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The 6 public confirmations of a quid pro quo between Trump and Ukraine

Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman arrived on Capitol Hill on Oct. 29 to testify in the House impeachment inquiry of President Trump. (Video: The Washington Post)

White House official Alexander Vindman on Tuesday became the latest high-ranking government official to give an account of an incident that confirms a quid pro quo between the Trump team and Ukraine — something the White House previously dismissed entirely.

But not all of the confirming statements we’ve seen or heard are created equal. Below, we explain each one, along with how serious it is.

1) Alexander Vindman

The lieutenant colonel and National Security Council aide testified Oct. 29 that Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, said that Ukraine’s long-sought meeting between its president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and President Trump was conditioned on specific investigations — including ones involving former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, and a conspiracy theory about the origins of the Russia investigation.

Vindman said Sondland’s admission came after a meeting with Oleksandr Danylyuk, a top Ukrainian official.

The key quotes: “Amb. Sondland started to speak about Ukraine delivering specific investigations to secure the meeting with the president, at which time [national security adviser John] Bolton cut the meeting short. Following this meeting, there was a scheduled debriefing during which Amb. Sondland emphasized the importance that Ukraine deliver the investigations into the 2016 election, the Bidens, and Burisma [Holdings, which employed Hunter Biden].

“I stated to Amb. Sondland that his statements were inappropriate, that the request to investigate Biden and his son had nothing to do with national security, and that such investigations were not something the NSC was going to get involved in or push. [Fellow NSC aide Fiona] Hill then entered the room and asserted to Amb. Sondland that his statements were inappropriate. Following the debriefing meeting, I reported my concerns to the NSC’s lead counsel."

Why it’s big: Vindman asserts that the looming request was so inappropriate that Bolton shut a meeting down and that two NSC aides formally raised concerns, including with Sondland personally.

What it doesn’t say: Vindman in his prepared statement doesn’t quite indicate that the Bidens and the 2016 election investigations were explicitly broached in the meeting with Danylyuk — perhaps because it was cut short. Instead, Vindman says Sondland mentioned them explicitly afterward.

2) William B. Taylor

The Fix’s Aaron Blake analyzes the key takeaways from ambassador William B. Taylor Jr.’s testimony to House impeachment investigators on Oct. 22. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post, Photo: Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Taylor testified last week that he was informed that Sondland had explicitly conveyed to Andriy Yermak, another top Ukrainian official, a quid pro quo involving hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid. Taylor said Sondland told him directly that the quid pro quo also involved a meeting between Trump and Zelensky.

Key quotes: “During this same phone call I had with [NSC aide Tim] Morrison [on Sept. 1], he went on to describe a conversation Ambassador Sondland had with Mr. Yermak at [a meeting in] Warsaw. Ambassador Sondland told Mr. Yermak that the security assistance money would not come until President Zelensky committed to pursue the Burisma investigation.

“Ambassador Sondland also told me that he now recognized that he had made a mistake by earlier telling the Ukrainian officials to whom he spoke that a White House meeting with President Zelensky was dependent on a public announcement of investigations — in fact, Ambassador Sondland said, ‘everything’ was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance."

Why it’s big: It’s the most substantial indication that the quid pro quo was communicated directly to Ukraine.

What it doesn’t say: The actual communication of the quid pro quo to Ukraine is secondhand, meaning Morrison’s testimony will be key (as is Sondland’s, which occurred earlier this month). Taylor says Sondland also told him that there was a quid pro quo, but Taylor didn’t personally witness the communication of that to Ukraine.

3) Tim Morrison

Morrison confirmed the core elements of Taylor’s testimony in his own deposition.

Key quote: “I can confirm that the substance of his statement, as it relates to conversations he and I had, is accurate.”

Why it’s big: It’s the second major confirmation of an explicit quid pro quo between Sondland and Ukrainian officials. It also comes from a witness who doesn’t seem inclined to blow the whistle on Trump. “I am proud of what I have been able, in some small way, to help the Trump administration to accomplish,” Morrison said at the end of his opening statement.

What it doesn’t say: Morrison at another point offers a defense of Trump, saying, “I want to be clear, I was not concerned that anything illegal was discussed” on Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky. He also quibbled with two relatively minor details that Taylor recalled. But that doesn’t change the fact that he confirmed the thrust of Taylor’s account.

4) Gordon Sondland

Sondland’s attorney told the Wall Street Journal that Sondland testified to some kind of a quid pro quo. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) also said Sondland described a quid pro quo to him.

Key quotes: Both of these come from the Wall Street Journal. Here’s one:

Mr. Johnson said he learned of the potential arrangement involving military aid through a phone call with Mr. [Gordon] Sondland that occurred the day before Mr. Johnson spoke to Mr. Trump. Under the arrangement, Mr. Johnson said Mr. Sondland told him, Ukraine would appoint a strong prosecutor general and move to “get to the bottom of what happened in 2016 — if President Trump has that confidence, then he’ll release the military spending,” recounted Mr. Johnson.
“At that suggestion, I winced,” Mr. Johnson said. “My reaction was: Oh, God. I don’t want to see those two things combined.”

And here’s the other:

Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told House committees that he believed Ukraine agreeing to open investigations into Burisma Group — a gas company where Democrat Joe Biden’s son once served on the board — and into alleged 2016 election interference was a condition for a White House meeting between Mr. Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Mr. Sondland’s lawyer Robert Luskin said.
Asked by a lawmaker whether that arrangement was a quid pro quo, Mr. Sondland cautioned that he wasn’t a lawyer but said he believed the answer was yes, Mr. Luskin said.

Why they’re big: Sondland is about as central to this effort as it comes.

What they don’t say: Sondland saying he “believed” there was a quid pro quo isn’t quite the same as him admitting to having conveyed a quid pro quo. In addition, Johnson’s recollection of what Sondland told him is secondhand.

5) Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.)

The same day as his Wall Street Journal interview, Johnson told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Trump conveyed the quid pro quo to him in a phone call, and that it involved the conspiracy theory about the Russia investigation. Johnson said he was trying to get Trump to release the military aid when Trump made the admission.

Key quote: “I didn’t succeed [in getting Trump to release the aid]. But the president was very consistent on why he was considering it. Again, it was corruption, overall, generalized — but yeah, no doubt about it, what happened in 2016 — what happened in 2016, as relates? What was the truth about that?”

The comments are at about the 4:45 mark here:

Why it’s big: Johnson is the only one thus far attributing the quid pro quo to Trump personally.

What it doesn’t say: Johnson’s language is somewhat jumbled. And he’s saying only that Trump said there was a quid pro quo — not that it was communicated to Ukraine.

6) Mick Mulvaney

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Oct. 17 that there was a quid pro quo when President Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine. (Video: Reuters)

The acting White House chief of staff said in a news conference two weeks ago that military aid was indeed withheld over Ukraine not investigating the Russia probe conspiracy theory involving a Democratic National Committee email server. He later walked it back.

Key quote: “[Did Trump] also mention to me, in the past, that the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely, no question about that. But that’s it. And that’s why we held up the money. … The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about in corruption with that nation. And that is absolutely appropriate.”

Why it’s big: Mulvaney is about as central to this as Sondland, and he’s arguably more connected to Trump as his acting chief of staff.

Why it’s maybe not: Mulvaney walked it back, saying, “There never was any condition on the flow of the aid related to the matter of the DNC server.” And even with his initial admission, he didn’t say the quid pro quo was communicated to Ukraine.