US envoy revises testimony, admits Ukraine quid pro quo

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – Gordon Sondland, Washington’s envoy to the European Union, acknowledged in revised testimony released Tuesday that American military aid to Ukraine was contingent on officials there publicly announcing criminal investigations sought by U.S. President Donald Trump.

The four new pages of sworn testimony were publicly released by the three committees spearheading the House of Representatives' ongoing impeachment investigation, which has zeroed in on Trump's efforts to seek a "favor" from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In the signed document, Sondland said following testimony from two current and former senior officials he now recalls a conversation in early September with Andriy Yermak, a Zelensky aide, in which he essentially lays out a quid pro quo with Ukraine that he had not acknowledged during his closed-door testimony with House lawmakers Oct. 17.

"I now recall speaking individually with Mr. Yermak, where 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 said in a sworn addendum to the transcript of his October testimony.

Sondland said that following the conversation he "had come to understand that the public statement would have to come from President Zelensky himself."

He added that he believed holding up the nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine "was ill-advised, although I did not know (and still do not know) when, where or by whom the aid was suspended."

"I presumed that the aid suspension had become linked to the proposed anticorruption statement," he said.

In his October testimony, Sondland said he called Trump to discuss the holdup of Ukraine aid, succinctly asking him, "What do you want from Ukraine?"

"And as I recaIl, he was in a very bad mood. It was a very quick conversation. He said: I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. I want Zelensky to do the right thing," Sondland testified.

In a July 25 telephone call Trump repeatedly pressed Zelensky to launch a probe into former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter, a businessman, over unsubstantiated corruption allegations.

The elder Biden is a leading candidate in the race for the Democratic nomination to challenge Trump for the presidency in 2020. Trump, a Republican, has accused Democrats of time-wasting and says the House inquiry amounts to a “lynching,” maintaining he did nothing wrong.

The committees leading the probe further released a transcript of their interview last month with Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, as well as copies of his text messages.

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