U.S. European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland did not tell House Democrats the Ukraine scandal story they wanted to hear during his impeachment inquiry deposition on Thursday, asserting he did not play a role in pushing the Eastern European country to investigate Joe Biden and his son.
Sondland spoke to lawmakers behind closed doors for nearly ten hours.
The liberal mainstream media expected Sondland to break with U.S. President Donald Trump, who has denied the allegation at the center of the impeachment probe. Democrat impeachment investigators in the House are trying to determine if Trump coerced Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden and his son Hunter in exchange for aid. Trump and Ukraine have denied the claim
Democrats claim Trump attempted to use his power to influence the 2020 presidential elections by pressuring Ukraine to investigate corruption allegations against his rival Biden.
Echoing testimony from former U.S. Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, Sondland denied participating in the alleged campaign to push Ukraine to investigate the Bidens on behalf of Trump.
In his opening remarks, he clearly stated:
Again, I recall no discussions with any State Department or White House official about Former Vice President Biden or his son, nor do I recall taking part in any effort to encourage an investigation into the Bidens.
Let me state clearly: Inviting a foreign government to undertake investigations for the purpose of influencing an upcoming U.S. election would be wrong. Withholding foreign aid in order to pressure a foreign government to take such steps would be wrong. I did not and would not ever participate in such undertakings.
NBC News indicated that Sondland did not break with Trump.
Lawmakers who witnessed his deposition “said his testimony did not appear designed to harm President Donald Trump so much as to insulate Sondland from the scandal,” it reported.
It seems that Sondland’s refusal to harm Trump with his testimony did not sit well with some Democrats.
NBC News noted:
E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland isn’t filling in as many gaps as lawmakers would have hoped, telling House committees that he can’t recall various details surrounding the Ukraine scandal, according to three sources present for parts of his ongoing testimony Thursday.
“I’m concerned that he has been less than truthful throughout the day,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), who witnessed Sondland’s deposition, told NBC News, adding:
I mean some of the things that he says he doesn’t remember, it would be very hard to believe that he didn’t remember, I mean very specific things that, you know, are unique to different situations that they’ve discussed throughout the day. And unless has the worst memory. Or, and is, you know, far more far more incompetent than than one would think an ambassador to the European Union should be.
Echoing Volker’s testimony, Sondland reiterated that Trump ordered him and other envoys to work with his private lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, on Ukraine policy.
Sondland testified that he was “disappointed” by the directive:
It was apparent to all of us that the key to changing the president’s mind on Ukraine was Mr. Giuliani. … Our view was that the men and women of the State Department, not the president’s personal lawyer, should take responsibility for all aspects of U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine.
During his deposition, Volker made it clear that he and Sondland were working with Giuliani on Ukraine at Trump’s behest.
Top U.S. State Department official George Kent indicated to impeachment investigators this week that the corruption allegations against the Bidens have merit. He said he warned the Obama administration that the Ukrainian company that hired Hunter was corrupt, but officials dismissed his concerns, the Washington Post reported.