U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019, during a public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The Latest: Sondland questions details of call to Trump

November 20, 2019 - 11:06 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump and the House impeachment inquiry (all times local):

11 a.m.

Gordon Sondland is questioning details of a July cellphone call with President Donald Trump as recounted by a diplomat who overheard the call from a Kyiv restaurant.

David Holmes said he heard the two men discussing investigations Trump was seeking as Sondland held the phone out. Sondland said it “seems a little strange” that he would hold the phone that way.

Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the EU, is testifying Wednesday in the House impeachment inquiry. Holmes testified earlier behind closed-doors.

Sondland said he doesn’t think he would have told Holmes that Trump only cares about “the big stuff,” as Holmes recounted.

Holmes also said Sondland told Trump the Ukrainian president “loves your ass” — which Sondland said “sounds like something I would say.”

Sondland said that’s how he communicated with Trump: “a lot of four-letter words. In this case three letters."

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10:30 a.m.

Gordon Sondland says the Trump administration’s anticorruption efforts in Ukraine started off as “vanilla” but that more demands and conditions were later added.

He says as more conditions were added by Trump officials, it became harder to schedule a White House visit for Ukraine’s new president.

Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, is testifying Wednesday before House impeachment investigators

He said at one point he asked President Donald Trump what he wanted from Ukraine, and the president said there was no quid pro quo and that he simply wanted Ukraine to do the right thing.

Still, Sondland testified that he did not know until September that the president was seeking an investigation into Democratic rival Joe Biden.

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10:25 a.m.

Ambassador Gordon Sondland says State Department leadership expressed “total support” for his diplomatic efforts on Ukraine.

Sondland is testifying Wednesday before the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, who held up military aide to Ukraine while pushing the Ukrainians to investigate a Democratic political rival.

Sondland says he wrote Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to ask for help in dealing with the “logjam” between Trump and Ukraine’s president after Ukraine became aware the military aid was held up.

In an email, he asked Pompeo for help in figuring out a way for them to move forward on the “issues of importance” for Trump.

Pompeo replied: “Yes.”

Sondland also included an email from Pompeo where he told Sondland he was doing “great work.”

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10:15 a.m.

Gordon Sondland is denying that in carrying out President Donald Trump’s Ukraine policy he was engaging in “some kind of rogue diplomacy” or that he “muscled” his way into the issue.

Trump’s EU ambassador is testifying Wednesday in the House’s impeachment inquiry into Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democrat Joe Biden and his son while holding up military aide

Other witnesses have been generally consistent in saying that Sondland operated a parallel diplomatic effort orchestrated by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

Sondland said Wednesday that the suggestion that he was engaged in “rogue diplomacy is absolutely false.” He said others were informed about the Ukraine strategy.

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10:05 a.m.

Ambassador Gordon Sondland says his recollection of a July 10 meeting with Ukrainian officials at the White House doesn’t square with those of other U.S. officials who have testified before the House committee in an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

Sondland said Wednesday he doesn’t recall former White House national security adviser John Bolton cutting the meeting short.

Others have said Bolton abruptly ended the meeting after he became angry when the issue of investigations was raised. One witness said Bolton later said he didn’t want to be part of any “drug deal” being cooked up by Sondland and chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

Instead, Sondland said, after the meeting, they all went outside and took photos on the White House lawn.

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9:50 a.m.

Gordon Sondland says his testimony has “not been perfect” because President Donald Trump’s administration has refused to give him access to calendars, phone records and other State Department documents that he says might have helped him accurately answer questions.

Trump’s ambassador to the EU told House impeachment investigators Wednesday that he’s “not a note taker or a memo writer. Never have been.” Any discrepancies in his testimony, he is suggesting, are due to the lack of documentation.

Sondland, who played a major part in carrying out Trump administration policy toward Ukraine, is testifying under oath and penalty of perjury. He has said in previous testimony that he doesn’t recall key details, and what he does remember differs from the recollections of others.

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9:45 a.m.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has ignored questions about testimony from the U.S. ambassador to the European Union that he and others were aware of a “quid pro quo” involving military aid to Ukraine.

Pompeo three times declined to respond to shouted questions from reporters about what Gordon Sondland has told the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

Pompeo is in Brussels attending a NATO foreign ministers meeting. Pompeo was asked about Sondland at photo ops at the start of meetings with the foreign ministers of Romania and Turkey and the secretary general of NATO.

Pompeo rarely answers questions at such events and is scheduled to have a formal press conference later Wednesday.

He is scheduled to return to Washington on Thursday.

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9:35 a.m.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has opened Wednesday’s impeachment hearing with a warning for President Donald Trump’s administration.

Schiff said the House has “not received a single document” from the administration as it has investigated Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. He said Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have made “a concerted and across the board effort” to obstruct the investigation and “they do so at their own peril.”

