Ukraine FM: Sondland never demanded investigations for aid

Ukraine FM: Sondland never demanded investigations for aid

This seems like a point that might merit a little attention in today’s Ukraine-Gate impeachment inquiry hearings. The supposed “bombshell” yesterday came from Ukraine charges d’affaires William Taylor, who testified that his aide told him that the aide had overheard part of a phone call between EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland and Donald Trump. The aide heard Trump discuss “the investigations” with Sondland while aid was also part of the conversation, the day after the Trump-Volodymyr Zelensky call.

Here’s the testimony as it happened, but be sure to read Allahpundit’s somewhat skeptical take on its “bombshell” nature:

It turns out AP had reason to be skeptical. Ukraine’s current foreign minister told Interfax this morning that Sondland had never expressed a quid pro quo between investigations and aid. In fact, Vadym Prystaiko told the reporters, his government had never been told of a linkage between the two:

Ukraine did not hear from U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland about a link between the delay in military assistance to Ukraine and the investigation into the case of Burisma Holdings, where son of former Vice President Joe Biden Hunter worked.

“Ambassador Sondland did not tell us, and did not tell me exactly, about the relation between the [military] assistance and the investigations. You should ask him. I do not recall any conversation with me as with foreign minister. It was not we, the Ukrainian officials (who were told this),” Prystaiko told the journalists in Kyiv on Thursday.

Prystaiko broadened the denial to the entirety of US-Ukrainian relations during the Zelensky term:

“I have never seen a direct link between investigations and security assistance. Yes, investigations were mentioned, you know, in a presidential conversation. But there was no clear connection between these events,” Prystaiko added.

Sondland was the ambassador to the EU, not Ukraine, of course, but that’s the point. Both of the two official envoys to Ukraine, Taylor and former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, have already testified that they were never told that a quid pro quo was expected or demanded. Neither of them ever talked directly with Trump, either. Both have also testified that the Ukrainians never came to them to ask about one, including Zelensky himself with whom Taylor met three times after the July 25 call. Taylor has been pointing the finger at Sondland, whom Taylor suspects of pushing the quid pro quo for Trump, and the overheard phone call (assuming it happened) was part of that suspicion.

If there was a quid pro quo demand, it would have had to come through Sondland, who was working with Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine policy at that time. It would have had to have reached either Zelensky or Prystaiko, or likely both, in order to have any effect at all. And yet Taylor testified yesterday that Zelensky wasn’t even aware aid had been held up as last as August 29th for any reason, and now the foreign minister says no one in the administration linked aid to the investigations, especially Sondland.

That’s quite a declaration, especially considering the amount of political turmoil in Washington at the moment. Ukraine’s FM won’t make himself any friends among Democrats for speaking out, and it’s far from certain that Ukraine will benefit in any other way with this remote testimony. Republicans should — and almost certainly will — use this early and often when questioning starts again this morning.

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