On Air Now

Listen Now

Weather

cloudy-day
55°
Rain
H 71° L 58°
  • cloudy-day
    55°
    Current Conditions
    Rain. H 71° L 58°
  • rain-day
    64°
    Evening
    Rain. H 71° L 58°
  • rain-day
    59°
    Morning
    Rain. H 64° L 52°
Listen
Pause
Error

The latest top stories

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

National Govt & Politics
A 'refreshed' memory: Key takeaways from Ukraine testimony
Close

A 'refreshed' memory: Key takeaways from Ukraine testimony

A 'refreshed' memory: Key takeaways from Ukraine testimony
Photo Credit: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, arrives at the Capitol to review transcripts of his earlier testimony in the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, in Washington, Monday, Oct. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

A 'refreshed' memory: Key takeaways from Ukraine testimony

In transcripts of closed-door interviews released by impeachment investigators, two State Department officials recount what they remember — and what they didn't know at the time — about President Donald Trump's demands that Ukraine conduct politically motivated investigations.

Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt Volker, a former Ukrainian envoy, describe their persistent concerns about Rudy Giuliani, the Republican president's personal lawyer, and his influence over policy with Ukraine. Giuliani and Trump wanted Ukraine to probe Democrat Joe Biden's family and Ukraine's role in the 2016 U.S. election.

And in a reversal, Sondland submitted an addendum to his testimony, also released by Democrats, that acknowledges for the first time that the call for investigations was linked to a holdup in U.S. military assistance.

House Democrats released the transcripts Tuesday as part of a rolling release of documents in the new public phase of the impeachment inquiry. More transcripts are expected.

The State Department's David Hale is expected to provide a deposition on Wednesday, while Russ Vought, the acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, and Rick Perry, the Energy secretary, are not expected to appear.

Takeaways from the Sondland and Volker transcripts:

A "REFRESHED" RECOLLECTION

In a three-page addendum to his transcript, Sondland revised his testimony to acknowledge that he understood by September that American aid to Ukraine was linked to a public statement promising to investigate corruption in the country. That is a central point in the Democrats' impeachment inquiry, which was launched after a whistleblower revealed that Trump had directly asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Biden on a July phone call as the money was held back.

In the statement, Sondland says the testimony of two other key witnesses — top Ukrainian diplomat William Taylor and National Security Council aide Tim Morrison — "have refreshed my recollection."

Sondland said "I now do recall" a conversation in Poland where he told a Zelenskiy aide that resumption of military aid likely would not happen until Ukraine had provided a public anti-corruption statement.

___

PRESSURE FROM GIULIANI

Sondland testified that he spoke with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about Giuliani, and Pompeo rolled his eyes.

"Yes, it's something we have to deal with," Pompeo said, according to Sondland's testimony.

Like other witnesses, the two underscored the pivotal role Giuliani played in Ukraine policy and their concerns about it. Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, pressured the officials to encourage the new Ukrainian president to make a public statement that specifically mention probes into Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company linked to Biden's son, Hunter, and also Ukraine's role in the 2016 elections.

Sondland said that "until Rudy was satisfied the president wasn't going to change his mind."

The statement never went out after the Ukrainians didn't want to add the references.

Volker also cast doubt on Giuliani's reliance on a former Ukrainian prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, as a major source for spreading unproven allegations about the Bidens.

The envoy said he told Giuliani: "Lutsenko is not credible. Don't listen to what he is saying."

___

TRUMP'S BAD MOODS

Sondland told investigators Trump was in a "bad mood" and nearly hung up on him when he asked him in a September phone call whether the White House was withholding military aid in exchange for the investigations. Sondland spoke to the president after Taylor had said it was "crazy" to link the two things.

"It was a very quick conversation," Sondland recounted. "He said, 'I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. I want Zelenskiy to do the right thing.'"

Volker and Sondland both testified they were disappointed after briefing Trump at the White House upon their return from Zelenskiy's inauguration in May.

Sondland said he and others wanted to tell Trump of their excitement about Ukraine's new leader, but he didn't want to hear about it.

"So I was pretty frustrated. I was kind of pissed, actually," Sondland said.

Volker said Trump described Ukrainians as "all corrupt, they are all terrible people" and that they had "tried to take me down" in the 2016 election.