Democrats have said they are considering an article of impeachment against Trump for obstruction of Congress.

The committee is hearing testimony Wednesday from Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who says that “everyone was in the loop” in Trump’s administration as the president pushed Ukraine to open investigations into Democrats.

Schiff says, “The knowledge of this scheme was far and wide.”

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9:25 a.m.

Was there a “quid pro quo?”

The ambassador entangled in an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump is telling House lawmakers: “Yes.”

Gordon Sondland is testifying Wednesday publicly.

Sondland says “we all understood” that a meeting at the White House for Ukraine’s president and a phone call with Trump would happen only if President Volodymyr Zelenskiy agreed to an investigation into the 2016 U.S. election and the son of former Vice President Joe Biden.

He says he sent an email on July 19, just days before the July 25 call at the center of the impeachment inquiry, where he laid out the issue in detail to members of the State and Energy departments and White House staff.

Sondland said: "It was no secret."

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9:20 a.m.

A key witness in the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump says that Vice President Mike Pence was informed about concerns that military aid to Ukraine had been held up because of the investigations.

Ambassador Gordon Sondland is testifying Wednesday publicly. He already appeared behind closed doors.

He tells lawmakers that Trump was supposed to meet Ukraine’s new leader Sept. 1 in Warsaw, Poland, but Trump couldn’t make it because of a hurricane in the U.S. so Pence attended instead.

Sondland said he told Pence before the meetings that he had concerns that the delay in military aid to Ukraine had become tied to the issue of investigations.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy raised the issue of security aid to Pence. But he didn’t specifically mention whether the idea of the hold-up was related to investigations.

Pence has denied that he knew about a link between military aid and the investigations

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9:15 a.m.

Pam Bondi, a White House adviser assisting the administration on impeachment messaging, says President Donald Trump didn’t know his European Union ambassador very well.

Bondi said on “CBS This Morning” that Sondland was a “short-term ambassador” and incorrectly described himself as the envoy to Ukraine.

She said, “The president doesn’t know him very well.”

Bondi also said that Trump probably won’t offer testimony in the impeachment hearing. The president said earlier this week that he was weighing submitting written testimony.

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9:10 a.m.

Ambassador Gordon Sondland is testifying that he “followed the president’s orders” to work with Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine.

Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, is a key witness in the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

He says that he and his colleagues did not want to involve the president's personal attorney in diplomacy efforts with Ukraine, but they were told to by the president.

Even though they didn't like it, they also didn't think it was improper at the time. Had he known that some of Giuliani's associations with individuals who are now under criminal indictment, he never would have "acquiesced to his participation."

Because he believed everything to be above board, they made every effort to keep people informed about the efforts.

He said the suggestion that he and others we were engaged in rogue diplomacy was absolutely false.

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9:02 a.m.

Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, is confirming that he spoke by phone with President Donald Trump one day after the president prodded Ukraine’s leader to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Sondland tells House impeachment investigators that the White House has also confirmed the newly revealed call and shared call logs with his attorneys.

The July 26 phone call between Sondland and Trump was disclosed by multiple witnesses within the last week. It took place a day after the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymr Zelenskiy that is now at the center of the impeachment inquiry.

Sondland says there’s no reason to doubt that he discussed investigations with Trump, as other witnesses have maintained. He says the call did not strike him as significant at that time.

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9 a.m.

Ambassador Gordon Sondland says he kept top members of the Trump administration, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in the loop about President Donald Trump’s pressure on Ukraine for investigations.

In remarks to a House intelligence panel, Sondland tells lawmakers that it was well-established within the Trump administration that there was a quid pro quo involving Ukraine.

He said the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, openly discussed how Trump wanted Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into the 2016 U.S. presidential election and into Burisma — the Ukraine gas company on whose board Biden’s son, Hunter, sat — as a prerequisite for a coveted White House visit for Ukraine leader Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Sondland said he laid out the issue in detail to members of State Department, Energy, and White House staff. Recipients included Pompeo and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, he said.

Everyone understood “Trump’s desires and requirements,” Sondland says. He added: “Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.”

Last month, Pompeo acknowledged for the first time he was on Trump’s July 25 call with the Ukrainian president, but disclosed no details and did not indicate he was kept up to date on the Ukraine pressure efforts.

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12:12 a.m.

Ambassador Gordon Sondland faces tough questions when he testifies to a Houses panel Wednesday about his evolving accounts of the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine.

A newly revealed phone call with President Donald Trump shows Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, more directly entangled than any witness yet in the Trump’s efforts to get Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden and Democrats in the 2016 election.

Sondland is a wealthy hotelier Trump tapped as his ambassador to the European Union. He is more directly entangled than any witness yet in the president’s efforts to get Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden and Democrats in the 2016 election.

Sondland’s closeness to Trump makes his appearance of particular concern to the White House as the historic impeachment inquiry reaches closer to the president.

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