Politics 12:57 06/11/2019 World

Key Donald Trump impeachment witness changes testimony

A key witness in the Donald Trump impeachment inquiry has reversed his evidence, indicating he did believe there was a quid pro quo in which US military aid would be denied to Ukraine unless it publicly launched a corruption investigation into Joe Biden, The Telegraph reported.

Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, had initially denied any knowledge of a link between the $391 million in aid and Mr Trump's request that Ukraine launch an inquiry into his political rival.

But in a revised statement Mr Sondland said: "In the absence of any credible explanation for the suspension of aid, I presumed that the aid suspension had become linked to the proposed anti-corruption statement."

Mr Sondland said that, after "refreshing my recollection," he remembered telling a senior Ukrainian official on September 1 that the aid would "likely" be stopped unless there was an investigation into Mr Biden and his son Hunter, who sat on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma.

His private testimony, and the amended statement, were released by the Democrat-led committee pursuing the impeachment inquiry.

The impeachment inquiry is primarily focused on a July 25 conversation between Mr Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy

Mr Trump froze the US military assistance to Ukraine shortly before speaking to Mr Zelenskiy, prompting accusations from Democrats that he had misused taxpayer money destined for a vulnerable US ally for personal political gain.

Mr Sondland detailed how at one point Mr Trump nearly hung up on him when he asked whether the White House was withholding the aid in return for an inquiry into Mr Biden.

He said Mr Trump told him: "I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. I want Zelenskiy to do the right thing."

Mr Sondland said Mr Trump was in a "bad mood". He added: "I wouldn't say he hung up me, but it was almost like he hung up on me."

The diplomat said on September 1 he discussed the matter with Andriy Yermak, an adviser to Mr Zelenskiy.

Mr Sondland said: “I said that resumption of the US aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti- corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks."

He said he believed the plan was "ill-advised" but he did not know "when, why or by whom the aid was suspended."

Mr Sondland was asked by the committee if he thought the idea was illegal. He said: "I'm not a lawyer, but I assume so."

When asked a second time he said it would be "improper" and added: "I don’t know the law exactly. It doesn’t sound good."



Source Panorama.am
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