Key U.S. diplomat underscores role of Trump lawyer Giuliani in Ukraine scandal

Rudy Giuliani
Leah Millis/REUTERS

President Donald Trump directed senior U.S. officials to talk directly to his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, about U.S. policy in Ukraine, stirring concern that the president was outsourcing foreign policy to a private citizen, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union said on Thursday.

The envoy, Gordon Sondland, told lawmakers in the House of Representatives impeachment inquiry against Trump that he did not understand “until much later” that Giuliani’s agenda may have included a push for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

In a prepared testimony to the Democratic-led inquiry, Sondland said foreign policy should be the work of the State Department, and not the president’s personal lawyer.

Sondland, a former Trump political donor, also said that “inviting a foreign government to undertake investigations for the purpose of influencing an upcoming U.S. election would be wrong.”

His testimony underscored the pivotal role of Giuliani in the Ukraine scandal. The impeachment inquiry centers on Trump’s request on a July telephone call that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy investigate Biden, a leading contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination to face Trump. Before that request, Giuliani had been working to engineer such an investigation

Democrats have accused Trump of pressing a vulnerable U.S. ally to dig up dirt on a domestic political opponent, improperly inviting foreign interference in an American election.

The impeachment inquiry could lead to the House passing formal charges – known as articles of impeachment – which would prompt a trial in the Senate on whether to remove Trump from office. The Senate is controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans, who have shown little inclination toward removing him.

Sondland said that on May 23, three days after Zelenskiy’s inauguration, U.S. officials who had attended debriefed Trump and key aides at the White House.

The ambassador said the officials taking part in the meeting emphasized the strategic importance of Ukraine and the importance of the relationship with Zelenskiy, who he called a reformer planning to fight corruption.

“We asked the White House to arrange a working phone call from President Trump and a working Oval Office visit. However, President Trump was skeptical that Ukraine was serious about reforms and anti-corruption, and he directed those of us present at the meeting to talk to Mr. Giuliani, his personal attorney, about his concerns,” he added.

“It was apparent to all of us that the key to changing the President’s mind on Ukraine was Mr. Giuliani,” he said.

Sondland is the latest witness to speak to lawmakers about his knowledge of efforts by Trump to urge Ukraine to investigate Biden. Trump withheld $391 million in military aid to Ukraine before making the request.

“Please know that I would not have recommended that Mr. Giuliani or any private citizen be involved in these foreign policy matters,” Sondland said, but added that given Trump’s ‘explicit direction’ that “we agreed to do as President Trump directed.”


Sondland said Ukraine was part of his broader work since the time he took the post in June 2018. He said he was never part of a campaign to remove Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was recalled from the post in May by Trump.

“I found her to be an excellent diplomat with a deep command of Ukrainian internal dynamics, the U.S.-Ukraine relationship, and associated regional issues,” Sondland said.

Yovanovitch appeared before the impeachment inquiry last Friday, telling lawmakers that Trump ousted her based on “unfounded and false claims” after she had come under attack by Giuliani. Giuliani has accused Yovanovitch of blocking efforts to persuade Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who has served as a director for a Ukrainian energy company.

Trump has accused the Bidens of corruption related to Ukraine without offering evidence. The Bidens have denied any wrongdoing.

Sondland said he did not fully appreciate in late May what Giuliani’s intentions were regarding Ukraine.

“I did not understand, until much later, that Mr. Giuliani’s agenda might have also included an effort to prompt the Ukrainians to investigate Vice President Biden or his son or to involve Ukrainians, directly or indirectly, in the President’s 2020 reelection campaign,” Sondland said.

Sondland said he was not on the July 25 call between Trump and the Ukrainian leader, did not know about the president’s request regarding a Biden investigation – and did not see a transcript until two months later, when the White House made a summary of the call public.

“None of the brief and general call summaries I received contained any mention of Burisma or former Vice President Biden, nor even suggested that President Trump had made any kind of request of President Zelensky,” Sondland added.

Sondland said he recalls subsequently speaking with Giuliani “two or three times” by phone about Ukraine.

“In these short conversations, Mr. Giuliani emphasized that the President wanted a public statement from President Zelensky committing Ukraine to look into anti-corruption issues,” Sondland said. “Mr. Giuliani specifically mentioned the 2016 election (including the DNC server) and Burisma as two anti-corruption investigatory topics of importance for the President.”

The “DNC server” issue refers to a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine and not Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election and that a Democratic Party computer server was being held somewhere in Ukraine.

One of the lawmakers leading the impeachment inquiry, Democratic U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings, has died at age 68, his office said on Thursday. Cummings was the chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. His office said the congressman died “due to complications concerning longstanding health challenges.”

(Reporting by Karen Freifeld; Additional reporting by Brendan Pierson and Jonathan Landay.)

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“I did not understand, until much later, that Mr. Giuliani’s agenda might have also included an effort to prompt the Ukrainians to investigate Vice President Biden or his son or to involve Ukrainians, directly or indirectly, in the President’s 2020 reelection campaign,” So, this diplomat is making things up. Notice that he states that it ‘might have included’. Well, it ‘might’ have NOT included an effort as well. It ‘might’ have included birthday wishes. It ‘might’ have included an invite to a football game. It ‘might’ have included anything. ‘Might’ doesn’t mean it did, but as the media will report… Read more »

General Confusion

No. It is illegal to seek foreign help for personal gain in one’s own election. Try that yourself and see what it gets you.

King Donald The Loser has NO interest in investigating corruption. He only wants keep political power (to mistakenly keep investigators away from him) and to use the Oval Office to make more money.


General Confusion, your name suits you, you should consider adding delusional idiot to it.


General Confusion – you name suits you. You should consider adding delusional idiot to it.

General Confusion

Unhung Chad: contradicting himself.

You are confused, Unhung Chad.

I post FOR those that have logic and reasoning. Why would I deprive y’all of my hilarity? That would be mean.


Generally Confused, You’re free to leave the IJR any time. You offer nothing of value. No constructive, logically argued differences of opinion. Nobody cares what your opinion is because we know it’s stupid.

I’m reading your screed and it’s hilarious to those of us that possess logic and reasoning: Go away!! Please!! But we know you won’t…..

General Confusion

“Do you get the impression that we have wandered onto a site for certifiable lunatics? HOW can they possibly find logic in their conclusions? The more time I spend on IJR, the less confident I am that America CAN actually be made sane again.” Phyllis Lunatics? Oh, yeah. But, for the most part, they can’t help themselves. They have simply painted themselves into a very comfortable corner and they don’t even care that the paint has dried and that they can move out of it. They are quite happy to basque in the glow of their Dear Leader. They get… Read more »

General Confusion

“Sondland, a former Trump political donor, also said that “inviting a foreign government to undertake investigations for the purpose of influencing an upcoming U.S. election would be wrong.”” Article

Sondland is not being clear enough. It is not only wrong, it is illegal in this country.





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