The US ambassador to the EU has suddenly remembered he did notify Kiev that military aid was contingent on launching a corruption probe into the gas company that employed Hunter Biden, his memory jogged by impeachment testimonies.
Ambassador Gordon Sondland said he did, after all, tell an aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that US military aid to the country depended on Zelensky publicly pledging to open a corruption investigation into Burisma Holdings, the natural gas company which had hired Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden’s son onto its board of directors. Sondland recalled this in an addendum to his earlier testimony, leaked to the public on Tuesday.
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Sondland’s surprise recollection was, he claimed, motivated by reading the testimony of William Taylor, US ambassador to Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, a former Trump advisor. In an explanation that borders on self-parody (“Ambassador Taylor recalls that Mr. Morrison told Ambassador Taylor that I told Mr. Morrison that I had conveyed this message to Mr. Yermak…”) the diplomat appeared to be trying to reconcile his previous sworn testimony from October 17 with that of his colleagues.
Sondland had previously insisted the “deliverable” he referenced in text messages that have been slammed as ‘incriminating’ in the media merely referenced a statement that Zelensky’s government was asked to publicly issue supporting anti-corruption reforms. No one told him anything about Burisma’s connection to the Bidens, he maintained, or any other specific request. “I asked the President, what do you want from Ukraine? The President responded, nothing. There is no quid pro. The President repeated, no quid pro. No quid pro quo multiple times,” he testified weeks ago. Sondland reiterated that sentiment in texts with Taylor, reminding his fellow ambassador that “the President has been crystal clear: no quid pro quos of any kind.”
In the revised telling, however, Sondland, having “presumed that the aid suspension had become linked to the proposed anti-corruption statement,” told Zelensky aide Andriy Yermak that “resumption of US aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement,” specifically agreeing to investigate Burisma. Moreover, Zelensky would have to make the declaration himself.
The diplomat acknowledged he “did not know (and still do not know) when, why, or by whom the aid was suspended,” but insists he nevertheless “presumed” its connection to the Burisma probe “in the absence of any credible explanation” – and merely passed that information on to Yermak.
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White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham addressed the ambassador’s shifting testimony, pointing out he had only “presumed” the reason for the suspension of military aid and reminding reporters that former Ukraine Ambassador Kurt Volker had admitted Kiev didn’t even know military aid had been suspended.
“No amount of salacious media-biased headlines, which are clearly designed to influence the narrative, change the fact that the President has done nothing wrong,” Grisham said.
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