Trump's EU ambassador 'to tell impeachment inquiry he opposed running Ukraine policy through Giuliani'

'We were also disappointed by the president’s direction that we involve Mr Giuliani'

Chris Riotta
New York
Thursday 17 October 2019 15:42 BST
Rudy Giuliani reads texts suggesting Kurt Volker and the state department were 'all over him' to get involved with Ukraine

Donald Trump’s ambassador to the European Union has arrived on Capitol Hill where he is expected to testify about the president’s dealings with Ukraine in a major day for the House impeachment inquiry.

"We were also disappointed by the president’s direction that we involve Mr Giuliani,” Mr Sondland wrote in his prepared opening statement, according to a copy of the remarks obtained by Politico. The outlet first reported on the statement as the ambassador was arriving for his testimony.

Mr Sondland was also reportedly prepared to say that he was only relying on the president's statements that there was no quid pro quo with Ukraine when he sent text messages expressing that sentiment to other diplomats.

In his opening remarks, the ambassador reportedly wrote that he believes it’s wrong to invite a foreign government to conduct investigations for the purpose of influencing American elections.

Mr Sondland was expected to say that he did not know until later that Mr Giuliani’s involvement in the Ukraine agenda included encouraging the country to launch an investigation into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, who worked on a Ukrainian energy firm.

His testimony is especially critical since text messages and statements from other witnesses place him at the centre of carrying out Mr Trump’s agenda with Ukraine, including his push for politically charged investigations.

Politicians have been hearing from other diplomats and administration officials, including from the state department.

One of the texts in question shows Mr Sondland addressing another envoy’s concerns about whether military aid was being withheld in exchange for the investigations by saying the diplomat, William “Bill” Taylor, was “incorrect about President Trump’s intentions".

"The president has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind," Mr Sondland wrote at the time.

He was expected to say that the reassurance about there being no quid pro quo was based solely on what Mr Trump told him in a phone call before he sent the text.

He was also expected to say that he did not associate the energy firm Burisma with the Biden family and viewed the emphasis on investigating corruption as part of a goal shared broadly across the administration.

Mr Sondland, a wealthy hotelier and philanthropist, took an unconventional path to the diplomatic post and to supporting Mr Trump himself.

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He initially backed Jeb Bush during the 2016 Republican primary, but ultimately donated $1m (£779,335) to Mr Trump’s inaugural committee.

Additional reporting by AP

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