Gordon Sondland, the Portland businessman who is now a top U.S. diplomat in Europe, appeared to push back on the idea that President Donald Trump was holding up an arms deal to Ukraine in exchange for getting officials there to dig up political dirt on rival Democrat Joe Biden, according to newly released texts
The texts provided to House impeachment investigators show that Bill Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine, in September wrote Sondland and other U.S. diplomats that, “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”
According to ABC, Sondland replied that the charge is “incorrect” and added that Trump has been “crystal clear no quid pro quo of any kind.”
Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, then told the group, “I suggest we stop the back and forth by text.”
The texts were reportedly provided to House impeachment investigators by Kurt Volker. He recently resigned from his position as a special U.S. envoy to Ukraine following the release of a whistleblower’s complaint. It charged that Trump used his official position to press Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a July 25 phone call to investigate Biden’s son, Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukranian natural gas company. At the time, Trump was holding up a major arms deal to Ukraine, which is involved in border fighting with Russian-backed forces.
According to the whistleblower's complaint, Volker and Sondland both talked with Zelensky and his aides after Trump's telephone call to help the Ukranians "navigate" his demands.
Sondland was appointed to his ambassadorship by Trump after donating $1 million to the president's inaugural committee. Sondland owns a Portland-based company that runs a chain of boutique hotels and was well-known in both political and business circles in the state.
The House committees involved in the impeachment inquiry have demanded that Sondland appear for questioning on Thursday, Oct. 10. Sondland initially indicated through a representative that he would cooperate with Congress, according to the Wall Street Journal. But following that, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the House wasn't giving his agency enough time to prepare for the testimony of Sondland and other State Department officials.