EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland, a key actor in President Donald Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine for dirt on his political rivals, was in the hot seat Wednesday as Democrats built their case for impeaching the US leader.
Here are some of the key quotes from his opening statement.
– Following Trump’s orders –
– “As a presidential appointee, I followed the directions of the president. We worked with (Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy) Giuliani because the president directed us to do so.
“We had no desire to set any conditions on the Ukranians. Indeed, my own personal view — which I shared repeatedly with others — was that the White House meeting and security assistance should have proceeded without pre-conditions of any kind.”
– Rudy Giuliani –
– “Secretary (Rick) Perry, Ambassador (Kurt) Volker and I worked with Mr Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the President of the United States.
“We did not want to work with Mr Giuliani. Simply put, we were playing the hand we were dealt … So we followed the President’s orders.”
– Investigations for aid/’quid pro quo’ –
– “I know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a ‘quid pro quo?’
“As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”
– “Mr Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing the investigations of the 2016 election/DNC server and Burisma.
“Mr Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president of the United States, and we knew that these investigations were important to the president.”
– “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.
“I shared concerns of the potential quid pro quo regarding the security aid with Senator Ron Johnson. And I also shared my concerns with the Ukrainians.”
– State Department/White House refusal to release emails –
– “As Ambassador, I have had hundreds of meetings and calls with individuals. But I am not a note taker, or a memo writer … My lawyers and I have made multiple requests to the State Department and the White House for these materials.
“Yet, these materials were not provided to me. They have also refused to share these materials with this committee. These documents are not classified and, in fairness, should have been made available.”
– Everyone was in the loop –
– “Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret. Everyone was informed via email on July 19, days before the presidential call.”
– July 25 Trump-Zelensky call –
– “As I communicated to the team, I told President Zelensky in advance that assurances to ‘run a fully transparent investigation’ and ‘turn over every stone’ were necessary in his call with President Trump.”
– July 26 Sondland-Trump call –
– “I remember I was at a restaurant in Kiev, and I have no reason to doubt that this conversation included the subject of investigations.
“Again, given Mr Giuliani’s demand that President Zelensky make a public statement about investigations, I knew that the topic of investigations was important to President Trump. We did not discuss any classified information.”
California lawmaker who chaired Republican Assembly caucus leaving GOP — to become an independent: report
On Thursday, the Sacramento Bee reported that California Assemblyman Chad Mayes, the former Assembly Minority Leader, is leaving the Republican Party and registering as No Party Preference.
"Instead of focusing on solutions for the big problems that we've got, we focused on winning elections," said Mayes in his announcement. "For me, I'm at the point in my life where I'm done with gamesmanship."
Mayes, a controversial figure who was implicated in an affair with a fellow public official, represents Yucca Valley. He is the second Republican Assemblyman this year to leave the party, after Brian Maienschein of San Diego, who Maienschein of San Diego.
‘Quantum physics generator’ incident in Ohio results in evacuation — hazmat found no radiation
Authorities in Columbus, Ohio evacuated dozens of homes after a man called 911 to report being burned by a
"Firefighters say nothing threatening was found in a northwest Columbus garage," WCMH-TV reported. "According to firefighters, a man called and reported that he received ‘RF burns’ while building some sort of ‘quantum physics generator’ in a garage. The man used words like ‘particle accelerator,’ ‘alpha rays,’ and ‘radiation’ while describing how he was burned."
Trump spoke with Giuliani on unsecured phones that were vulnerable to Russian surveillance: report
On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump has communicated with his lawyer Rudy Giuliani via unsecured and unencrypted phone lines that are potentially vulnerable to interception and monitoring by Russian intelligence officials and other hostile foreign powers.
"Trump is not identified by name in the House phone records, but investigators said they suspect he may be a person with a blocked number listed as '-1' in the files," stated the report. "And administration officials said separately that Trump has communicated regularly with Giuliani on unsecured lines."