Just hours after news broke of Alexander Vindman’s ouster from the National Security Council, another key impeachment witness announced that President Trump had given him the ax as well.
“I was advised today that the President intends to recall me effective immediately as United States Ambassador to the European Union,” Gordon Sondland said in a statement late Friday.
Sondland’s departure comes more than two months after his stunning testimony in front of the House Intelligence Committee, during which he refuted the characterization by others in the administration that he was freelancing when he pressed Ukraine for investigations into Democrats.
Instead, Sondland told the panel, senior players including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and Vice President Mike Pence knew about his attempt to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to make a public commitment to investigate a conspiracy theory around 2016 election and the gas company Burisma.
Sondland denied knowing that Burisma was shorthand for a probe into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who sat on the company’s board from March 2014 until April 2019. But he said that in exchange for investigations, Zelensky would receive a meeting in the Oval Office with Trump and $400 million in stalled U.S. aid.
“President Trump never told me directly that the aid was conditioned on the meetings. The only thing we got directly from [Trump lawyer Rudy] Giuliani was that the Burisma and 2016 elections were conditioned on the White House meeting,” he said. “The aid was my own personal, you know, guess.”
Sondland stopped short of saying the president directed him personally, instead saying he was following orders from Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who the president had directed Sondland, U.S. Envoy Kurt Volker and Energy Secretary Rick Perry to deal with on Ukraine.
As he spoke in the hearing, his account was rejected by Pompeo, Perry, Pence, and Giuliani—and the White House claimed Sondland’s testimony proved the president did nothing wrong.
While Sondland claimed to have frequent conversations with Trump, the president began to distance himself from his ambassador to the EU weeks ago.
In a press gathering with reporters after Sondland testified, President Donald Trump said he “hardly knew” Sondland—despite the ambassador testifying that he had multiple interactions with the president about Ukraine.
Told of Trump’s comments during his Nov. 20 hearing, Sondland started to laugh and said, “Easy come, easy go.”
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Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy: AP
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