A lawyer for Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told The Washington Post his client “did not recall” a conversation where he allegedly communicated to Ukrainian officials that President Donald Trump would need a quid pro quo to release nearly $400 million in military aid to the country.
Sondland’s claim contradicts a series of bombshell claims made by the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor, on Tuesday. During his closed-door testimony, Taylor gave a detailed account of how multiple senior administration officials were involved in the president’s decision to block the security aid to Ukraine, directly linking the decision to Trump’s demand that the country investigates former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.
As part of his opening remarks, Taylor stated that Sondland knew directly of the quid pro quo campaign and personally communicated it to one of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s aides. During his testimony this month, however, Sondland claimed he wasn’t aware of the White House linking the release of the security funding to the Biden probes.
Sondland’s attorney, Robert Luskin, reaffirmed to the Post in an email that his client didn’t recall any such communication.
“Sondland does not recall any conversation in Warsaw concerning the aid cutoff, although he understood that the Ukrainians were, by then, certainly aware of the cutoff and raised the issue directly with Pence,” the lawyer told the paper.
Luskin did not immediately reply to HuffPost’s request for comment.
The testimony by Taylor, a highly respected career diplomat, painted a different picture. In his remarks, Taylor said he was “alarmed” when he was informed Sondland told one of Zelensky’s advisers that congressionally appropriated “security assistance money would not come until President Zelensky committed to pursue” an investigation of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company. Hunter Biden served on the board of Burisma for five years, and Trump has publicly accused him of impropriety, without evidence.
Neither Biden has been accused of any wrongdoing, but an investigation could hurt the former vice president politically.
“This was the first time I had heard that the security assistance — not just the White House meeting — was conditioned on the investigations,” Taylor told lawmakers. He later said: “Ambassador Sondland said, ‘everything’ was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance. He said that President Trump wanted President Zelensky ‘in a public box’ by making a public statement about ordering such investigations.”
The New York Times also reported Wednesday that Ukraine knew Trump had frozen the military aid in an attempt to bully the country into the investigations, directly undercutting White House claims that there was no quid pro quo.
The Post notes some lawmakers have already floated having Sondland return to provide more details about his involvement following Taylor’s testimony.
As the House impeachment inquiry grows more complex, the chamber’s Democrats are mulling when they should take the matter public. Lawmakers are considering doing so sometime next month, worried that Republicans will continue to try and distract from the revelations gathered during a parade of testimonies from former and current administration officials, the Post reported.