In Brief

Donald Trump’s ally changes story and admits Ukraine quid pro quo

Gordon Sondland returns to impeachment inquiry with new testimony

An ally of Donald Trump has altered his testimony to the impeachment inquiry to confirm that the US president offered Ukraine a quid pro quo to investigate a political rival.

In a revision described by The Guardian as “dramatic”, Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the EU, said he told a senior official in Ukraine that nearly $400m in military aid would probably be withheld until the country announced an investigation into allegations about a gas company with ties to the former vice-president Joe Biden’s son Hunter.

The 375-page transcript of Sondland's 17 October deposition was released yesterday with an additional three-page declaration from Sondland, along with a letter from his attorney dated 4 November, at the end.

Sondland originally told investigators there was never a quid pro quo attaching aid or a White House visit to investigations. However, after subsequent witness appearances, Sondland returned with lawyers to Capitol Hill to “review” his testimony in a move described as “striking” by Time.

Sondland said he remembered a conversation on 1 September, 2019, in Warsaw with Andriy Yermak, a top adviser to the president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

He recalled in his updated evidence: “I said that resumption of the US aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anticorruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks.”

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Democrats have seized on the news. Chris Murphy, a senator from Connecticut, wrote on Twitter: “Nobody can pretend there’s any lingering debate over what happened. It’s over. Open and shut. Today, the one guy who said there wasn’t a corrupt aid-for-interference deal, changed his story to say that in fact, there was an aid-for-interference deal.”

Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, wrote in USA Today: “This is about more than just one call. We now know that the call was just one piece of a larger operation to redirect our foreign policy to benefit Donald Trump's personal and political interests, not the national interest.”

The US president is accused of withholding military aid to Ukraine to coerce Zelensky into investigating Biden and his son Hunter over unsubstantiated corruption charges.

Trump has repeatedly denied that military aid was tied to an investigation of Biden. In response to the Sondland transcripts, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said they “show there is even less evidence for this illegitimate impeachment sham than previously thought”.

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