By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday that impeachment proceedings seeking his ouster are "OVER!" following dramatic testimony from his ambassador to the European Union.
"Impeachment Witch Hunt is now OVER!" Trump said on Twitter after Ambassador Gordon Sondland unleashed a series of blockbuster revelations.
Trump pointed to remarks from his EU ambassador in which Sondland recalled a conversation with the president, during which Sondland said he "asked him an open-ended question."
"What do you want from Ukraine? I keep hearing all these different ideas and theories and this and that. What do you want? And it was a very short, abrupt conversation," Sondland said. "He just said, 'I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelensky to do the right thing."
Sondland was referring to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky whom Trump repeatedly asked during a July 25 telephone call to open criminal investigations into Democratic candidate Joe Biden, and his son Hunter, as well as a conspiracy theory that seeks to blame Ukraine, not Russia for interference in the 2016 election.
Trump sought to portray Sondland's comments as an open-shut case in his favor, but the diplomat gave a more nuanced account.
Even as Sondland told House of Representatives lawmakers that Trump never "never told me directly that" nearly $400 million in congressionally-appropriated military aid was tied to opening the probes, he testified that the president directed a “quid pro quo” scheme to push Ukraine to launch a probe into a political rival.
Sondland said there was a “clear quid pro quo” of making U.S. military aid and a White House visit contingent on Zelensky publicly announcing the investigations.
"I know that members of this Committee frequently frame these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a quid pro quo?" said Sondland. "With regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes."
Sondland told the committee that he worked with Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, on Ukrainian affairs at Trump's "express direction."
Sondland said he and top officials "all understood that if we refused to work with Mr. Giuliani, we would lose a very important opportunity to cement relations between the United States and Ukraine. So we followed the president's orders."
"Mr. Giuliani's requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky. Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing the investigations," he said. "Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president of the United States, and we knew these investigations were important to the president."
Testimony from Sondland, a major Republican political donor who has hitherto been viewed as an ally of the president, came amid a fractious Democratic-led impeachment probe.
“We followed the president’s orders,” Sondland told lawmakers, adding that Trump directed the Ukraine pressure campaign with the involvement of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence.