Trump impeachment hearings
Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union and a key witness in the ongoing impeachment inquiry, is expected to explicitly confirm on Wednesday that efforts to pressure Ukraine into announcing an investigation into the Bidens was "a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit" with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. In his prepared remarks, Sondland also points his finger at the Oval Office, noting that Trump's personal lawyer and fixer, Rudy Giuliani, was working in accordance with "the desires of the president of the United States."
In his statement, Sondland adds that "everyone was in the loop. It was no secret." While Sondland has long been considered a close ally of Trump's, having been awarded his cushy diplomatic post after making a generous donation to the president's inauguration back in 2016, he will speak bluntly at the hearing before the House Intelligence Committee, saying: "The White House meeting and security assistance should have proceeded without pre-conditions of any kind."
Sondland additionally expressed frustration with Trump directing his diplomats in Ukraine to work with Giuliani to pressure Ukraine into opening a politically-motivated investigation. "Let me say again: We weren't happy with the president's directive to talk with Rudy," Sondland is prepared to say. "We did not want to involve Mr. Giuliani. I believed then, as I do now, that the men and women of the State Department, not the president's personal lawyer, should take responsibility for Ukraine matters."
Sondland also makes clear that his own cooperation with Giuliani on Ukraine was at "the express direction of the president of the United States ... simply put, we played the hand we were dealt." Read Sondland's full prepared statement here.