Trump diplomat gives evidence that hurts president

NEW YORK

A top United States diplomat gave dramatic testimony Wednesday to the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, telling lawmakers his boss sought to use leverage to secure political favors.

Addressing the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, Gordon Sondland, Washington’s envoy to the European Union, said Trump directed a “quid pro quo” scheme to push Ukraine to launch a probe into a political rival.

Testimony from Sondland, who has hitherto been viewed as an ally of the Republican president, came amid a fractious Democratic-led impeachment probe that could see Trump kicked out of the White House instead of running for re-election in 2020.

“We followed the president’s orders,” Sondland told lawmakers, adding that Trump directed the Ukraine pressure campaign with the involvement of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence.

Sondland said there was a “clear quid pro quo” of making U.S. military aid and a White House visit contingent on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky launching a corruption probe into former Vice President Joe Biden.

Still, Sondland insisted Trump, his personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, and other senior officials were in no way “engaged in some irregular or rogue diplomacy.”

He told committee members: “Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.”

Democrats in the House of Representatives opened an impeachment inquiry into Trump on Sept. 24 following claims by a whistle-blower that the president tried to pressure Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 presidential elections.

In a July 25 telephone call, Trump allegedly made some $400 miliion military aid contingent on Zelensky launching a probe into Biden, and his son, Hunter, a businessman, over unsubstantiated corruption allegations.

The elder Biden is a leading candidate in the race for the Democratic nomination to challenge Trump for the presidency in 2020.

Trump, a Republican, has accused Democrats of wasting time and says the House inquiry is a “witch-hunt” and a “hoax” and maintains that he did nothing wrong in his dealings with the turbulent eastern European nation.
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