WASHINGTON — Testimony in the House impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump continued Wednesday evening with officials from the Defense and State departments.
The witnesses followed Gordon Sondland, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union and a key witness, who testified Wednesday morning that he "followed the president's orders" to work with Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine.
- Gordon Sondland is a major witness in House impeachment inquiry
- He says he didn't like working with Giuliani but didn't think it improper
- Defense & State Dept. officials also testified
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Sondland told House lawmakers he didn't want to get Trump's personal lawyer involved in diplomacy efforts, but the president urged it. But Sondland also said at the time, he didn't think it was improper.
Sondland said he spoke with Trump on July 26, one day after the president urged Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskiy to investigate political rival Joe Biden. Sondland said he didn't think the call was significant at the time.
"Was there quid pro quo? The answer is yes," Sondland testified.
"The Ukrainians had become aware that security funds had yet to be dispersed. In the absence of any credible explanation for the hold, I had come to the conclusion that the aid, like the White House visit, was jeopardized. In preparation for the September 1 Warsaw meeting, I asked Secretary Pompeo whether a face-to-face conversation with Trump and Zelenskiy would help to break the logjam."
Sondland also said "everyone was in the loop" regarding Trump's dealings with Ukraine, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff.
Everyone understood "Trump's desires and requirements," Sondland said.
Mike Pence's chief of staff denied that a conversation took place between the vice president and Sondland.
"This alleged discussion recalled by Ambassador Sondland never happened."
An Energy Department spokeswoman also said Energy Secretary Rick Perry didn't know Trump had been pushing for a political investigation in Ukraine. So far, Perry has declined to appear before the committee.
Sondland, a wealthy hotelier and Trump donor, is more directly entangled than any witness is yet in the president's efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Biden and Democrats in the 2016 election. Yet Sondland has already amended his testimony once — "I now do recall," he said, talking to Ukraine about investigations.
Defense Department official Laura Cooper testified Wednesday evening. She told lawmakers that the Ukrainian embassy was asking questions of her staff about a hold on military aid as far back as July 25, the day President Donald Trump asked Ukraine's president to investigate Democrats.
Cooper told lawmakers her staff has showed her emails she had not yet seen when she testified behind closed doors last month in the impeachment probe looking into Trump's dealings with Ukraine.
The embassy's July questions show Ukrainians were aware of a possible hold on the aid earlier than previously known.
On Tuesday, Americans heard firsthand testimony regarding the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy.
That phone call first came to attention when an anonymous government whistleblower filed a complaint.
In the phone conversation, Trump asked for a "favor," according to an account provided by the White House. He wanted an investigation into both Democrats and Biden, a possible 2020 rival. Later it was revealed that the administration was also withholding $400 million in military aid from Ukraine.
Republicans argue the money was given to Ukraine without any investigation, and there was no quid pro quo, or favor for a favor.
Trump also wanted Hunter Biden, the former vice president's son, looked into. Hunter Biden sat on the board of the Ukrainian gas company called Burisma while his father was vice president.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.