(CNSNews.com) - In an exchange with Rep. Michael Turner (R.-Ohio), Amb. Gordon Sondland conceded in testimony today that “no one on this planet”—as Turner put it—told him that President Donald Trump was tying U.S. aid to Ukraine to Ukraine's agreeing to investigate the 2016 election, the Bidens, or Burisma, the Ukrainian company that had hired Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden.
“So, you really have no testimony that ties President Trump to a scheme to withhold aid from Ukraine in exchange for these investigations?” Turner asked Sondland at one point during his questioning.
Sondland replied: “Other than my own presumption.”
“Which is nothing,” Turner responded.
During the five minutes he had to question Sondland, Turner focused on whether Sondland could name anyone who had told him that Trump had tied aid to Ukraine to these investigations.
“So, no one told you. Not just the president?” Turner said to Sondland during today’s hearing in the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
“Giuliani didn’t tell you? Mulvaney didn’t tell you? Nobody?” said Turner. “Pompeo didn’t tell you? Nobody else on this planet told you that Donald Trump was tying aid to these investigations? Is that correct?”
“I think I already testified to that,” said Sondland.
“No answer the question: Is it correct?” said Turner. “No one on this planet told you that Donald Trump was tying this aid to the investigation?” Turner persisted. “Because if your answer is ‘yes’ then the chairman’s wrong and the headline on CNN is wrong. No one on this planet told you that President Trump was tying aid to investigations? Yes or no?”
“Yes,” said Sondland.
“So, you really have no testimony that ties President Trump to a scheme to withhold aid from Ukraine in exchange for these investigations?” asked Turner.
“Other than my own presumption,” said Sondland.
“Which is nothing,” said Turner.
Here is a transcript of the part of the hearing where Turner questioned Sondland:
Rep. Michael Turner: “Ambassador Sondland, I want to walk through some of the portions of your testimony because sometimes you seem to make direct connections and sometimes they seem to be dead ends. I kind of want to clear up what are the dead ends and what are the direct connections. Yesterday, Ambassador Volker, who I consider to be very talented and a man of integrity, and I believe you think he’s a man of integrity, correct?”
Amb. Gordon Sondland: “I do.”
Turner: “He testified that the president of the United States did not tie either a meeting with the president, a phone call, or any aid to investigations of Burisma, 2016 or the Bidens—that the president did not do that. And you’ve testified that the president did not tell you that he tied them either. Correct?”
Sondland: “I did testify to that, although when Ambassador Volker and I were working on the statement and negotiating with the Ukrainians it was clear to Ambassador Volker that a meeting would not happen without the Burisma and 2016. That was very clear to Ambassador Volker.”
Turner: “And how do you know that? What did he say to you? Because he says that was not clear to him. In fact, he says that’s not the case. He was working on that, he knows that’s what the president wanted, but he didn’t have it as: This was a requirement.”
Sondland: “Oh, I strongly disagree with that portion of his testimony. It was absolutely a requirement or we would have just had the meeting and been done with it.”
Turner: “What about the aid? He says that they weren’t tied, that the aid was not tied.”
Sondland: “And I didn’t say they were conclusively tied either. I said I was presuming it.”
Turner: “Okay. So, the president never told you they were tied.”
Sondland: “That’s correct.”
Turner: “So, your testimony, his testimony is consistent in that the president did not tie aid to investigations?”
Sondland: “That’s correct.”
Turner: “He also testified that he spoke to Giuliani and that Giuliani did not relate that he was tying on behalf of the president or on the president’s behalf aid, and that in fact Giuliani never said to him that aid was tied to investigations. Now, the question I have for you is: Did you ever have a conversation with Giuliani that did not involve Volker, because your testimony is a lot of we’s and us’s. So, did you and Giuliani have a separate conference, separate phone call, where Giuliani told you that the aid was tied, because Volker says—and if he was on all your phone calls—Volker says that never happened.”
Sondland: “No, I did have a few conversations—I don’t recall how many because I don’t have the records—with Mr. Giuliani directly when Mr. Volker wasn’t available—“
Turner: “And did Giuliani say to—go ahead, what were you going to say?”
Sondland: “I don’t believe I testified that Mr. Giuliani told me that aid was tied.”
Turner: “Oh, I think, see this is part of the problem, Ambassador Sondland, and I just want to walk you through this. Is, you’ve said to us: Everyone was in the loop. And everyone knew. Now, hold on a second, hold on a second: I have listened to you today as [have] a lot of people. And not only are your answers somewhat circular, frequently you’ve contradicted yourself in your own answer. Now, the text messages and emails you’ve put up there, Kurt Volker walked us through and he has a completely different understanding of what you were saying than what you’re saying you were saying. So, I’m a little confused as to how everyone is in the loop because there—if Giuliani didn’t give you any express statement than it can’t be that you believe this from Giuliani. Now, let me tell you right now—Is Donald Trump your friend?”
Sondland: “No, we’re not friends. We have a—“
Turner: “Do you like the president?”
Turner: “Okay. Well, you know, after you testified, Chairman Schiff ran out and gave a press conference and said he gets to impeach the president of the United States because of your testimony, and if you pull up CNN today right now their banner says: Sondland Ties Trump to Withholding Aid. Is that your testimony today, Ambassador Sondland, that you have evidence that Donald Trump tied the investigation to the aid, because I don’t think you’re saying that?”
Sondland: “I’ve said repeatedly, congressman, I was presuming. I also said that President Trump never—“
Turner: “So, no one told you. Not just the president? Giuliani didn’t tell you. Mulvaney didn’t tell you. Nobody. Pompeo didn’t tell you. Nobody else on this planet told you that Donald Trump was tying aid to these investigations? Is that correct?”
Sondland: “I think I already testified to that.”
Turner: “No answer the question: Is it correct? No one on this planet told you that Donald Trump was tying this aid to the investigation? Because if your answer is yes then the chairman’s wrong and the headline on CNN is wrong. No one on this planet told you that President Trump was tying aid to investigations? Yes or no?”
Turner: “So, you really have no testimony that ties President Trump to a scheme to withhold aid from Ukraine in exchange for these investigations?”
Sondland: “Other than my own presumption.”
Turner: “Which is nothing. I mean that is what I don’t understand. Do you know what hear-say evidence is, ambassador? Hear-say is when I testify what someone else told me. You know what made-up testimony is? Made-up testimony is when I just presume it. I mean, you’re just assuming all of these things, and then you are giving them the evidence that they’re running out and doing press conferences and CNN’s headline is saying that you’re saying the president of the United States should be impeached because he tied aid to investigations and you don’t know that. Correct?”
Sondland: “I never said the president of the United States should be impeached.
Turner: “Nope. But you did—You have left people with the confusing impression that you’re giving testimony that you did not. You do not have any evidence that the president of the United States was tied to withholding aid from the Ukraine in exchange for investigations. I yield back.”