“They knew what we were doing and why,” Sondland said of top State Department and White House officials in his opening statement.
Here’s a rundown of who knew what when in the pressure campaign against Ukraine, according to Sondland.
Sondland didn’t have an email or message from President Trump among the ones he added as exhibits in his opening statement. But he does detail a May 23 Oval Office meeting he attended with the president, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker. There, Trump told them to work with his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to make any progress on Ukraine issues.
“Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker and I worked with Mr. Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the President of the United States,” Sondland said.
Sondland, Perry and Volker had just returned from the inauguration of Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, where Sondland said they were “impressed by President Zelensky’s desire to promote a stronger relationship with the United States. We admired his commitment to reform,” Sondland testified.
But they were met with a skeptical Trump.
He expressed concerns that the Ukrainian government was not serious about reform. He even mentioned that Ukraine tried to take him down in the last election. In response to our persistent efforts to change his views, President Trump directed us to ‘talk with Rudy.’ We understood that ‘talk with Rudy’ meant talk with Mr. Rudy Giuliani, the President’s personal lawyer.
Sondland said Giuliani explicitly requested that Ukraine launch investigations into the 2016 election and former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden at Trump’s request. How did Sondland know Giuliani was communicating Trump’s demands?
“Well, when the president says ‘talk to my personal attorney’ and his personal attorney makes certain requests or demands, we assume it’s coming from the president,” he said.
Vice President Pence
Sondland’s knowledge of Pence’s involvement starts in September, when Pence attended a summit in Warsaw in place of Trump (Trump dropped out of the trip to monitor Hurricane Dorian). Zelensky had hoped to meet with Trump in Warsaw and ask him why the military assistance was held up, but did meet with Pence.
Sondland testified that “I mentioned to Vice President Pence before the meetings with the Ukrainians that I had concerns that the delay in aid had become tied to the issue of investigations.”
Pence’s office on Wednesday denied that a conversation between Pence and Sondland happened. Pence also said he did not remember that meeting.
After the Pence-Zelensky meeting, Sondland said he pulled aside an aide to Zelensky and told him about the conditions he presumed were in place. “I told [Andriy] Yermak that I believed that the resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine took some kind of action on the public statement that we had been discussing for many weeks.”
But Sondland didn’t just implicate Pence in that meeting. He also says he offered the Ukrainians the quid pro quo at the “advice” of another high level official …
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
It’s when Sondland starts talking about Pompeo that it’s really clear he’s trying to say he didn’t act on Ukraine alone. Sondland said he told Ukrainians about his concerns of a quid pro quo “based on my communication with Secretary Pompeo.” And he brought those communications with him to Congress.
In an Aug. 11 email, Sondland writes to State Department aides T. Urlich Brechbuhl and Lisa Kenna. That and other emails Sondland included in his testimony are below, with highlights of the key sections added by The Fix.
EMAIL EXCHANGE: Sunday, August 11, 2019
To: Thomas Brechbuhl, Lisa Kenna, and Gordon Sondland
Gordon Sondland 10:31
Subject: Re: Ukraine
Kurt & I negotiated a statement from Ze to be delivered for our review in a day or two. The contents will hopefully make the boss happy enough to authorize an invitation. Ze plans to have a big presser on the openness subject (including specifics) next week.
Lisa Kenna 16:51
Gordon, I’ll pass to S. Thank you. Lisa
“S means the Secretary of State,” Sondland explained elsewhere in his testimony. (Also notable: Sondland addresses the email to “Mike.”)
In other words: Sondland was letting Pompeo know he had gotten assurances about an “anti-corruption statement” that he hoped would be sufficient for Trump to grant Zelensky an Oval Office meeting.
Less than two weeks later, Sondland is emailing directly with Pompeo, asking whether Sondland should set up a Pence-Zelensky meeting in Poland. In that email, Sondland makes a vague reference to the conditions Zelensky must agree to to get what Ukraine wants from the White House.
EMAIL EXCHANGE: Thursday, August 22, 2019
Lisa Kenna, Mike Pompeo, and Gordon Sondland
Gordon Sondland August 22, 19:00
To: Mike Pompeo
Subject: Re: Zelensky
Should we block time in Warsaw for a short pull-aside for Potus to meet Zelensky?
