We heard him do it last year with his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. On Friday, we heard him do it with the man he appointed ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sundland.
"Let me just tell you: I hardly know a gentleman," Trump told reporters on the White House's South Grass.
Trump's comments came four days after Sondland reversed his previous testimony to impeachment investigators.
In additional testimony he provided in writing on Monday, Sundland said he recently recalled telling a Ukrainian government official on September 1 that US military assistance would likely be released only after Ukraine announced a related investigation with potential Trump 2020 opponent Joe Biden. Sundland initially testified that he "never" thought there was a condition attached to the aid.
Trump's words on Friday were significantly different from his free previous comments on Sondland. Trump made those previous comments after the September 9 text message, in which Sundland said ̵
2; after talking on the phone with Trump, he later testified – "The President is crystal clear, there is no quid pro quo of anything is kind. "
On October 4, Trump tried to distance himself from other officials who provided harmful information to imprisonment investigators, saying," I don't even know much of these ambassadors. I didn't even know their names. "
But Trump made the call. a love for Sondland, whom he called "very respectful."
"The text message I saw from Ambassador Sondland – who was very respected – was: There is no 'indisputable pro quo'. He said, by the way – that almost sounded whole – he said, by the way, there was no 'indisputable pro quo' "And no," Trump said.
In a Tweet
on October 8, Trump called Sondland "a really good man and a great American." He said he would like to "send" Sondland to testify, but not before a "completely compromised kangaroo court."
Sondland Attorney Robert Luskin declined to comment on Friday about the nature of Sondland's relationship with Trump.
Trump's connection to Sondland
Sondland, a hotelier and major Republican donor in Oregon (who also gave some Democrats), criticized Trump during the 2016 campaign after Trump attacked the parents of the late Army Captain Humayun Khan, a Muslim Muslim killed in Iraq in 2004. However, when Trump was elected, Sondland donated $ 1 million to take office through four limited liability companies, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The donation appears to have returned Sundland to the good graces of Trump's team, but it still took months for Trump to come up with the idea of nominating Sondland, CNN previously reported. Trump nominates Sondland as EU ambassador in May 2018.
Trump gave a brief call to Sondland during a May 2019 speech in Louisiana, saying that Sondland, who was present, had done a "great job". They spoke briefly at Trump's arrival in Belgium for the NATO Summit in July 2018. And Sundland testified that they spoke briefly again when they ran into each other at the White House in October 2019: "I said," I was asked to come. in and testimonials. "And there were a lot of people around. He said, 'OK, go tell the truth.' That was the extent of our conversation."
Impression investigators were told that Sondland had played a major role in US relations with Ukraine, despite that Ukraine is not an EU member. Former senior director of the National Security Council for Europe and Russia, Fiona Hill, who was Trump's top adviser in Russia, testifies that Sondland told her that he was "responsible" for Ukraine. Hill recalled
: "And I said, 'Who said you rule Ukraine, Gordon? "And he said, 'The President.' Well, that shut me up because you really can't argue with that. "
Sundland testifies that he spoke by phone to Trump on September 9, before Sundland sent a text to a top US diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, in which Sundland said:" Bill, I believe you are wrong about President Trump's intentions The president was crystal clear, no quid pro quo of any kind. "
Where Sondland's account currently stands
Even as he distances himself from Sondland on Friday, Trump continued trying to use Sondland's previous comments as part of his defense.
After Trump told reporters that he hardly knew Sondland, he added, "But this is the guy who said he didn't have a quid pro quo. And he still says that. And he said I said it. And he didn't change that testimony. So this is a guy who said, as far as the president is concerned, there was no quid pro quo. "
Trump was correct about one part of that statement, inaccurate about another.
Trump was right that Sundland did not change his testimony that Trump said there was no quid pro quo.
But the additional testimony presented by Sondland on Monday effectively acknowledged that there was indeed a quid pro quo.
Sondland stated that it still does not know why the aid to Ukraine was terminated. But he said "in September" he suggested the suspension was related to the White House's insistence on Ukraine's public statement on the Bidens investigation – and, most importantly, "now" that he personally told Zelensky's aide, Andrei Yermak, on September 1, "that the resumption of US aid is unlikely to happen until Ukraine delivers a public statement on anti-corruption, which we have been discussing for many weeks."