“I did not understand, until much later, that Mr. Giuliani’s agenda might have also included an effort to prompt the Ukrainians to investigate Vice President Biden or his son or to involve Ukrainians, directly or indirectly, in the president’s 2020 re-election campaign,” he will say.
Mr. Sondland will seek to distance himself from other aspects of the unfolding scandal, as well. He will say that Marie L. Yovanovitch, whom Mr. Trump abruptly removed as ambassador to Ukraine in May amid a smear campaign against her by the president’s allies, was an “an excellent diplomat” whose departure he “regretted.”
“I was never a part of any campaign to disparage or dislodge her,” he planned to say.
Likewise, Mr. Sondland planned to say that it was only because he deeply respected William B. Taylor Jr., a career diplomat who replaced Ms. Yovanovitch in Ukraine, that he tried to assuage his concerns that nothing untoward was being done with respect to the frozen security aid.
In previously released text messages between Mr. Sondland, Mr. Volker and Mr. Taylor, Mr. Taylor was deeply uneasy about what he saw as an effort by Trump aides to use a $391 million package of security assistance as leverage over Ukraine for political favors, calling the notion “crazy.”
After calling Mr. Trump directly, Mr. Sondland replied to Mr. Taylor that “The President has been crystal clear: no quid pro quo’s of any kind” and directed Mr. Taylor to stop texting and call him with any additional concerns.
Mr. Sondland plans to testify that he was never involved in any potential discussions with the White House about withholding the security aid in exchange for a pledge to investigate. He will say that Mr. Trump was in a bad mood when he called him to ask about it, and told Mr. Sondland that he wanted “nothing” from the Ukrainians.
And he intends to testify that he did not know the substance of a July 25 phone call in which Mr. Trump pressed Mr. Zelensky to investigate Mr. Biden and matters related to the 2016 campaign until a reconstructed account of the call was released publicly in September. He will say that he spoke with Mr. Trump a day after the call, before Mr. Sondland was to meet with Ukrainian leaders in Kiev, but that the conversation was not “substantive.”