Time and again, Sond­land’s Ukraine tale dif­fers from oth­ers

The Saline Courier - - NEWS -

WASH­ING­TON — The wit­nesses who have tes­ti­fied pub­licly and pri­vately in the House impeachmen­t in­quiry so far have gen­er­ally told a con­sis­tent tale.

Then there’s Gor­don Sond­land.

The U.S. am­bas­sador to the Euro­pean Union has said he can­not re­call many of the episodes in­volv­ing him that other wit­nesses have re­counted in vivid and col­or­ful de­tail. And the con­ver­sa­tions he has said he does re­call, he some­times re­mem­bers in ma­te­ri­ally dif­fer­ent ways. Those dis­crep­an­cies mat­ter be­cause they con­cern some of the most piv­otal meet­ings and con­ver­sa­tions in the impeachmen­t in­quiry into Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s deal­ings with Ukraine.

Sond­land will al­most cer­tainly be pressed on those in­con­sis­ten­cies, as well as a newly re­vealed con­ver­sa­tion he is said to have had last July with Trump, when he tes­ti­fies Wed­nes­day be­fore impeachmen­t in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

A look at how Sond­land’s ac­count dif­fers from that of other wit­nesses:


THEM: Mul­ti­ple wit­nesses de­scribe a cozy re­la­tion­ship be­tween Sond­land and the White House act­ing chief of staff.

Lt. Col. Alexan­der Vind­man, a Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil of­fi­cial, says Sond­land cited a dis­cus­sion with Mul­vaney when push­ing Ukrainian of­fi­cials to open the in­ves­ti­ga­tions that Trump wanted into the 2016 U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and into po­lit­i­cal ri­val Joe Bi­den. Fiona Hill, an­other White House na­tional se­cu­rity of­fi­cial, says Sond­land re­peat­edly talked of meet­ings with Mul­vaney.

In a fur­ther link be­tween the two men, she quoted thethen na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, John Bolton, as telling her he didn’t want to be part of “what­ever drug deal Sond­land and Mul­vaney are cook­ing up.”

HIM: Sond­land sug­gests he knows Mul­vaney well enough to wave and say hello — and that’s about it. He says he may have spo­ken to him once or twice on the phone, but not about Ukraine. He doesn’t re­call any sit-down meet­ing with him on Ukraine or any other sub­ject. Mul­vaney, he says, was “al­most im­pos­si­ble to get a hold of,” rarely re­spond­ing to mes­sages.


THEM: Wil­liam Tay­lor, the act­ing am­bas­sador in Ukraine, told law­mak­ers that Sond­land said that “ev­ery­thing” — a White House visit for Ukraine’s new leader and the re­lease of mil­i­tary aid to the for­mer Soviet repub­lic — was con­tin­gent on a public an­nounce­ment of in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the 2016 elec­tion and into Burisma, the Ukraine gas com­pany on whose board Hunter Bi­den sat.

HIM: This is where things get com­pli­cated.

In his closed-door tes­ti­mony, Sond­land stated that he wouldn’t have with­held mil­i­tary aid for any rea­son.

Not only that, he said he didn’t re­call any con­ver­sa­tions with the White House about with­hold­ing mil­i­tary as­sis­tance in re­turn for Ukraine help­ing with Trump’s po­lit­i­cal cam­paign. Even then, though, he left him­self some wig­gle room, say­ing a text mes­sage he sent to Tay­lor re­as­sur­ing him that there was no quid pro was sim­ply what he had heard from Trump.

Weeks later, af­ter tes­ti­mony from Tay­lor and Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil of­fi­cial Tim Mor­ri­son placed him at the cen­ter of key dis­cus­sions, Sond­land re­vised his ac­count in an ex­tra­or­di­nary way. He said he now could re­call a Septem­ber con­ver­sa­tion in which he told an aide to Ukraine pres­i­dent Volodymyr Ze­len­skiy that mil­i­tary aid likely would not oc­cur un­til Ukraine made public an­nounce­ments about cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tions.


THEM: Hill de­scribes a “blowup” with Sond­land in June when he as­serted he was in charge of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Ukraine pol­icy. Ir­ri­tated and shocked, she said she re­sponded, “you’re not.” “And I said, ‘Who has said you’re in charge of Ukraine, Gor­don?’” Hill said. “And he said, ‘the Pres­i­dent.’ Well, that shut me up, be­cause you can’t re­ally ar­gue with that.”

