Pentagon official drops a bomb, reveals 3 separate inquiries about Ukraine military aid on the day of Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky

US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. Associated Press/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
  • Wednesday’s impeachment hearings feature three more officials who will testify about President Donald Trump’s efforts to strongarm Ukraine into delivering political dirt.
  • The officials are: Gordon Sondland, the US’s ambassador to the EU; Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Defence; and David Hale, undersecretary of state for political affairs at the State Department.
  • Sondland’s hearing was the day’s main event and began at 9 a.m. ET. He threw everyone under the bus and produced texts and emails that he said show top brass at the White House and State Department were involved in Trump’s pressure campaign.
  • Cooper and Hale jointly testified beginning at 5:30 p.m.
  • Scroll down to watch the hearings and follow Insider’s live coverage.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Congress will hear today from three more officials set to publicly testify about their knowledge of President Donald Trump’s efforts to strongarm Ukraine into delivering him political dirt while withholding military aid and a White House meeting.

Gordon Sondland, the US’s ambassador to the EU, testified beginning at 9 a.m. ET.

Laura Cooper, a deputy assistant secretary at the State Department, and David Hale, the undersecretary of state for political affairs at the State Department, were scheduled to jointly testify at 2:30 p.m. but their hearing got pushed back to 5:30 when Sondland’s hearing went over the scheduled time limit.

The hearings were broadcast live on C-SPAN and the major cable news networks.

Watch the first hearing here:

Watch the second hearing here:

Hale: Ousted ambassador Masha Yovanovitch ‘should have been able to stay at post and continue to do the outstanding work’

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019, during the second public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump’s efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Associated Press

Yovanovitch was abruptly recalled from her position in May after what she characterised as a “smear campaign” that Trump and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, carried out against her.

Yovanovitch testified last week that she repeatedly requested that the State Department release a statement supporting her amid Trump’s and Giuliani’s attacks but that top brass at the agency refused because they didn’t want to risk angering the president.

In the end, Yovanovitch said, she was removed based on “false allegations by people with clearly questionable motives.” Specifically, she said she was recalled because she wouldn’t help Giuliani pressure Ukraine to deliver Trump the investigations she wanted.

Democratic Rep. Denny Heck asked Hale if he agreed Yovanovitch served with dignity and grace in the face of “the smear campaign.”

Hale replied, “Yes, she did.”

Heck then asked Hale if he agreed Yovanovitch is a “dedicated and courageous patriot.”

“I endorse what you say exactly,” Hale said.

Referring to Yovanovitch’s dismissal, Hale said, “I believe that she should have been able to stay at post and continued to do the outstanding work.”

Hale: State Department advocated ‘for proceeding with all of the assistance’ to Ukraine

State Department official David Hale, walks as he waits to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Hale said that when he and other State Department officials learned that Trump had ordered the Office of Management and Budget to withhold aid, they vigorously pushed back.

“The State Department advocated, as I did in that meeting, for proceeding with all of the assistance, consistent with our policies and interests in Ukraine,” Hale testified. He was referring to an interagency meeting that took place at the end of July.

“You believed what you said? You believed in the release of the hold?” Democratic Rep. Sewell asked Hale.

“Yes, I did,” he said.

Sewell asked whether anyone at the meeting supported the hold.

“The only agency represented in the meeting that indicated that they supported the hold was OMB,” Hale testified.

Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, heads up the OMB and is also one of the key figures in Trump’s push to strongarm Ukraine into delivering dirt while withholding aid.

Mulvaney also confirmed in a news conference last month that Trump withheld aid in part because he wanted Ukraine to investigate a bogus conspiracy theory suggesting it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 election.

The conspiracy has no factual basis and stems from a frequent talking point pushed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who ordered the Kremlin to meddle in the US election.

Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell tells Cooper: ‘Your testimony today destroys two of the pillars of the president’s defence and one justification for his conduct’


Cooper is the 3rd official to testify that the Ukrainians were aware of the aid freeze before it was publicly reported

Laura Cooper testifies at a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Trump impeachment inquiry in Washington Reuters

Politico reported on the frozen aid in late August, but two other officials have testified that the Ukrainians knew about it before, earlier in the month.

But Cooper is the first to reveal that their knowledge of the hold-up went as far back as July, and on the same day that Trump asked Zelensky for “a favour, though,” after Zelensky indicated that Ukraine was ready to purchase more javelins from the US.

Schiff does a double take as Cooper describes 3 separate inquiries about frozen aid on July 25

Committee chairman Adam Schiff sought to clarify what Cooper testified after she revealed the two emails.

“As early as July 25th, the same day Pres. Trump spoke with Pres. Zelensky on the phone and asked for this favour … your staff got inquiries from someone at the Ukrainian embassy who was concerned about the status of the military assistance?” he asked.

“That is correct,” Cooper replied.

In all, Cooper laid out three separate inquiries about the hold on Ukraine aid on July 25:

  • The email from the State Department at 2:31 p.m. that said “the Ukrainian embassy and the House Foreign Affairs Committee are asking about security assistance
  • The email from the State Department at 4:25 p.m. that said “that the Hill knows about the [frozen military funds] situation to an extent, and so does the Ukrainian embassy.”
  • A member of Cooper’s staff got a question from a Ukrainian embassy official saying, “What is going on with Ukraine security assistance?”

Laura Cooper drops a bomb: US and Ukrainian officials sent two emails asking about frozen aid on the day of Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence Laura Cooper arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee AP Photo/Julio Cortez

Cooper revealed in bombshell testimony that she recently became aware of two previously unknown emails that show Ukrainian officials and a House committee asking about the frozen military aid to Ukraine.

Both those emails were sent on July 25, the same day of Trump’s infamous phone call with Zelensky.

Cooper said she learned of the emails after her private deposition. She hadn’t discussed her testimony with staffers, but after it was publicly released, Cooper testified that her staff members informed her about the two emails.

“On the issue of Ukraine’s knowledge of the hold, or of Ukraine asking questions about possible issues with the flow of assistance, my staff showed me two unclassified emails that they received from the State Department,” Cooper said.

The first was received on July 25 at 2:31 p.m. That email said “the Ukrainian embassy and the House Foreign Affairs Committee are asking about security assistance,” Cooper testified.

The second email was sent at 4:25 p.m. and said “that the Hill knows about the [frozen military funds] situation to an extent, and so does the Ukrainian embassy.”

Cooper testified that she “did not receive either of these emails” and that her staff “does not recall” informing her about them.

This is a significant revelation. Trump has claimed that his request during that phone call that Zelensky investigate the Bidens, Burisma, and the 2016 election could not have been perceived as putting pressure on Ukraine because they did not find out about the freeze on military aid until weeks later.

Cooper’s testimony about the two emails – from US and Ukrainian officials – blows up that defence.

Sondland: ‘I assume President Trump would benefit’ from investigation into the Bidens

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y. Alex Brandon/AP Images

Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney embarked on a sharp line of questioning aimed at getting Sondland to admit that Trump’s conduct was inappropriate and lay out how he stood to benefit from Ukraine launching an investigation into Burisma Holdings, the natural gas company that employed former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, until earlier this year.

The president has said he wants the investigation to focus on the Bidens’ “corruption,” but there’s no evidence suggesting the Bidens violated Ukrainian laws. Lawmakers and national security veterans have also said it’s inappropriate for Trump to want a foreign government to investigate a domestic political rival.

“Who would benefit from an investigation of the president’s political opponent?” Maloney asked.

“Well, presumably the person who asked for the investigation,” Sondland replied.

“Who is that?” Maloney pressed.

“If the president asked for the investigation, it would be him,” Sondland said.

“There we have it,” Maloney said as the room broke into applause.

Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier draws applause with a witty comeback to a Republican colleague about Trump’s lies

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif. Jacquelyn Martin/AP Images

Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, drew applause in the impeachment hearing room on Wednesday when she levied a witty comeback to Republican Rep. Mike Conaway.

Speier’s remark came after Conaway referred to a recent Washington Post fact check that gave Democratic claims that the Ukraine whistleblower has a “statutory right” to immunity “three Pinocchios” out of a maximum of four.

The rating amounts to “mostly false.”

Speier argued that, regardless, outing the whistleblower is a threat to his personal well-being.

“The end of the article does go through that and also says it’s three Pinocchios in spite of that,” Conaway interrupted.

Speier shot back, “The President has five Pinocchios on a daily basis, so let’s not go there.”

Sondland contradicts Trump’s claim that he doesn’t know Sondland well

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019, during a public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump’s efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) Associated Press

Earlier in the day, the president said he doesn’t know Sondland well and that they haven’t spoken much.

Sondland contradicted that in his hearing, estimating that they spoke around 20 times. The ambassador noted that he and Trump are “not close friends” and have a “professional, cordial working relationship.”

Republicans accuse Sondland of alleging a quid pro quo based on ‘hearsay’


Republicans have spent much of the hearing alternating between praising Sondland and skewering him.

In one particularly heated exchange, GOP Rep. Mike Turner told Sondland he has “no testimony today that ties President Trump to a scheme to withhold aid from Ukraine in exchange for these investigations.”

“Other than my own presumptions,” Sondland replied.

Those presumptions, Turner said, were based on “nothing” and “hearsay evidence.”

“I never said the President of the United States should be impeached,” Sondland countered.

At that point, committee chairman Adam Schiff interjected and said his Republican colleagues “seem to be under the impression” that the only evidence of a quid pro quo would be if Trump explicitly said to Sondland, “I am bribing the Ukrainian president,” or “I’m telling you I’m not going to give the aid” to Ukraine.

“Nonetheless, ambassador, you have given us a lot of evidence, of precisely that conditionality of both the white house meeting and the military assistance,” Schiff said.

Giuliani targets GOP counsel as Republicans paint him as a rogue agent

Rudy Giuliani. AP Photo/Charles Krupa

The GOP strategy has shifted in recent weeks as Republican lawmakers seek to paint Giuliani as a rogue element who carried out the shadow campaign on his own and not at Trump’s behest.

But it looks like Giuliani won’t take that lying down.

Republican minority counsel Steve Castor asked Sondland at one point, “Did you know Giuliani has business interests in Ukraine?”

“Now I understand he did,” Sondland replied. “I didn’t know that at the time.”

Giuliani fired back at Castor on Twitter.

“Republican lawyer doesn’t do his own research and preparation, and is instead picking up Democrat lies, shame,” the former New York mayor tweeted. “Allow me to inform him: I have NO financial interests in Ukraine, NONE!”

Trump seizes on Sondland’s testimony as proof of exoneration

FILE – In this July 10, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump is joined by Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, second from right, as he arrives at Melsbroek Air Base, in Brussels, Belgium. Sondland originally planned to meet Tuesday, Nov 19, with EU Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis to discuss better cooperation between the two trading juggernauts. That meeting was postponed indefinitely because Sondland was to testify Wednesday before Congress about his involvement in Ukraine. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File) Associated Press

Trump weighed in on Sondland’s hearing as he was still testifying.

“Impeachment Witch Hunt is now OVER!” Trump tweeted.

He then pointed to a conversation Sondland testified about having with Trump in which the ambassador asked Trump what he wanted from Ukraine. Trump said the conversation was proof that there was no quid pro quo.

“I keep hearing all these different ideas and theories. What do you want?” Sondland said he asked Trump. “It was a very abrupt conversation. He was not in a good mood. He just said, ‘I want nothing! I want nothing! I want no quid pro quo! Tell President Zelensky to do the right thing!”

Sondland testified that Trump told him, “Good, go tell the truth.”

On Twitter, Trump wrote, “This Witch Hunt must end NOW. So bad for our Country!”

But Sondland also testified, when asked how he knew about the quid pro quo when Trump never directly mentioned withholding aid, that the president told him to talk to Giuliani and Giuliani “made Trump’s interests clear.”

GOP ranking member Devin Nunes says Democrats have ‘Watergate fantasies’

The California Republican’s main role throughout the impeachment hearings has been to lob verbal grenades to distract from the matter at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

A non-exhaustive list of what Nunes talked about on Wednesday and in earlier hearings:

  • A Democratic operative named Alexandra Chalupa
  • Ukrainian election interference
  • Nude photos of the president
  • Ukrainian corruption
  • Democratic collusion with Ukraine
  • The “Russia hoax”

There is no evidence to support any of Nunes’ counter-narratives.

Nunes on Democrats and Watergate fantasies: “Earlier we heard about the – we had the chair looking into the cameras telling the American people, talking about Watergate with their Watergate fantasies. I guess they fantasize about this at night and then they come here and talk about obstruction of justice because they’re not giving you documents that you think you should have. So now they have laid out their clear Watergate argument or articles of impeachment.”

Sondland implicates Vice President Mike Pence


Sondland testified that he discussed the Burisma investigation with Pence before Pence met with Zelensky in Poland on September 1.

Pence’s office sharply disputed Sondland’s testimony.

“Multiple witnesses have testified under oath that Vice President Pence never raised Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden, Crowdstrike, Burisma, or investigations in any conversation with Ukrainians or President Zelensky before, during, or after the September 1 meeting in Poland,” Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, said in a statement.

“The Vice President never had a conversation with Gordon Sondland about investigating the Bidens, Burisma, or the conditional release of financial aid to Ukraine based upon potential investigations,” the statement continued.

Following his September meeting with Zelensky, Pence emphasised that the US wanted Ukraine to crack down on corruption, which Trump has publicly highlighted as being the reason he wanted the Burisma probe.

Trump weighed in on Sondland’s testimony by reading off a note written in black Sharpie

President Donald Trump. AP

It was a classic Trumpian note.^tfw

Here’s what it said: “I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zellinsky to do the right thing. This is the final word from the Pres. of the U.S.”

Sondland throws Republicans a bone

U.S. Ambassador to EU Sondland arrives to tesitfy at House Intelligence Committee hearing on Trump impeachment inquiry on Capitol Hill in Washington Reuters

Republicans will likely latch onto a key acknowledgement from Sondland that Trump never spoke to him about a Ukraine quid pro quo or withholding military aid.

But there’s a caveat: Sondland later said that the reason he didn’t talk to Trump because the president told him to speak to Giuliani, and Giuliani made Trump’s interests clear.

Giuliani, of course, was the Trump administration’s point man in the pressure campaign to demand Zelensky’s fledgling government launch politically motivated investigations in exchange for security assistance and a White House meeting.

Democrats and Republicans seize on Sondland’s memory lapses to push their own cases

US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland arrives to testify before a House Intelligence Committee hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on November 20, 2019. Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

There’s a sharp contrast between Sondland’s testimony and that given by the other officials in the impeachment inquiry so far.

The officials who testified before Sondland are career national security and foreign service officials who typically take meticulous contemporaneous notes. As a result, they were able to recall minute details of important events and conversations.

Sondland, on the other hand, does not take notes and that resulted in many gaps in his testimony and an inability to recall certain events.

Still, there were moments in the hearing that both Democrats and Republicans seized on to make their respective cases.

Democrats pointed to Sondland’s lack of note-taking to push their case that the White House and State Department should stop withholding documents.

Republicans, meanwhile, said Sondland’s memory lapse meant to call his testimony – which has been very damaging to Trump and other senior officials – into question.

Republicans went from praising Sondland to slamming his credibility as a witness

Ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., left, talks to Steve Castor, Republican staff attorney for the House Oversight Committee, AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Rep. Devin Nunes of California, the Republican ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, kicked off his opening statement by railing against Democrats and spreading baseless conspiracy theories about purported Ukrainian election interference.

Nunes characterised the impeachment inquiry as a “circus” dominated by “asinine accusations.”

He later added: “Ambassador Sondland, you are here today to be smeared.”

A few hours into the hearing, though, Republicans struck a different tone.

Steve Castor, the minority counsel, took a swipe at Sondland’s credibility as a witness: “You don’t have records, you don’t have notes because you don’t take notes, and you don’t have recollections.”

“This is a trifecta of unreliability,” Castor added.

Sondland testifies about a July 26 call with Trump about Ukraine and investigations


Sondland discussed a July 26 phone call between himself and Trump in which the president discussed “investigations” in Ukraine.

David Holmes, a State Department official who was with Sondland when he was on the call, testified that he heard Trump ask Sondland about the status of “the investigations” after Sondland met with a Ukrainian government official in Kyiv.

Sondland said the Ukrainians were “ready to move forward,” After the call, Holmes asked Sondland what Trump thought of Ukraine.

Sondland replied that Trump “cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for.”

On Tuesday, the ambassador confirmed the details of the call, saying, “I have no reason to doubt that this conversation included the subject of investigations.”

Sondland also said the White House confirmed the call. But Trump has said he knows “nothing” about it.

Asked about the call at a press conference last week, Trump said, “I know nothing about that. First time I’ve heard it.” When asked if he recalled speaking with Sondland, he continued, “I don’t recall. No, not at all. Not even a little bit.”

Sondland takes aim at Giuliani: ‘Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the President of the United States, and we knew these investigations were important to the president.’

Former Mayor of New York Rudolph Giuliani during the Conference In Support Of Freedom and Democracy In Iran on June 30, 2018 in Paris, France. The speakers declared their support for the Iranian peoples uprising and the democratic alternative, the National Council of Resistance of Iran and called on the international community to adopt a firm policy against the mullahs regime and stand by the arisen people of Iran. (Photo by Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)

Sondland confirmed that Giuliani’s requests “were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky.”

“Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing the investigations of the 2016 election, DNC server, and Burisma,” Sondland said. “Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the President of the United States, and we knew these investigations were important to the president.”

Burisma Holdings is the Ukrainian natural gas company whose board employed former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, until earlier this year. Trump has claimed he pushed for Ukrainian prosecutors to investigate Burisma because of corruption issues, but several officials have testified that Trump wanted to target the Bidens through an investigation of Burisma.

Sondland’s reference to the 2016 election and DNC server relates to Trump’s demand that Ukraine investigate a bogus conspiracy theory suggesting it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the election.

The ambassador went on to say that in July and August, “we learned that the White House had also suspended security aid to Ukraine.”

Sondland said he was opposed to suspending the aid and “tried diligently” to find out why it was frozen but “never received a clear answer.”

He said he later learned that “the resumption of security aid would not occur until there was a public statement from Ukraine committing to the investigations of the 2016 election and Burisma, as Mr. Giuliani had demanded.”

Sondland: The three amigos worked with Rudy Giuliani ‘at the express direction’ of Trump

Gordon Sondland is seen being sworn in before his Congressional testimony on November 20. Erik S. Lesser – Pool/Getty

Sondland testified that he, outgoing energy secretary Rick Perry, and former Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker “worked with Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the President of the United States.”

Giuliani is Trump’s personal lawyer who spearheaded the Ukraine pressure campaign.

“We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani,” Sondland testified. “Simply put, we were playing the hand we were dealt.”

Sondland added that while they didn’t feel the need to involve Giuliani, they didn’t believe his role was “improper.”

“If I had known all of Mr. Giuliani’s dealings, or associations, with individuals, some of whom are now under criminal investigation, I would not have personally acquiesced” to working with the former New York mayor, Sondland said.

He was referring to Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two of Giuliani’s Ukrainian associates who were indicted last month for campaign finance violations. Both men helped facilitate Giuliani’s efforts to get Ukraine to deliver political dirt to Trump.

They also aided Giuliani in engineering the ouster of Masha Yovanovitch, the US’s ambassador to Ukraine who was abruptly recalled in May after she refused to help Giuliani carry out his shadow foreign policy agenda.

“Precisely because we did not think we were engaging in improper behaviour, we made every effort to ensure that the relevant decision makers at the National Security Council and State Department knew the important details of our efforts,” Sondland testified. “The suggestion that we were engaged in some irregular and rogue diplomacy is absolutely false.”

Sondland implicates Trump, Pompeo, and Bolton

Gordon Sondland, the United States Ambassador to the European Union, adresses the media during a press conference at the US Embassy to Romania in Bucharest September 5, 2019. DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images

Sondland took aim at Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in his testimony. He also confirmed Trump engaged in a quid pro quo with Ukraine by conditioning military aid and the White House meeting on Zelensky delivering him the investigations he wanted.