I would ask Zelensky to look him in the eye and tell him that once Ukraine’s new justice folks are in place (mid-Sept) Ze should be able to move forward publicly and with confidence on those issues of importance to Potus and to the US. Hopefully, that will break the logjam.
Mike Pompeo August 22, 19:03
To: Gordon Sondland
Gordon Sondland August 22, 19:05 (forwards conversation)
To: Lisa Kenna
Can you get 10-15 min on the Warsaw sched for this? I’d like to know when it is locked so that I can call Zelensky and brief him.
Lisa Kenna August 23, 1:23
To: Gordon Sondland
I’ll try for sure.
Sondland also shares a July 10 Whats App message between him, Volker and acting Ukraine ambassador William Taylor. The key name in this is Ulrich Brechbuhl. He is the top lawyer for the State Department and he was in those August emails. Sondland is explicitly mentioning him to show that there was awareness at very high levels of the State Department that Giuliani was communicating with Ukrainians, and diplomats feared he was undermining their negotiations.
William Taylor, Kurt Volker, and Gordon Sondland
Wednesday, July 10, 2019
Bill Taylor 7:56 Just had a meeting with Andriy and Vadym. Very concerned about what Lutsenko told them — that, according to RG, the ZE-POTUS meeting will not happen. Advice?
Kurt Volker 7:57 Good grief. Please tell Vadym to let the official USG representatives speak for the U.S. lutsenko has his own self- Interest here
Bill Taylor 7:58 Exactly what I told them.
Bill Taylor 7:59 And I said that RG is a private citizen.
Bill Taylor 11:43 I briefed Ulrich this afternoon on this.
A Sept. 3 email from Pompeo was also presented to drive that point home.
EMAIL EXCHANGE: Tuesday, September 3, 2019
Gordon Sondland September 3, 23:21
To: Mike Pompeo
Subject: Mike, thanks for
schlepping to Europe. I think it was really important and the chemistry seems promising. Really appreciate it.
Mike Pompeo September 4, 8:38
To: Gordon Sondland
All good. You’re doing great work; keeping banging away.
“I think the secretary of state was taking in the totality of what I’ve been working on globally and saying, ‘You’re doing a geat job,’ including this,” Sondland explained, when asked about what Pompeo was praising.
Sondland seemed to blame Pompeo for continuing to push Giuliani at the center of this, even as the whistleblower complaint surfaced. He testified that “even as late as September 24, Secretary Pompeo was directing Kurt Volker to speak with Rudy Giuliani. In a WhatsApp message, Kurt Volker told me in part: ‘Spoke with Rudy per guidance from S.’ ”
In a statement as the hearing ended, Pompeo’s spokeswoman issued a denial that Pompeo knew about a quid pro quo: “Gordon Sondland never told Secretary Pompeo that he believed the President was linking aid to investigations of political opponents. Any suggestion to the contrary is flat out false.”
National Security Adviser John Bolton
Sondland makes clear he frequently looped in Bolton as well as his relevant Russia experts during this time, Fiona Hill and then Tim Morrison.
After a July 10 meeting with Ukrainians at the White House, Sondland emailed Bolton’s new Russia expert, Tim Morrison, three days later, telling him about “investigations” being part of the discussion.
EMAIL EXCHANGE: Saturday, July 13, 2019
Timothy Morrison and Gordon Sondland
Gordon Sondland 5:11
Subject: Re: Three Items
Tim, Three items for you:
1. Need to get an Oval visit for President Iohannis (RO) asap. He was invited by Potus over a year ago and it would be good to finalize. I spoke with Iohannis a couple of days ago. He plans to be highly supportive of the ME peace plan and has done other good stuff for us. He invited Jared and me to come to Bucharest to brief him which we will likely take him up on.
2. The call between Zelensky and Potus should happen before 7/21. (Parliamentary Elections) Sole purpose is for Zelensky to give Potus assurances of “new sheriff” in town. Corruption ending, unbundling moving forward and any hampered investigations will be allowed to move forward transparently. Goal is for Potus to invite him to Oval. Volker, Perry, Bolton and I strongly recommend.
3. Have a matter that is TS/SCI. Can we have a 5 min call this week?
I think I will see you Friday with John S when you come to Brussels. Congrats on the new gig!
