President Trump made an about-face on his feelings toward Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, telling reporters on Friday: “I hardly knew the gentleman.”
To be clear, Sondland is not dead. He just testified to Congress that he told Ukrainian officials they should publicly announce anti-corruption investigations involving the Biden family if they wanted the U.S. military aid they were promised—a “quid pro quo,” if you will. Despite his claims on Friday, Trump tweeted exactly one month ago that Sondland is “a really good man and great American.” The president had been relying on Sondland to deny the existence of a quid pro quo during his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. He frequently cited an exchange between Sondland and Acting Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor, during which Sondland said that there was “no quid pro quo of any kind.”
Separately, in her impeachment testimony released Friday, former NSC official Fiona Hill told House investigators that Sondland confirmed to her in late June that he was “in charge” of the Ukraine portfolio—at least temporarily. “And I asked, ‘Well, on whose authority?’ And he said, the President.” Hill said she spoke with multiple officials about Sondland’s new duties, including those at the State Department, but none of them seemed to know of his assignment to the Ukraine policy team.
—With additional reporting from Erin Banco.