“Members of this Committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a ‘quid pro quo?” Sondland’s opening statement said. “As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”

In a twist, Sondland also targeted former national security adviser John Bolton in his testimony. Bolton has largely emerged as a key White House figure opposed to the shadow foreign policy that Sondland and several other Trump allies were running in Ukraine.

Multiple officials have testified about a July 10 White House meeting with Ukrainian officials that Bolton abruptly ended when Sondland began discussing the fact that an Oval Office visit for Zelensky was predicated on him launching politically motivated investigations.

Fiona Hill, the National Security Council’s former senior director in charge of Russian and Eurasian affairs, testified that Bolton told her to flag the meeting to the NSC’s chief lawyer, John Eisenberg.

Hill added that Bolton told her to convey to Eisenberg that he was not part of the “drug deal” that Sondland and the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, were “cooking up” in Ukraine.

Sondland produces emails incriminating Pompeo

Mike Pompeo speaking in Budapest, Hungary on February 11, 2019. Laszlo Balogh/Getty images

Sondland showed up at Wednesday’s hearing with new text messages and emails that he claims prove that top brass at the White House and State Department were involved in Trump’s pressure campaign.

One of those emails was between Sondland, Pompeo, and Lisa Kenna, a career State Department aide.

In the email, sent on August 22, Sondland wrote to Pompeo, “Should we block time in Warsaw for a short pull-aside for Potus to meet [Ukrainian President Volodymr] Zelensky?”

“I would ask Zelensky to look him in the eye and tell him that once Ukraine’s new justice folks are in place (mid-Sept) [Zelensky] should be able to move forward publicly and with confidence on those issues of importance to Potus and to the US,” he wrote. “Hopefully, that will break the logjam.”

Pompey replied: “Yes.”

Sondland’s reference to the “logjam” was likely related to the fact that Ukrainian officials had become aware at that time that the US had ordered a freeze on military aid.

What Sondland said behind closed doors

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland (C) arrives at the U.S. Capitol on October 17, 2019 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The hotel executive was given an ambassadorship after donating $US1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee and has emerged as the primary link between Trump and Ukraine in the saga so far. Sondland already testified to Congress behind closed doors once but went back and amended his testimony after it was contradicted by Bill Taylor, the US’s chief envoy in Ukraine, in a closed session.

Since Sondland corrected his testimony to acknowledge a quid pro quo between Trump and Ukraine, Taylor and one of his top aides, David Holmes, have testified that the president and Sondland had a phone call on July 26 during which they discussed that the “big” topics Trump cared about with respect to Ukraine were the “Biden investigations.”

Sondland apparently had the conversation with Trump while he was out to dinner with Holmes at a restaurant in Kyiv on July 26, and Trump was speaking loudly enough on the phone that Sondland had to hold the device away from his ear. Two officials, in addition to Holmes, are said to have overheard the call.

Because he was in contact with the president throughout the entire Ukraine scandal, Sondland is one of the most significant witnesses against Trump.

The EU ambassador will likely corroborate Holmes’ statements in his public testimony on Wednesday. If he does so, it will establish the most direct link yet between the president and the effort to bully Ukraine into delivering political investigations in exchange for critical military aid and a White House meeting.

What Cooper and Hale told lawmakers behind closed doors

Laura Cooper, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, arrives on Capitol Hill before attending a closed-door deposition, on October 30, 2019 in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Cooper is expected to tell lawmakers about how the Ukrainians were concerned as early as August about Trump’s decision to freeze a $US391 million security assistance package.

At the time, Trump and his allies were pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to publicly commit to investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son for purported corruption. The president also wanted Zelensky to pledge to look into a bogus conspiracy theory suggesting it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 election and that it did so to benefit the Democrats.

Cooper will testify that she spoke to Kurt Volker, who at the time was the US’s Special Representative to Ukraine, about Ukrainian officials’ concerns, and that Volker told her he was working with them to put out a statement disavowing election interference.

Hale testified behind closed doors on November 6 and told lawmakers about how Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other senior State Department officials refused to robustly push back on Trump’s smear campaign against Marie Yovanovitch, the US’s former ambassador to Ukraine, for political reasons.

He is also expected to tell Congress on Wednesday that officials were worried about the blowback they’d get from Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer who engineered Yovanovitch’s removal.