"His attitude towards Ukraine was just general and negative," Volker said.

___

WHAT THEY DON'T REMEMBER, OR DON'T KNOW

Sondland frequently told investigators that he didn't remember key events about which others had testified.

Marie Yovanovitch, the former Ukraine ambassador who was ousted in May, had told lawmakers that Sondland advised her to "go big or go home" as she was under pressure from Washington. He told her to tweet in support of the president, she said.

"I just don't remember it," Sondland said.

Sondland's testimony contradicts that of other witnesses who described a July meeting with Ukrainian officials in the White House in which Sondland brought up the investigations. Fiona Hill, a former White House Russia adviser, and NSC aide Alexander Vindman both testified of frustration afterward.

Sondland said Hill's testimony was so contrary "to any recollection I had, I thought I must have slept through something and missed something."

___

"TELL THE TRUTH"

On Sept. 22, just as reports emerged that the whistleblower complaint was related to Ukraine, Giuliani texted Volker and said, "all I need is for you to tell the truth." The text came days before Volker resigned from his job as Ukrainian envoy, and a week and a half before he testified in the Democrats' impeachment inquiry.

Giuliani texted Volker that he wanted to make sure it was clear, and said publicly, that Volker had set him up with a top aide to Zelenskiy, Andriy Yermak, for a meeting over the summer.

"Really this is not hard just fair to affirm truth," Giuliani texted. Volker later then pointed Giuliani to an August statement from the department that notes Volker put the two in touch.

But in his testimony, Volker said it's "not the truth" that Giuliani was acting at the behest of the State Department, as Giuliani had been implying.

___

AN UNEXPECTED CELEBRITY CAMEO

Sondland described a "casual social evening" he hosted in Brussels in June to which he invited Zelenskiy and several other national leaders that included an unlikely guest — the comedian Jay Leno.

Sondland said that Zelenskiy, who himself was a comedian before become president, was honored to meet the entertainer.

"Apparently, Jay Leno was his hero," Sondland said.

____

Associated Press writers Colleen Long, Alan Fram, Andrew Taylor, Matthew Daly, Deb Riechmann and Steve Braun contributed to this report.

