A Democratic congressman involved in the House impeachment investigation said Tuesday that Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, may be at risk of perjury charges as a result of his closed-door deposition last week before three House committees investigating impeachment.
Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, who serves on the House intelligence committee, told MSNBC’s “The Last Word” Tuesday that new evidence shows that Sondland worked more closely with President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani on foreign policy directives than he has previously let on during his 10-hour testimony before Congress last week.
MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell asked Welch: “Is Gordon Sondland in danger of perjury charges for his testimony to your committee?”
“I think he is,” Welch responded. “When he presented himself, he was a rich guy that bought an ambassadorship and he pretended it was a good day for him. He got a job he wanted but he was pretty naïve he didn’t know the real meeting was going on in the room next door.”
“But the evidence is now coming out that he was a very active instrument to try to assist Giuliani in the effort to have this rogue foreign policy,” Welch continued.
Sondland testified last week that Trump told him there was no quid pro quo when it came to Trump’s controversial July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskiy. He also said he was concerned that the president delegated to Giuliani foreign policy responsibilities that he thought belonged to the State Department but followed Trump’s instructions anyway.
“We were also disappointed by the president’s direction that we involve Mr. Giuliani,” Sondland said in the remarks. “Our view was that the men and women of the State Department, not the President’s personal lawyer, should take responsibility for all aspects of U.S. foreign policy towards Ukraine.”
Congress on Tuesday heard from William Taylor, who exchanged text messages with Sondland this summer and fall. Taylor testified that he was told via text messages that Trump wanted military aid to Ukraine connected to the country’s willingness to investigate the 2016 U.S. presidential election and Joe Biden’s family’s business dealings in the country, The Washington Post reported. He was the last official expected to give a deposition from behind closed doors.
Last week, Democrats asked Sondland, whose name surfaced in a whistleblower complaint in August that helped spur the impeachment inquiry, about text messages that were provided to the committees earlier this month by former Ukrainian envoy Kurt Volker. The messages show Sondland, Volker and Taylor discussing an arrangement in which Zelenskiy would be offered a White House visit in exchange for a public statement by Ukraine committing to undertake investigations into the 2016 U.S. presidential election and into Burisma, the gas company linked to Hunter Biden.
One text exchange that has attracted attention involves Taylor telling Sondland he thought it was “crazy” to withhold military aid from Ukraine “for help with a political campaign.” Sondland replied that Trump had been clear about his intentions and that there was no quid pro quo.
Sondland told lawmakers that Trump told him by phone before he sent the text that there was no quid pro quo and that he was simply parroting those reassurances to Taylor.
“I asked the president: ‘What do you want from Ukraine?'” Sondland said. “The president responded, ‘Nothing. There is no quid pro quo.’ The president repeated: ‘no quid pro quo’ multiple times. This was a very short call. And I recall the President was in a bad mood.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.