by Chuck Ross
House Democrats on Tuesday released transcripts of closed-door depositions with two key witnesses in the Trump impeachment push, former Ukrainian special envoy Kurt Volker and EU ambassador Gordon Sondland.
Volker and Sondland were questioned Oct. 3 and Oct. 17, respectively, about their interactions in recent months with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Ukrainian officials.
Democrats began Monday releasing transcripts of witness depositions. Former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and Michael McKinley, a former senior aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, testified largely about Giuliani’s efforts to spread questionable allegations about Ukraine.
Democrats are investigating whether President Donald Trump abused his office in his dealings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The inquiry aims to find out whether Trump proposed a quid pro quo to Zelensky in exchange for the Ukrainian government opening investigations into Joe Biden and Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company that had Hunter Biden as a board member.
Sonland, a major GOP donor who was appointed ambassador in 2018, testified that he was uncertain about whether Trump sought a quid pro quo from Zelensky. He said that during a Sept. 8 phone call, Trump told him he wanted “nothing” — “I want no quid pro quo” — from Zelensky.
“I want Zelensky to do the right thing,” Sondland recalled Trump saying.
Sondland submitted supplemental testimony Monday in which he said he came to suspect by early September that the Trump administration was withholding military aid to Ukraine in order to pressure Zelensky. That was largely because he could not get answers about why the nearly $400 million aid package was being withheld, he said.
“By the beginning of September 2019, and 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 statements,” said Sondland.
And in a major correction to his initial testimony, Sondland said in his supplemental filing that he told one of Zelensky’s advisers during a meeting in Warsaw that the “resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks.”
Sondland also told lawmakers that Giuliani initially pressed for Ukraine to commit to opening investigations into corruption in general. But Giuliani’s requests became more “insidious” over time, Sondland said, according to the transcript. Eventually, Giuliani was pushing for an investigation specifically into Burisma.
Sondland said State Department officials worked with Giuliani because that’s what Trump wanted. He said Pompeo “rolled his eyes” when discussing Giuliani’s involvement.
Volker, who resigned Sept. 26, testified that he did not believe Trump sought a quid pro quo from Zelensky.
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Chuck Ross is a reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation.