambassador” and incorrectly described himself as the envoy to Ukraine.
She said, “The president doesn’t know him very well.”
Bondi also said that Trump probably won’t offer testimony in the impeachment hearing. The president said earlier this week that he was weighing submitting written testimony.
Ambassador Gordon Sondland is testifying that he “followed the president’s orders” to work with Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine.
Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, is a key witness in the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
He says that he and his colleagues did not want to involve the president’s personal attorney in diplomacy efforts with Ukraine, but they were told to by the president.
Even though they didn’t like it, they also didn’t think it was improper at the time. Had he known that some of Giuliani’s associations with individuals who are now under criminal indictment, he never would have “acquiesced to his participation.”
Because he believed everything to be above board, they made every effort to keep people informed about the efforts.
He said the suggestion that he and others we were engaged in rogue diplomacy was absolutely false.
Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, is confirming that he spoke by phone with President Donald Trump one day after the president prodded Ukraine’s leader to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden.
Sondland tells House impeachment investigators that the White House has also confirmed the newly revealed call and shared call logs with his attorneys.
The July 26 phone call between Sondland and Trump was disclosed by multiple witnesses within the last week. It took place a day after the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymr Zelenskiy that is now at the center of the impeachment inquiry.
Sondland says there’s no reason to doubt that he discussed investigations with Trump, as other witnesses have maintained. He says the call did not strike him as significant at that time.
Ambassador Gordon Sondland says he kept top members of the Trump administration, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in the loop about President Donald Trump’s pressure on Ukraine for investigations.
In remarks to a House intelligence panel, Sondland tells lawmakers that it was well-established within the Trump administration that there was a quid pro quo involving Ukraine.
He said the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, openly discussed how Trump wanted Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into the 2016 U.S. presidential election and into Burisma – the Ukraine gas company on whose board Biden’s son, Hunter, sat – as a prerequisite for a coveted White House visit for Ukraine leader Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Sondland said he laid out the issue in detail to members of State Department, Energy, and White House staff. Recipients included Pompeo and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, he said.
Everyone understood “Trump’s desires and requirements,” Sondland says. He added: “Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.”
Last month, Pompeo acknowledged for the first time he was on Trump’s July 25 call with the Ukrainian president, but disclosed no details and did not indicate he was kept up to date on the Ukraine pressure efforts.