Timothy Morrison 19:47
Thank you. Tracking 1 and 2. Do you want to try Monday for secure call? I ought to be able to call from D’s plane on Tuesday or from the Geneva Mission on Wednesday.
“Bolton and I strongly recommend,” he finishes. Sondland testified that investigations meant the Bidens and the 2016 election.
“Again, there was no secret regarding moving forward and the discussion of investigations,” Sondland testified.
Sondland testified that a month later, in August, Bolton was planning to visit Ukraine and his office reached out to Sondland and requested Giuliani’s contact information.
Energy Secretary Rick Perry
Perry’s name comes up 16 times in Sondland’s opening statement alone. Perry, Sondland and Volker, the special envoy to Ukraine, make up the group called the “three amigos” and were directed by Trump to work on U.S.-Ukraine relations. Other diplomats have testified that they thought this group undermined official U.S. diplomacy at times.
After the May meeting with Trump, when they were told to work with Giuliani to get anything done on Ukraine, Sondland said Perry took the lead on getting that set up. He testified: “Over the course of the next several months, Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker and I were in communication with Mr. Giuliani. Secretary Perry volunteered to make the initial calls with Mr. Giuliani, given his prior relationship.”
He said Giuliani directly told Perry “that President Trump wanted a public statement from President Zelensky committing to investigations of Burisma and the 2016 election.”
“We all understood that these prerequisites for the White House call and White House meeting reflected President Trump’s desires and requirements,” he said.
To that end, Sondland shared a July 19 email to Perry in which he announces that Zelensky is ready to assure Trump “he intends to run a fully transparent investigation and will turn over every stone.”
EMAIL EXCHANGE: Friday, July 19, 2019
Robert Blair, Lisa Kenna, Brian McCormack, Mick Mulvaney, Rick Perry, Mike Pompeo, and Gordon Sondland
Gordon Sondland 15:28
Subject: Re: I Talked to Zelensky just now
He is prepared to receive Potus’ call. Will assure him that he intends to run a fully transparent investigation and will “turn over every stone”. He would greatly appreciate a call prior to Sunday so that he can put out some media about a “friendly and productive call” (no details) prior to Ukraine election on Sunday.
Rick Perry 21:30
To: Brian McCormack, Gordon Sondland
Mick just confirmed the call being set up for tomorrow by NSC.
Mick Mulvaney 22:25
To: Robert Blair, Lisa Kenna, Brian McCormack, Rick Perry, Mike Pompeo, and Gordon Sondland
I asked NSC to set it up for tomorrow.
Perry is also mentioned in that July 13 email to Morrison as someone who “strongly” recommends having Zelensky state support for “investigations” to get his Oval Office meeting.
Perry, who hasn’t been called to testify in this impeachment inquiry, issued a statement via the Department of Energy denying Sondland’s characterization that he was regularly in contact with Giuliani: “Ambassador Sondland’s testimony today misrepresented both Secretary Perry’s interaction with Rudy Giuliani and direction the Secretary received from President Trump. As previously stated, Secretary Perry spoke to Rudy Giuliani only once at the President’s request. No one else was on that call. At no point before, during or after that phone call did the words ‘Biden’ or ‘Burisma’ ever come up in the presence of Secretary Perry.”
White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney
“I don’t know that I heard it from Mr. Mulvaney,” Sondland testified when asked whether security assistance was held up until Ukraine would launch political investigations.
But Sondland does make sure to underscore that he looped Mulvaney into several conversations about Zelensky getting ready to announce investigations, including a July 19 email to Pompeo and Perry.
Sondland said that Zelensky would announce “a fully transparent investigation and will ‘turn over every stone’” and that Zelensky wanted a White House call in return. Mulvaney responded: “I asked [National Security Council] to set it up for tomorrow.
GOP Sen. Ron Johnson
The Wisconsin senator has popped up in several key moments at the center of this impeachment inquiry. Most critically, Sondland said he told Johnson of his concerns that Ukraine would have to investigate the Bidens to get its security aid:
“In the absence of any credible explanation for the suspension of aid, I later came to believe that the resumption of security aid would not occur until there was a public statement from Ukraine committing to the investigations of the 2016 election and Burisma, as Mr. Giuliani had demanded," Sondland testified. “I shared concerns of the potential quid pro quo regarding the security aid with Senator Ron Johnson.”