HIM: Sond­land says he doesn’t telling any State Depart­ment or na­tional se­cu­rity of­fi­cial that he was act­ing on the pres­i­dent’s au­thor­ity, or that the pres­i­dent had placed him in charge of Ukraine.

“I don’t re­call. I may have; I may not have. Again, I don’t re­call,” Sond­land says.

Be­sides, he says now that he viewed his role as one of sup­port rather than lead­er­ship.


THEM: Tes­ti­mony from mul­ti­ple wit­nesses cen­tered on a pair of piv­otal, some­times tense, meet­ings at the White House on July 10 in­volv­ing com­bi­na­tions of U.S. and Ukrainian lead­ers. Sev­eral of those present say Sond­land, on that day, ex­plic­itly con­nected a cov­eted White House visit to the coun­try’s public an­nounce­ment of cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tions. It was some­thing he just “blurted out,” Hill said, re­call­ing him say­ing: “Well, we have an agree­ment with the Chief of Staff for a meet­ing if these ‘in­ves­ti­ga­tions in the en­ergy sec­tor start.” Vind­man, too, re­mem­bers Sond­land say­ing that day that the Ukraini­ans would have to de­liver an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Bi­dens.

HIM: Sond­land tells a dif­fer­ent ver­sion of the day. He said he doesn’t re­call men­tion­ing Ukraine in­ves­ti­ga­tions or Burisma. The only con­flict he de­scribes from that day is a dis­agree­ment on whether to promptly sched­ule a call be­tween Trump and Ze­len­skiy. He was in fa­vor.


THEM: Hill re­calls scold­ing Sond­land face-to-face af­ter the July 10 meet­ings, re­mind­ing him of the need for proper pro­ce­dures and the role of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil. She says Bolton “stiff­ened” when Sond­land brought up in­ves­ti­ga­tions in front of the Ukrainian of­fi­cials and im­me­di­ately ended the meet­ing.

Vind­man, too, said he made clear to Sond­land his com­ments were in­ap­pro­pri­ate “and that we were not go­ing to get in­volved in in­ves­ti­ga­tions.”

HIM: Sond­land doesn’t re­call a cross word from Hill, Bolton or any­one else about his Ukraine work.

In fact, he says, Bolton signed off on the whole

Ukraine strat­egy. “In­deed, over the spring and sum­mer of 2019, I re­ceived noth­ing but cor­dial re­sponses from Am­bas­sador Bolton and Dr. Hill. Noth­ing was ever raised to me about any con­cerns re­gard­ing our Ukrainian pol­icy.” As Hill was leav­ing her post in govern­ment, he re­called, she gave him a big hug and told him to keep in touch.


THEM: Marie Yo­vanovitch, who was re­called last spring as the U.S. am­bas­sador to Ukraine, told law­mak­ers both in a closed-door de­po­si­tion and again at a hear­ing last week that she went to Sond­land for ad­vice when she faced public at­tacks from the pres­i­dent’s old­est son and con­ser­va­tive me­dia fig­ures. She said Sond­land en­cour­aged her to tweet in sup­port of Trump, think­ing that might help the prob­lem.

“He sug­gested that I needed to go big or go home, and he said that the best thing to do would be to, you know, send out a tweet, praise the pres­i­dent, that sort of thing,” Yo­vanovitch said Fri­day. She said she as­sumed he meant well but that do­ing so would be too par­ti­san and po­lit­i­cal.

HIM: Sond­land said “I hon­estly don’t re­call” when asked about that ex­change and couldn’t re­call any con­ver­sa­tion he’d ever had with Yo­vanovitch about her ca­reer. When asked if he’d be sur­prised if some­one else had said that he did that, he replied, “Prob­a­bly, yeah.”


U.S. Am­bas­sador to the Euro­pean Union Gor­don Sond­land, cen­ter, ar­rives for a in­ter­view with the House Com­mit­tee on For­eign Af­fairs, House Per­ma­nent Se­lect Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence, and House Com­mit­tee on Over­sight and Re­form on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton.

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