Donald Trump is facing an impeachment probe over a phone call to Ukraine (Photo Credit: Official White House Photo)
In one the biggest moments so far in the ongoing impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump, a key witness has admitted the US president offered Ukraine a quid pro quo to investigate a political rival. Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union and a top Trump ally, changed his impeachment inquiry testimony to confirm that the military aid to Ukraine was tied to an investigation of former Vice-President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Biden is one of the leading Democrats looking to challenge Trump in the 2020 US Presidential Elections.
Sondland said he told a top advisor to Ukraine's president that US military aid would likely not be released until Kiev made clear it would investigate Biden and his son's ties to Ukraine energy firm Burisma.
"I presumed that the aid suspension had become linked to the proposed anti-corruption statement" that the Trump administration expected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to make regarding a Biden probe.
"I now do recall a conversation on September 1, 2019, in Warsaw with" Andriy Yermak, a top adviser to the president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Sondland said in his updated evidence. "I said that resumption of the US aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks."
The dramatic revision to Sondland's account was revealed in a four-page transcript of sworn testimony made public on Tuesday.
What Does It Mean For Impeachment Probe
The new testimony from Sondland will add to Democrats' evidence that the Trump connected the freezing of US aid to Ukraine to investigations into Biden. Sondland's testimony taken together with the testimonies from several other witnesses, including top US diplomat in Ukraine Bill Taylor and National Security Council aide Tim Morrison makes the impeachment case stronger against Trump.
What Will Be The Political Effect
Gordon Sondland's testimony all but confirms quid pro quo in the matter. So, the discussion is now expected to shift over whether such quid pro quo is grounds for impeachment. Democrats are expected to say that it was enough evidence to impeach Trump. However, Republicans are expected to defend Trump and question the 'intent' behind the call. It is expected that Republicans will say that even if there was quid pro quo, there was no corrupt or criminal intent behind the call.
What Is The Impeachment Probe
The US House of Representatives, mainly the Democrats, is pursuing an impeachment inquiry into President Trump. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an inquiry in September - after a whistleblower complaint surface related to a White House phone call with Ukraine. The House formalized the inquiry and outlined their path forward with a vote on October 28. All of the Republicans, members of Trump's party, votes against the inquiry. After a series of closed-door testimonies, House will now conduct public hearing and testimonies.
What Is The Ukraine Call
On July 25, 2019 - Donald Trump called the then newly elected president of Ukraine. In the call, Trump appeared to pressure the Ukrainian president to investigate the family of former vice president and current presidential candidate Joe Biden. He seemed to suggest that the military aid to the country which was apportioned by Congress to increase that pressure. Someone within the intelligence community (the whistleblower) heard the call and reported it.
What Is Quid Pro Quo
Quid Pro Quo- this Latin phrase is at the core of the impeachment inquiry. Generally speaking, it means- something for something. In this case, the quid pro quo is related to Trump asking for 'dirt' from Ukraine on one of his political rivals in exchange for releasing military aid to them.
What Is Next
US House impeachment investigators have summoned President Donald Trump's acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney for a deposition, saying he has "substantial first-hand knowledge" of Trump's efforts to pressure Ukraine. Mulvaney is the latest administration official to be ordered to testify with the impeachment probe closing in around those nearest the president as it proceeds into a new public phase, in which transcripts of closed-door testimony are being released.
Mulvaney is the highest-ranking White House official to be summoned in the probe, although he is unlikely to comply given the White House's opposition to administration officials cooperating with investigators. The chairs of the three House committees leading the investigation wrote Mulvaney requesting he appear before the panels on Friday.
Will Trump Be Impeached?
The US House of Representatives is expected to impeach Donald Trump. Democrats hold a clear majority in the house and most are expected to back the impeachment resolution. However, it does not mean Trump will lose his office. The impeachment resolution must be passed by two-thirds majority in the US Senate. Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate and look set to defend the US President. Which mean for the impeachment resolution to pass, at least 13 Republican must change their minds and go against the party line. That seems impossible at this point.