Wednesday 13 November 2019

Diplomat testified that pressure from Trump on Ukraine was 'quid pro quo'

Sondland gave evidence to congressional committees

US President Donald Trump exits Air Force One. Photo: REUTERS/Leah Millis
US President Donald Trump exits Air Force One. Photo: REUTERS/Leah Millis

Nick Allen

A diplomat at the centre of the Donald Trump impeachment inquiry did say there was a "quid pro quo" between the US president and Ukraine, according to his lawyer.

Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the EU, gave evidence earlier this month to congressional committees.

Robert Luskin, his lawyer, told 'The Wall Street Journal' his client had been asked if there was a quid pro quo.

He said Mr Sondland had given a caveat that he was not a lawyer, but that he believed the answer was 'yes'.

Mr Sondland was said to have been referring to a meeting between Mr Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukraine president, that would happen only if Ukraine agreed to investigate allegations of corruption against Joe Biden, one of Mr Trump's chief political rivals.

Democrats in Congress are carrying out an impeachment inquiry after a whistleblower came forward detailing a phone call on July 25 between Mr Trump and Mr Zelensky.

The House of Representatives is due to vote on articles of impeachment by Christmas, with a trial to follow in the Senate to determine whether Mr Trump should be removed from office.

Meanwhile, an ex-White House adviser who's supposed to testify before House impeachment investigators today has asked a federal court whether he should comply with a subpoena or follow Mr Trump's directive against co-operating in what the president dubs a "scam".

After getting a subpoena on Friday, the former deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman quickly filed a lawsuit in the US district court in Washington.

He asked a judge to decide whether he should accede to House demands for his testimony, or assert "immunity from congressional process" as directed by Mr Trump. Mr Kupperman, who provided foreign policy advice to the president, was scheduled to testify in a similar session today.

In the lawsuit, Mr Kupperman said that he "cannot satisfy the competing demands of both the legislative and executive branches".

Mr Kupperman's filing says that "an erroneous judgment to abide by the president's assertion of testimonial immunity would unlawfully impede the House from carrying out one of its most important core constitutional responsibilities" - the power of impeachment - and would subject Mr Kupperman to "potential criminal liability for contempt of Congress". On the other hand, "an erroneous judgment to appear and testify in obedience to the House Defendants' subpoena would unlawfully impair the president in the exercise of his core national security responsibilities... by revealing confidential communications".

Irish Independent

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