The House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday afternoon released the transcripts of its interviews with Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and former U.S. envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, as part of their partisan impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump.
The newly-released transcripts show Sondland revised his Monday testimony to congressional investigators, claiming he conveyed to Andriy Yermak, a senior Ukrainian official, that the eastern European country may not receive U.S. military aid unless it looked into allegations of corruption against former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.
“After a large meeting, I now recall speaking individually with Mr. Yermak, where I said that resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks,” Sondland told lawmakers.
“I presumed that the aid suspension had become linked to the proposed anticorruption statement,” he added.
“The testimony of Ambassadors Volker and Sondland shows the progression of efforts by the President and his agent, Rudy Giuliani, to use the State Department to press Ukraine to announce investigations beneficial to the President’s personal and political interests,” House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY), and acting House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) said in a joint statement.
The development comes after Sondland testified October 17 that President Trump told him he wanted “nothing” from Ukraine and that no “quid pro quo” occurred during his July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Sondland also testified last month in a text message conversation with William Taylor, a top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, that the president had ensured him that there was no quid pro quo regarding the aid and a suggestion to investigate the Bidens. “The President has been crystal clear: no quid pro quo’s of any kind. The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelenskiy promised during his campaign,” Sondland wrote Taylor on September 9th.
It is unclear why Sondland has modified his testimony.
President Trump and Zelensky have denied any pressure was applied to probe into the Biden family, while the White House has released a transcript of the world leaders’ phone call as evidence that no wrongdoing occurred.
“There was no blackmail,” Zelensky told reporters last month of his call with the president. “We are not servants. We are an independent country.”
According to the same transcripts released Tuesday, Volker denied allegations that President Trump considered holding out on a meeting with Zelensky until he agreed to probe claims that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 presidential election.
“The answer to the question is no, if you want a yes-or-no answer. But the reason the answer is no is we did have difficulty scheduling a meeting, but there was no linkage like that,” Volker told panel members.
The envoy also dismissed claims that President Trump was after opposition research, or “dirt,” on Biden, the 2020 Democrat frontrunner. He also denied that the president sought to “manufacture” dirt on the former vice president. “No,” Volker responded when asked about the allegations. “I’ve seen that phrase thrown around a lot. And I think there’s a difference between the manufacture or dig up dirt versus finding out did anything happen in the 2016 campaign or did anything happen with Burisma. I think – or even if he’s asking them to investigate the Bidens, it is to find out what facts there may be rather than to manufacture something.”
The transcripts’ release following a request from House Democrats for White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney to testify as part of their impeachment probe.
“The testimony of Ambassadors Volker and Sondland shows the progression of efforts by the President and his agent, Rudy Giuliani, to use the State Department to press Ukraine to announce investigations beneficial to the President’s personal and political interests,” House Democrats said in a joint statement.
Earlier Tuesday, Michael Duffey, an Office of Management and Budget official, and National Security Council official Wells Griffith were scheduled to testify before the House intel panel, though they opted not to appear.
Sondland’s testimony can be read here.
Volker’s testimony can be read here.