Castro Questions Sondland During Fifth Impeachment Hearing of President Trump
– As Delivered –
WASHINGTON—Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Vice Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and a member of the House Intelligence and Education and Labor Committees, today had the following exchange with Ambassador Gordon Sondland, during the highly anticipated fifth open impeachment hearing, where the American people continued to hear the evidence for themselves on President Trump’s abuse of power:
CASTRO: Thank you Chairman, good afternoon Ambassador – welcome. Others close to President Trump have made it clear that investigations were in fact part of the conditions for U.S. assistance to Ukraine, including Rudy Giuliani and Mick Mulvaney, the acting Chief of Staff. So, Ambassador Sondland, at a press conference on October 17, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney discussed his belief that it is entirely appropriate to politicize U.S. foreign policy. Ambassador, how often did you speak or meet with Mr. Mulvaney?
SONDLAND: Again, based on my lack of records, I am going by a bad memory -
CASTRO: Just based on your memory -
SONDLAND: I only think I had one formal meeting with Mr. Mulvaney, and it had nothing to do with Ukraine, it had to do with a completely unrelated matter.
CASTRO: So, did you have a chance to talk with Mr. Mulvaney about your efforts in the Ukraine?
SONDLAND: I think most of our communication were through a stream of emails, which others were on generally, and I may have seen him at the White House casually and said hello and you know, kept in touch. But we didn’t have a back and forth.
CASTRO: Sure. Well let me ask you this, was it your sense that Mr. Mulvaney had a direct line to President Trump? He must have as acting Chief of Staff, is that right?
SONDLAND: Of course.
CASTRO: Let us look at what Mr. Mulvaney said during his October 17 press conference.
WHITE HOUSE PRESS CONFERENCE CLIP– OCTOBER 17, 2019
MR. MULVANEY in clip: Those were the driving factors, he also mentioned to it in the past, that the corruption related to the DNC server - absolutely no question about that. But that’s it. And that’s why we held up the money.
REPORTER in clip: Now there was a report demand for an investigation into the Democrats - was that part of the reason that he was on to withhold funding to Ukraine?
MR. MULVANEY in clip: If we look back to what happened in 2016, certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about in corruption with that nation, and that is absolutely appropriate.
CASTRO: He said that President Trump in that clip had an interest in the investigations, did he not?
SONDLAND: Apparently, yes.
CASTRO: He’s the Chief of Staff. He is somebody that sees the President and has conversations with the President every single day - wouldn’t you expect that?
SONDLAND: I would expect that he has a direct line with the President.
CASTRO: Ambassador Sondland, when did you first learn from Mr. Mulvaney that the investigations were holding up the security assistance – if at any time?
SONDLAND: I don’t know that I heard it from Mr. Mulvaney
CASTRO: Okay and Ambassador Sondland, I know that you’re not a career foreign service officer - is it your understanding that the U.S. government conditions security assistance on an investigation into a political rival all the time?
SONDLAND: I’ve already testified I didn’t think that would be proper.
CASTRO: Alright, well let us also see what Mr. Mulvaney had to say about that at the same press conference.
WHITE HOUSE PRESS CONFERENCE CLIP – OCTOBER 17, 2019
CASTRO: I’ll just go ahead and read it for you because this thing isn’t working... I’ll read it. He said, “I have news for everybody, get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy.” Knowing what you know now about what was intended with Ukraine, do you agree with Mr. Mulvaney that there is just going to be political influence in foreign policy or that we should all just get over it and allow a President now or later to investigate a political rival and ask a foreign government to do that? Do you agree with Mr. Mulvaney?
SONDLAND: I think there is a big difference between political influence and investigating a political rival, because politics enters into everything relating to foreign policy.
CASTRO: So, but you disagree that the President – you agree that the President should not be allowed to ask for the investigation of a political rival?
SONDLAND: In the context of what was going on in Ukraine, I believe that the President should not investigate a political rival in return for a quid pro quo.
CASTRO: And part of the way that you figured out that all this stuff that was going on - that you were part of something that was basically wrong is because in the July 25th phone call, the President himself, he didn’t tell you, we don’t know if he told Rudy Giuliani or not because Rudy Giuliani won’t come in here, he said directly to the President of Ukraine, that he wanted the Bidens investigated – wasn’t that your reading in the call?
SONDLAND: First of all, I don’t believe that I was a part of something that was wrong because based on what I knew, I thought we were operating well within the center lane of proper U.S. diplomacy.
CASTRO: I yield back.
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