Ambassador Sondland, a key player in the impeachment inquiry, flaunted access to Trump on a loud call in a Ukrainian restaurant, officials allege ahead of his testimony
- Testimony from multiple officials as part of the impeachment inquiry has pointed to Gordon Sondland, US Ambassador to the European Union, as a key part of President Donald Trump's dealings in Ukraine even though the country is not in the European Union.
- It was revealed last week that Sondland was overheard on the phone with Trump outside a Kyiv restaurant discussing the Ukrainian president's willingness to pursue politically charged investigations, like a probe into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
- Trump has attempted to distance himself from Sondland since the impeachment inquiry was launched, but multiple accounts detail a close working relationship between the two.
- Follow along with our coverage of the hearings here.
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Gordon Sondland, US Ambassador to the European Union, is facing mounting pressure as testimony from multiple officials paint him as a key part of President Donald Trump's dealings in Ukraine that sparked House Democrats' impeachment inquiry.
Sondland was overheard on the phone with Trump outside a central Kyiv restaurant discussing the Ukrainian president's willingness to pursue investigations into other political figures on July 26, according to testimony from Bill Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine that first revealed the call.The phone call with Trump allegedly came one day after the president's phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky that was later identified in a whistleblower complaint.
House Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry amid revelations about Trump's conduct with Zelensky, including a whistle-blower report alleging that Trump had acted inappropriately in pushing for a foreign power to take aim at the former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, specifically in a July 25 phone conversation between the leaders, which was evidenced in a memo released by the White House about the specifics of the call.
The Washington Post cited an anonymous source who added that when Sondland arrived in Kyiv, he ignored the schedule the embassy had arranged for him to meet only with Zelensky and his two top aides.
David Holmes, a Kyiv embassy staffer who was sitting at the restaurant table during the call, testified before the committee on November 17 that he overheard the conversation, which centered on Zelensky bowing to Trump's wishes for a politically charged investigation.
"Sondland told Trump that Zelensky 'loves your ass,'" Holmes wrote in his opening statement. "I then heard President Trump ask, 'So, he's gonna do the investigation?' Ambassador Sondland replied that 'he's gonna do it,' adding that President Zelensky will do 'anything you ask him to.'"
Holmes also testified that Sondland said that Trump only cares about "'big stuff' that benefits the President, like the Biden investigation that Mr. Giuliani was pushing."The Post also reported that Mark Sandy, the deputy associate director for national security programs at OMB, said in his testimony Saturday that the administration's decision to freeze military aid to Ukraine around the time of Trump's call with Zelensky was highly irregular and requested without any explanation.
The testimony from officials stand in stark contrast to Trump's repeated efforts to distance himself from Sondland as impeachment proceedings continue.
According to a transcript of an October 31 deposition released Saturday, Tim Morrison, the top Russia and Europe adviser on the National Security Council, testified that between July 16 and September 11, Sondland had spoken to Trump around six times.
Intelligence committee member Sean Maloney told George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week" Sunday morning that the "evidence is building" against Trump in the impeachment inquiry, and he expects Sondland will confirm Trump's dealings with Ukraine were "solicitation of a bribe" and an "impeachable offense under the Constitution."
After days of increasing scrutiny on Sondland's presence in Ukraine, the diplomat is slated to testify on Wednesday.