Trump impeachment inquiry is set to deepen this week with at least nine current and former US officials scheduled to testify in public.
Following a full day of testimony on Tuesday, more hearings are scheduled for Wednesday, including that of Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union.
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The inquiry is centred on a July phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in which the US leader asked his Ukrainian counterpart to open an investigation into former US Vice President Joe Biden, who is also a top Democratic 2020 presidential contender, and his son, Hunter, who had served on a board of a Ukrainian gas company. There has been no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens.
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The call came to light due to a whistle-blower complaint. At the time of the call, the US was withholding nearly $400m in military aid from Ukraine, prompting speculation that Trump was using the money as leverage to get the desired investigations. The money was later released.
Trump has denied that any quid pro quo (Latin for “favour for a favour”) took place, describing the call as “perfect”.
Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, denied testimony by the Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland that Giuliani’s effort to get Ukraine to open investigations into Trump’s political rivals “were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit”.
Giuliani, in a since deleted tweet, characterised his support of the investigations as his “opinions” and not “demands”.
He also said he had “very little contact” with Sondland and had never met him.
“I came into this at Volker’s request. Sondland is speculating based on VERY little contact. I never met him and had very few calls with him, mostly with Volker,” Giuliani wrote in the deleted tweet.
“Volker testified I answered their questions and described them as my opinions, NOT demands. I.E., no quid pro quo!” Giuliani said.
President Donald Trump said he did not know Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland “very well”, but that he seemed liked a “nice guy”.
Trump made the comment to reports during Sondland’s hearing as part of the House impeachment inquiry.
Trump has said he did nothing wrong and has specifically denied any quid pro quo took place in regards to pressuring Ukraine’s leader to conduct politically motivated investigations.
The chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence said a conversation with Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland about a link between Ukraine military aid and investigations sought by the president “never happened.”
Marc Short, the chief of staff, said Pence never spoke with Sondland “about investigating the Bidens, Burisma, or the conditional release of financial aid to Ukraine based upon potential investigations”.
He added that Pence and Sondland were never alone together during the September 1 meeting between Pence and Ukraine’s president in Poland.
Sondland testified on Wednesday as part of the impeachment probe that he had voiced “concerns” to the vice president that the aid was being tied to investigations sought by President Donald Trump.
Trump impeachment hearings:Sondland says quid pro quo was pushed by Giuliani and ordered by Trump.