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Rolling Stone

The Guy Trump Cited as Proof There Wasn’t a Quid Pro Quo Just Said There Was a Quid Pro Quo

Few figures have been more entangled in the Trump administration’s plot to extort Ukraine into investigating the Bidens than Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union who was deposed by the House Intelligence Committee last month. On Tuesday, Congress released Sondland’s full testimony, along with an addendum he submitted to investigators this week. Apparently, Sondland forgot to tell Congress last month that a quid pro quo was in effect, and that the U.S. sending military aid to Ukraine was contingent upon Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky making a public declaration that the nation planned to investigate the 2016 election and the Bidens.

“I said that resumption of the U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anticorruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks,” Sondland says in his new testimony, referring to a conversation he had with Andriy Yermak, a top adviser to Zelensky.

The admission is the latest piece of evidence that the Trump administration held up Congress-approved military aid to Ukraine, as well as a White House invitation for Zelensky, in an effort to convince the vulnerable nation to interfere in the 2020 election by investigating Joe Biden. Trump and his allies have falsely claimed that while Biden was vice president he sought to oust Ukraine’s former prosecutor general to stymie an investigation into a Ukrainian company on which Biden’s son Hunter sat on the board. Though no evidence of any corrupt intent exists, Trump and his allies have pushed the nation to make a public spectacle of investigating Biden’s involvement. The impeachment inquiry launched by Democrats last month is based on a whistleblower complaint that Trump may have been “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 US election,” citing the president’s now-infamous July 25th call with Zelenksy.

Trump has repeatedly claimed the call with Zelensky was “perfect” while categorically denying that any quid pro quo was in place. One of the ways Trump has done so is by citing an early-September WhatsApp exchange between Sondland and Acting Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor. After Taylor, who also testified last month as part of the impeachment inquiry, wrote to Sondland that it would be “crazy” to link the release of military aid to Ukraine’s willingness to investigate the Bidens, Sondland replied that there was “no quid pro quo of any kind.” Trump has referenced the exchange on multiple occasions to reporters and on Twitter as proof that no quid pro quo was in effect.

Sondland later testified that his insistence to Taylor that no quid pro quo was in place came after a phone call with Trump, who relayed to the “no quid pro quo” messaging. It’s now clear he was only relaying the president’s messaging, not his own belief.