WASHINGTON — A critical witness in the impeachment inquiry offered Congress substantial new testimony this week, revealing that he told a top Ukrainian official that the country likely would not receive American military aid unless it publicly committed to investigations President Trump wanted.
Mr. Trump has consistently maintained that he did nothing wrong and that there was no quid pro quo with Ukraine.
Mr. Sondland’s testimony offered several major new details beyond the account he gave the inquiry in a 10-hour interview last month. He provided a more robust description of his own role in alerting the Ukrainians that they needed to go along with investigative requests being demanded by the president’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani. By early September, Mr. Sondland said, he had become convinced that military aid and a White House meeting were conditioned on Ukraine committing to those investigations.
The additions Mr. Sondland made to his testimony were significant because they were the first admission by a senior figure who had direct contact with Mr. Trump that the defense money for Ukraine was being held hostage to the president’s demands for investigations into his political rivals. A wealthy Oregon hotelier who donated to the president’s campaign and was rewarded with the plum diplomatic post, Mr. Sondland can hardly be dismissed as a “Never Trumper,” a charge that Mr. Trump has leveled against many other officials who have offered damaging testimony about his conduct with regard to Ukraine.
As such, Mr. Sondland’s new, fuller account is likely to complicate Republicans’ task in defending the president against the impeachment push, effectively leaving them with no argument other than that demanding a political quid pro quo from a foreign leader may be concerning, but — in the words of Mr. Trump himself — is not “an impeachable event.”
Mr. Sondland had said in a text message exchange in early September with William B. Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat in Ukraine, that the president had been clear there was no quid pro quo between the aid and investigations of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his son and other Democrats. But Mr. Sondland testified last month that he was only repeating what Mr. Trump had told him, leaving open the question of whether he believed the president. His addendum suggested that Mr. Sondland was not completely forthcoming with Mr. Taylor, and that he was, in fact, aware that the aid was contingent upon the investigation