‘Great Lunch, Wonderful Meeting’: Gordon Sondland’s July Day In Kyiv
Soon after a lunch on July 26, Sondland joined Kari Odermann, the UATV correspondent, at the Hyatt, not far from Kyiv's Maidan Nezalezhnosti -- Independence Square. She told RFE/RL that, while Sondland was jovial, embassy staff surrounding him appeared tense, repeatedly requesting that her off-camera conversation with him remain off-the-record
On a warm afternoon in July, Gordon Sondland arrived at Kyiv’s swanky Hyatt Regency Hotel, its 21st-century glass facade reflecting the 1,000-year-old St. Sophia’s Cathedral. About a half-hour late for his interview, he was led to a makeshift hotel-room studio set up by state-run Ukrainian broadcaster UATV. Facing him was Kari Odermann, a news anchor for the channel. She led with what at the time was a throwaway question to warm up her guest.
“Tell me about how your day was,” she asked.
“Well, I had a great lunch with my team,” Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, replied with a grin. Before that, he added, he had “a wonderful hour-long meeting” with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who had spoken to U.S. President Donald Trump a day earlier.
Interesting to rewatch this knowing what we know now.
Sondland seemed pleased as he sat down w Ukrainian TV on July 26, the day two US embassy officials overheard his call w Trump at a restaurant where POTUS asked him about "investigations"
"Had a great lunch with my team…" pic.twitter.com/RxjBtEMiUT
— Vera Bergengruen (@VeraMBergen) November 14, 2019
Four months later, as Sondland prepares to testify publicly on Nov. 20 in the U.S. congressional probe that could lead to Trump’s impeachment, he may spend some time thinking about his brief trip to Kyiv and that lunch on the terrace at Sho, the upscale Ukrainian restaurant where he shared a meal and a bottle of wine with State Department staff and then called the president of the United States.
The hotel-chain owner from Washington state has become a crucial figure in the impeachment inquiry, as lawmakers in the House of Representatives seek to determine whether Trump used nearly $400 million in military aid to leverage a public commitment from Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden, a front-runner for the Democratic nomination to challenge Trump for the White House in 2020.
Sondland has already reversed testimony that he gave at a closed hearing before the House Intelligence Committee in October. Having first told investigators he did not know of any preconditions for aid, he amended his testimony earlier this month, saying he recalled telling a Zelensky aide that U.S. assistance was unlikely to come without “a public anti-corruption statement.”
Trump has denied there was any quid pro quo — an arrangement in which one party gives the other something and gets something in return — and has dismissed the impeachment inquiry as a “witch hunt.”
That denial was called into question by critics again last week, when David Holmes, a staffer at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, told the House committee that, at a July 26 lunch in Kyiv, the day after Zelensky and Trump had spoken by telephone, Sondland had used his cell phone to call the U.S. president. Holmes said that, after Sondland told the president that Zelensky “loves your ass,” Trump asked: “So he’s going to do the investigation?”
Republicans have criticized previous witnesses for lacking direct knowledge of Trump’s interactions and remarks involving Ukraine, underscoring the potential significance of Sondland’s call and his testimony…
|Source||Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty|