Sondland, Defying Trump, Says He Followed Presidential Orders in Ukraine Pressure Scheme

At times, representatives of both parties grew frustrated with Mr. Sondland, who has already significantly revised his earlier accounts and repeatedly pleaded a faulty memory as his interrogators tried to clarify particulars. Republicans, though, were eager to highlight Mr. Sondland as unreliable.

“You don’t have records. You don’t have your notes because you didn’t take notes. You don’t have a lot of recollections,” said Steve Castor, Republicans’ staff attorney. “I mean, this is like the trifecta of unreliability.”

Still, on matters at the heart of the inquiry, Mr. Sondland’s account was singularly damning. He confirmed the contents a July 26 phone call with Mr. Trump described by an official from the American embassy in Kyiv, and other witness testimony that Mr. Sondland had conveyed to Ukrainian officials that they would need to announce the investigations Mr. Trump wanted if they had hopes of getting a White House meeting or the $391 million in aid Mr. Trump held up.

He said that he, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Kurt D. Volker, the special envoy for Ukraine, grudgingly worked with Mr. Giuliani on a pressure campaign “at the express direction of the President of the United States.” From his perch outside the White House, Mr. Giuliani was pushing for investigations into former Mr. Biden and unproven theories that Ukraine aided the Democrats in the 2016 election.

“Simply put, we played the hand we were dealt,” Mr. Sondland said. “We all understood that if we refused to work with Mr. Giuliani, we would lose an important opportunity to cement relations between the United States and Ukraine. So we followed the president’s orders.”

At another point, explaining how he came to understand that the United States relationship with Ukraine was contingent on the announcement of the investigations, Mr. Sondland said that “Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president of the United States, and we knew that these investigations were important to the president.”

Mr. Giuliani defied a subpoena from the House for written records in his possession related to his work in Ukraine, but Democrats never called him to testify because they did not want to give him a platform he would surely use to defend Mr. Trump and slime the Mr. Biden and his son, Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father was vice president.

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