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Sondland to Testify Before Congress    10/17 06:17

   The U.S. ambassador to the European Union is expected to tell House 
lawmakers conducting an impeachment inquiry that he was merely repeating 
President Donald Trump's reassurances when he told another envoy that there was 
no quid pro quo in the administration's dealings with Ukraine.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. ambassador to the European Union is expected to 
tell House lawmakers conducting an impeachment inquiry that he was merely 
repeating President Donald Trump's reassurances when he told another envoy that 
there was no quid pro quo in the administration's dealings with Ukraine.

   Gordon Sondland, scheduled to appear Thursday, would be the latest in a 
series of witnesses to be interviewed behind closed doors by House lawmakers. 
Trump blocked his appearance last week, but Democrats promptly subpoenaed 
Sondland.

   His appearance is especially anticipated since text messages and other 
witness testimony place him at the center of a foreign policy dialogue with 
Ukraine that forms the basis of the impeachment inquiry and that officials 
feared circumvented normal channels. Part of that effort involved pushing the 
former Soviet republic to commit to politically charged investigations sought 
by Trump, including into a gas company connected to the son of Democratic rival 
Joe Biden.

   Sondland, whose name surfaced in a whistleblower complaint in August, is 
certain to be asked about text messages that show him working with two other 
diplomats to navigate the interests of Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy 
Giuliani. The messages show the diplomats discussing an arrangement in which 
Ukraine's leader would be offered a White House visit in exchange for a public 
statement by Ukraine committing to undertake investigations into the 2016 U.S. 
presidential election and into Burisma, the gas company.

   One text exchange that has attracted particular attention involves one 
diplomat, William "Bill" Taylor, telling Sondland that he thought it was 
"crazy" to withhold military aid from Ukraine "for help with a political 
campaign." Sondland said in response that Trump had been clear about his 
intentions and that there was no quid pro quo.

   Now, Sondland is prepared to tell lawmakers that Trump told him by phone 
before he sent the text that there was no quid pro quo and that he was simply 
parroting those reassurances to Taylor, according to a person familiar with his 
account. He is expected to say that though he did understand there to be a quid 
pro quo involving a White House visit, he did not associate Burisma with the 
Biden family and believed that an anti-corruption public statement was a goal 
widely shared across the administration.

   Sondland will be testifying three days after Fiona Hill, a former White 
House aide, said that his actions so unnerved then-national security adviser 
John Bolton that Bolton said he was not part of "whatever drug deal Sondland 
and Mulvaney are cooking up" --- a reference to White House chief of staff Mick 
Mulvaney. But Sondland is prepared to say that neither Hill nor Bolton 
personally raised concerns about the Ukraine work directly with him, according 
to the person familiar with his account. The person spoke on condition of 
anonymity to describe the private information.

   House lawmakers have been hearing over the last two weeks from other 
diplomats and administration officials, including from the State Department. 
The most recent was Michael McKinley, a career service officer and Secretary of 
State Mike Pompeo's de facto chief of staff, who testified that the Trump 
administration's politicization of foreign policy contributed to his 
resignation.


(KR)

 
 
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