Ex-Trump ambassador says he was a ‘doofus’ for not pushing back on former president’s Ukraine conspiracy
Nearly three years after Donald Trump tried extorting Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky in the 2019 phone call which led to his first impeachment trial, former US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland now says he regrets his role in the blackmail scheme.
Mr Sondland, a hotel chain owner and frequent donor to Republican causes, was Mr Trump’s man in Brussells from 2017 to 2020. But it was the former president’s machinations with respect to Ukraine — a country that was not in Mr Sondland’s portfolio — that made the hotelier a household name.
It was during the House Intelligence Committee hearings on Mr Trump’s blackmail scheme that he told the panel there had indeed been a “quid pro quo” in which Mr Zelensky would announce investigations into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, in exchange for a White House visit and approval to purchase the Javelin missiles Ukraine’s defence forces have been using to defend against the invasion Russia launched in February. At the time, Mr Biden was seen as a potential 2020 presidential contender.
“I really regret that the Ukrainians were placed in that predicament,” Mr Sondland said during his testimony in 2019. But I do not regret doing what I could to try to break the logjam and to solve the problem”.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Mr Sondland called himself a “doofus” for his part in the hearings, but in hindsight said one “had to have been there” when asked if he wished he had tried to stop the arrangement, which was largely brokered by Mr Trump’s then-personal lawyer, ex-New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
“None of us are perfect,” he explained.
In a subsequent phone interview, Mr Sondland said his “own mistake” was “was probably buying into the whole Giuliani narrative and allowing a nongovernmental actor to interfere in a very ambiguous way with US foreign policy”.