New testimony, transcripts, paint fuller picture of quid pro quo

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US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland arrives to review his previous testimony to the US House of Representatives impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump led by the House Intelligence, House Foreign Affairs and House Oversight and Reform Committees on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, Oct. 28, 2019.

Erin Scott/Reuters

House committees released transcripts of closed-door testimony from key witnesses in the impeachment inquiry this week.

On Tuesday, transcripts of more than 350 pages each from House interviews with US Ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, and the Trump Administration's special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, were made public. The committees released testimony from ousted US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and senior State Department adviser Michael McKinley on Monday.

Releasing transcripts to the public is one of the steps laid out in the Oct. 31 House resolution that formalized the inquiry process. 

Related: Key moments in the impeachment inquiry

On Monday, before the transcripts were released, Sondland submitted an additional declaration to Congress, saying that the opening statements of acting Ambassador William Taylor and Tim Morrison, top adviser for Russia and Europe on the National Security Council, had "refreshed my recollection about certain conversations." 

In this Nov. 4 testimony, Sondland speaks more explicitly about a quid pro quo linking US military aid from the Trump administration and a sit-down meeting with Trump to a promise from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelinskiy to investigate corruption — including Burisma, the energy company for which Hunter Biden sat on the board.   

"This condition had been communicated by Rudy Giuliani, with whom President Trump directed Ambassador Volker, Secretary [of Energy Rick] Perry, and me, on May 23, 2019, to discuss issues related to the President's concerns about Ukraine," Sondland affirms in his statement. "Ambassador Volker, Secretary Perry, and I understood that satisfying Mr. Giuliani was a condition for scheduling the White House visit, which we all strongly believed to be in the mutual interest of the United States and Ukraine."  

Sondland writes that he still does not know "when, why, or by whom" military aid was suspended, though he believed such suspension was "ill-advised." He continues: "However, by the beginning of September 2019, and in the absence of any credible explanation for the suspension of aid, I presumed that the aid suspension had become linked to the proposed anti-corruption statement." 

In his Oct. 17 testimony, Sondland said Giuliani noted that Trump "wanted Burisma and 2016 election mentioned in the statement," Sondland said. "I don't believe the Ukrainians were prepared to do that," he added. 

In his multiple statements, it is clear that Sondland was an active participant in doing the work directed by the White House, along with Perry and Volker, who referred to themselves as the "three amigos." His testimonies under oath raise questions about whether or not he could face legal trouble. 

Crowley says Volker's released testimony is also significant.

"I think most compelling to me was the direct conversations that Kurt Volker, an extraordinarily experienced American diplomat, was having directly with Rudy Giuliani, saying that, you know, these former prosecutors, their stories were not credible," Crowley said. "And yet, as we hear in a meeting that he was a part of in the Oval Office, they had a profound impact in terms of the perception of the president towards Ukraine in general and the relationship in particular."