WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump dismissed bombshell testimony delivered Wednesday by Ambassador Gordon Sondland about a “quid pro quo” on Ukraine and downplayed his ties to his envoy to the European Union.
“I don’t know him very well. I have not spoken to him much. This is not a man I know well,” Trump said of Sondland. “Seems like a nice guy, though.”
Before the leaving the White House for Texas, Trump read from handwritten notes disputing Sonland’s testimony, and repeatedly saying he demanded “nothing” from Ukraine’s president.
Sondland, testifying on Capitol Hill in the House impeachment inquiry, confirmed the existence of a “quid pro quo” in which military aid to Ukraine was tied to Trump’s call for an investigation of his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Sondland said Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, pressed the demand that Ukraine publicly announce an investigation of Biden and his son, Hunter, who once worked for Burisma Holdings.
“Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president of the United States, and we knew that these investigations were important to the president,” Sondland told lawmakers.
Later, during a tour of an Apple manufacturing plant in Austin, Texas, Trump said he believed Sondland’s testimony vindicated him.
“I think it was fantastic,” Trump told reporters. “They have to end it now. There was no quid pro quo. The president did absolutely nothing wrong.”
Vice President Mike Pence, who Sondland testified was “in the loop” on the Ukraine pressure campaign, also departed for visits to Wisconsin and his home state of Indiana on Wednesday.
Trump focused on the portion of the testimony in which Sondland said the president himself did not tell him directly that Ukraine aid was tied to investigations of the Bidens. However, Sondland said Trump’s desires were communicated through Giuliani and it was clear there was a link.
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Impeachment hearing: Sondland confirms Ukraine ‘quid pro quo’
“I never heard anyone advocate for holding the aid,” Sondland said, a line that was rapidly echoed on social media by the president’s allies.
“President Trump never told me directly that the aid was conditioned on an announcement of investigations,” Sondland added.
Despite Trump’s insistence that he didn’t know Sondland well, the ambassador testified they were friendly enough to have candid phone conversations with expletives. In the hearing on Capitol Hill, Sondland was asked about a comment attributed to him in which he told Trump that the president of Ukraine “loves your a–.” The conversation was recounted to lawmakers by another U.S. official.
“Yeah, it sounds like something I would say,” Sondland testified. “That’s how President Trump and I communicate. Lots of four-letter words … In this case: three letters.”
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Sondland’s testimony was “among the most significant evidence to date.”
“Republicans seem to be under the impression that, unless the president spoke the words ‘I am bribing Ukraine’ there’s no evidence of bribery or misconduct,” Schiff wrote on Twitter.
Contributing: Bart Jansen
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump: Gordon Sondland impeachment inquiry testimony should end probe