Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, criticized President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, saying he was “disappointed” in the president’s efforts to have Rudy Giuliani interfere in foreign affairs. Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, was being paid by one of the recently indicted Ukrainian-American businessmen who were helping him dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden, whom Trump sees as his chief political rival.
Sondland, a self-described “lifelong Republican” who donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee and was nominated as EU ambassador in 2018, told House impeachment investigators in an opening statement on Thursday that Trump indicated he was “skeptical” that Ukraine was serious about reform.
A few days after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s inauguration in May, Trump instructed Sondland and others in a U.S. delegation to Ukraine to talk to Giuliani.
“It was apparent to all of us that the key to changing the President’s mind on Ukraine was Mr. Giuliani,” Sondland said. “Our view was that the men and women of the State Department, not the President’s personal lawyer, should take responsibility for all aspects of U.S. foreign policy towards Ukraine.”
Sondland also addressed a text message he sent suggesting that he and a colleague “stop the back and forth by text” after a colleague suggested Trump wanted a quid pro quo with Ukraine. He claimed in his testimony that this was not an attempt to prevent the creation of a paper trail.
Sondland said he simply prefers “to talk rather than to text” because it’s the way to “most effectively get things done.”
“Any implication that I was trying to avoid making a record of our conversation is completely false. In my view, diplomacy is best handled through back-and-forth conversation,” he said.
Read his remarks as prepared for delivery below, via BuzzFeed’s Zoe Tillman:
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.