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Trump, citing portion of Sondland's testimony, claims exoneration

Trump, citing portion of Sondland's testimony, claims exoneration
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump, citing a portion of U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland’s congressional testimony in a House impeachment inquiry on Wednesday, said it showed he wanted no “quid pro quo” with regard to Ukraine.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump cited comments by Sondland about a conversation with the president, in which he said Trump told him he wanted nothing from Ukraine.

“I said to the ambassador in response, I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelenskiy, President Zelenskiy to do the right thing,” Trump said, citing the testimony and referring to Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

While Trump’s characterization of the testimony was accurate, it was incomplete.

He did not mention that Sondland also said during the same exchange that he relayed the president’s remarks to another diplomat concerned about the pressure being applied simply to signal he had taken the issue as far as he could.

“My reason for telling him this was not to defend what the president was saying, not to opine on whether the president was being truthful or untruthful, but simply to relay ‘I’ve gone as far as I can go,’” Sondland said.

Nevertheless, Trump declared vindication.

“I would say that means it’s all over,” Trump said of the impeachment investigation.

In his testimony, Sondland told lawmakers there was a quid pro quo, in which a desired meeting with Trump was being withheld to try to push Zelenskiy to launch investigations that Trump wanted.

Sondland said he was following Trump’s direction in helping to pressure Ukraine to launch two investigations that would benefit Trump politically as he runs for re-election in November 2020.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said the testimony went “to the heart of the issue of bribery as well as other potential high crimes and misdemeanours” that Democrats are considering.

The president sought to downplay his relationship with Sondland while also giving him light praise.

“I don’t know him very well. I haven’t spoken to him very much,” the president said. “Seems like a nice guy though.”

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Tim Ahmann; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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