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Sondland: Ukraine pressure was at Trump’s ‘express direction’


<b>Sondland: Ukraine pressure was at Trump’s ‘express direction’</b>WASHINGTON (AP) — Ambassador Gordon Sondland told House impeachment investigators Wednesday that he worked with Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine at the “express direction” of President Donald Trump and pushed a "quid pro quo" with Kyiv because it was what Trump wanted.
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Sondland's testimony has just thrown every Trump ally in this case directly under the bus: Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Pompeo, and almost every other name you've heard since September. Sondland, the most highly anticipated witness in the public impeachment probe, made clear that he believed Trump was pursuing his desire for investigations in return for the Oval Office meeting that the Eastern European nation's president sought. Sondland said he later came to believe military aid for Ukraine was also being held up until the investigations were launched. Sondland described how demands became more serious with more conditions on any potential Ukraine meeting at the White House. Republicans forced a pause of the impeachment hearing after bombshell evidence on president from key witness Sondland triggered panic. Trump lashed out anew on Twitter at the Democrat-led impeachment inquiry Wednesday as Gordon Sondland, the most significant witness, acknowledged that there was a "quid pro quo" in the Ukraine controversy in his prepared remarks. Trump distanced himself Wednesday from Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union who had direct conversations with the president and other top Trump advisers about U.S. policy toward Ukraine. However, testimony by several officials revealed that Sondland was in frequent contact with Trump around the time Trump spoke with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy about doing a politically beneficial "favor." Tim Morrison, the National Security Council's former Russia and Europe director, told House investigators that Sondland and Trump had spoken approximately five times between July 15 and Sept. 11 --the weeks that $391 million in U.S. assistance was withheld from Ukraine before it was released as Trump pressed for the favor.

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