“What did you hear Sondland say?” an impeachment investigator asked Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the council’s top Ukraine expert.
“That the Ukrainians would have to deliver an investigation into the Bidens,” Colonel Vindman said.
Mr. Sondland testified that he “never made the connection between Burisma and the Bidens until the very end.”
“I heard the word ‘Burisma,’ but I didn’t understand that Biden and Burisma were connected,” Sondland said. “Again, I recall no discussions with any State Department or White House official about former Vice President Biden or his son. Nor do I recall taking part in any effort to encourage an investigation into the Bidens.”
It matters because it indicates that Mr. Sondland knew that the request from the president’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, for the Ukrainians to investigate Burisma Holdings were essentially political in nature, and not a product of more general concerns by the president about corruption in Ukraine, as Mr. Trump has insisted.
There is a significant gap between Mr. Sondland’s story and what the former ambassador to Ukraine testified Mr. Sondland told her about how to keep her job amid a smear campaign against her.
A witness testified that Mr. Sondland suggested to Marie L. Yovanovitch, the former United States ambassador to Ukraine, that praising the president on Twitter would help after Mr. Giuliani and others publicly criticized her as disloyal to Mr. Trump.
“He said, you know, ‘You need to go big or go home. You need to, you know, tweet out there that you support the President, and that all these are lies and everything else,’ ” she testified.
Mr. Sondland testified “I honestly don’t recall,” when asked whether he had spoken with Ms. Yovanovitch about her job.
It matters because Democrats are investigating why Mr. Trump pushed to have Ms. Yovanovitch removed as ambassador, and whether it had anything to do with his broader campaign to pressure Ukraine to pursue the investigations he wanted. Given Mr. Sondland’s role in the efforts to lean on the Ukrainians, investigators want to know what he knew about Ms. Yovanovitch’s effort to preserve her job and any involvement he had in those efforts.