A former White House national security official told US House of Representatives investigators that Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the European Union, was acting at US President Donald Trump's behest and spoke to a top Ukrainian official about exchanging military aid for political investigations — two elements at the heart of the US presidential impeachment inquiry.
Tim Morrison, the top Russia and Europe adviser on the National Security Council, testified that between July 16 and September 11, he understood Sondland had spoken to Trump about half a dozen times, according to a transcript of his sworn October 31 deposition released by House committees yesterday.
Trump has said he does not know Sondland well and has tried to distance himself from the EU ambassador, whom Trump put in charge of Ukraine policy along with two others, even though Ukraine is not part of the EU.
"His mandate from the president was to go make deals," Morrison said of Sondland.
Sondland continues to emerge as a key figure in House Democrats' impeachment inquiry as multiple witnesses have described him as central to answering the question at the heart of the effort to remove Trump from office: did the president specifically withhold military aid and a White House visit desperately sought by the new Ukrainian government in the face of Russian aggression in exchange for investigations into his political rivals?
Sondland has provided sworn testimony behind closed doors, but questions have been raised about whether he was fully forthcoming. He has revised his testimony once, and will testify publicly before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday (NZ time).