The U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, today delivered testimony damaging to President Donald Trump in ongoing congressional impeachment hearings.
Sondland broadly expanded the names and number of people high in the Trump administration who were aware of linkage between $391 million in U.S. military aid and the announcement of two investigations that Trump sought.
"Everyone was in the loop," Sondland testified. "It was no secret."
He further said the linkage "reflected President Trump's desires and requirements."
Sondland produced new emails showing written communications between him and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has not previously been directly implicated in knowing about the linkage between the aid and announcements of investigations.
He also said that Vice President Mike Pence and Trump's acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney were aware of the linkage, which Sondland explicitly called a "quid pro quo."
Contrary to assertions from some previous witnesses that he was part of a rogue operation, Sondland said that he and others pursued policies in Ukraine that were widely known at the highest levels of the Trump administration.
"Our efforts were reported and approved," Sondland testified, adding that he and his colleagues worked at the "express direction of the president."
After Sondland read his prepared testimony, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) led Sondland through a crucial connection: Trump's conditioning of the release of military aid to a White House visit and the announcement of investigations.
"The official act of the meeting was being conditioned on the request of president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani," Schiff said. "It became your understanding that the money was being conditioned on the investigations?"
"That was my presumption," Sondland replied.
Sondland, the founder and former CEO of Portland-based Provenance Hotels, had previously testified behind closed doors about his knowledge of conversations with communications.
Then, after testimony from other diplomats who remembered many details that Sondland did not, Sondland revised his testimony, acknowledging there had been a quid pro quo linking the military and a proposed White House visit for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to the announcement of investigations.
Today, he pointedly noted that he'd voluntarily given testimony over objections of the White House and was hampered in his ability to recall specific events by the refusal of the U.S. State Department to allow him access to documents including emails and phone records.
Sondland repeatedly made clear that everything he did was to further Trump's wishes.
"At all times I was acting in good faith," Sondland said. "I followed the direction of the president."
Sondland, whom Trump appointed to his ambassadorship in July 2018 after Sondland's companies contributed $1 million to Trump's inauguration, appeared to have decided that self-preservation was more important than protecting Trump.
"It's nice to see somebody putting country over party," John Dean, the former White House counsel to President Richard Nixon said on CNN during a recess in Sondland's testimony today. "He is not a man who appears willing to lie for his colleagues."