Read More

The Latest News Headlines

  • Saying it will make the facility so much better, leaders of the Florida Theatre officially launched a capital campaign to complete a $10 million renovation ahead of the 100th anniversary of the downtown landmark.   WOKV first reported about the renovation plans in July, when Mayor Lenny Curry’s budget outline offered up $1 million each of the next five years to match the Florida Theatre Performing Arts Center, Inc, which is the nonprofit that runs the historic venue. Total contribution from both parties combined at $10 million.  INDEPTH: Once in a generation - Florida Theatre looking at $10 million in renovations, upgrades To date, 72 donors have pledged or gifted $2.2 million toward the campaign that quietly began more than two years ago. The Theatre also instituted a $2.50 per ticket fee on all ticket sales that goes to restoration of the facility. That is projected to bring in approximately $1.5 million over the next five years.   “We’re a little over $7 million towards our $10 million goal as of today so we are super excited about all of this”, said Florida Theatre President Numa Saisselin.  Mayor Lenny Curry reflected on the decades of performances he has attended through the years at the Florida Theatre, and he looks forward to seeing the improvements come to fruition after funding was approved.  “Often times usually in a budget as large as ours some real jewels that are in the budget kind of get lost in the conversation so it’s good to be here today because this really is a jewel and a special nugget in the budget that we just put forward”, Curry said.   Theatre operators want to keep the same feel but install completely new seats. Plans involve better addressing ADA regulations- the seating arrangement now pre-dates those rules, according to Saisselin, so while the venue is in compliance, it is not always an ideal arrangement. Beyond that, there are a few different areas to address, with the auditorium remaining the focus. He says they want to upgrade the sound and lighting systems. Not only will this make for a more enjoyable show for you and the artist or event involved, but he says it could actually save FTPAC some money in the future, because currently, if an artist wants a certain speaker setup, the Florida Theatre may have to rent equipment, as an example. Over 3,000 people attend Florida Theatre every week, or 175,000 per year, according to Saisselin.  The work also includes renovating the bathrooms.  Air conditioning is another item on the list- updating the system so that there’s not a constant need for repairs. The iconic marquee and canopy are also in for some work, although Saisselin says they are not changing the overall look. Digital signs were recently installed at the Florida Theatre as a result of funds from a private donor, but Saisselin says there is still internal wiring work to do on the canopy, along with structural repairs. While the canopy and marquee are not original to 1927, Saisselin says he knows it’s how people recognize the venue, and they want to respect that.
  • Officials have closed all public schools in Roanoke, Virginia, as police search for a former U.S. Marine accused of killing his mother's boyfriend in nearby Franklin County. >> Read more trending news  Sheriff's deputies said Michael Alexander Brown, 22, is wanted on suspicion of shooting and killing Rodney Wilfred Brown, 54, last week at the home his mother and Brown shared in Hardy. Here are the latest updates: dfdf Update 9:30 a.m. EST Nov. 14: Officials with the U.S. Marshals Service are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Michael Alexander Brown, 22. Franklin County sheriff's deputies said Brown is wanted on a charge of second-degree murder after his mother's boyfriend, 54-year-old Rodney Wilfred Brown, was found shot dead last week at his home in Hardy. Deputies said Brown deserted his post last month at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where he served as a combat engineer. Thursday's search was prompted by the discovery of his car on a road in Roanoke, officials said. 'It was unknown where Michael may be headed or where he has been staying since leaving his post,' deputies said Sunday in a news release. 'He has been known to live in the woods and frequent National Parks and National Forests. He is believed to be armed with a high-powered rifle and may have access to other weapons.' Deputies urged anyone with information on Brown's whereabouts to contact authorities at 540-483-6662. Update 8:17 a.m. EST Nov. 14: According to WSET, Roanoke police believe Michael Alexander Brown, who is wanted on a murder charge, was 'in the Roanoke area' and may be armed. According to NBC News, Brown, 22, is facing a second-degree murder charge in the Saturday shooting death of 54-year-old Rodney Brown. Police said Michael Brown, who had been a combat engineer at North Carolina's Camp Lejeune before he deserted last month, 'is most likely on foot and possibly looking for transportation,' WSET reported. The suspect, who is white with brown hair and blue eyes, stands 6 feet tall and weighs 145 pounds, WDBJ reported.  Original report: Police in Virginia are 'actively investigating a situation' near a Roanoke's Patrick Henry High School, authorities said early Thursday. As a result, all of the district's public schools are closed, WFXR and WDBJ are reporting. Please return for updates.
  • There's an urgent search underway for a Georgia mother last seen after leaving a college football game in Athens. >> Read more trending news  The Athens-Clarke County Police Department said Linda Christine Tryon, 42, has been missing since Saturday, Nov. 9.  Tryon was last seen in the downtown Athens area during the University of Georgia vs. University of Missouri football game.  According to friends, Tryon left the game after the first quarter and went downtown to a bar. 'This is completely out of character,' a friend of Tryon told WSB-TV. If anyone has any information about her whereabouts, they are urged to call 706-613-3345.
  • The state fire marshal is investigating the source and cause of a massive fire at the old Thunderbird Motor Hotel property on the Arlington Expressway. Wednesday’s fire created a powerful orange glow that could be seen for miles.  Thunderbird was once a popular hangout in the 60’s and 70’s.  No one was injured in the fire.  VIDEO: Fire destroys Arlington building In January the Jacksonville Daily Record reported a South Florida ownership group announced plans to redevelop the 18-acre property into apartments, hotels and retail including a restaurant. 
  • Milder air is returning after a cold Wednesday in NE Florida. But the next weather story may have big impacts on the Friday rush to work.  Action News Jax Chief Meteorologist Mike Buresh says we’ll see thickening clouds today with scattered showers developing.  Expect a few rumbles of thunder at times late in the afternoon and evening.  Mike says the best opportunity for rain is 6pm today - 6am on Friday, and there will be times of heavy rain. Highs will be in the upper 60’s to near 70 degrees, so up to 10 degrees warmer than Wednesday.  Showers will linger through the early morning hours Friday, and we’ll be cloudy, damp and breezy to end the week.   The weekend will start off with showers closer to the coast and breezy onshore winds. Showers will gradually end through the afternoon. Sunday will be dry with highs in the lower 60’s.

The Latest News Videos