International

Impeachment inquiry: Trump directed Ukraine pressure – Sondland

A top US diplomat has told an impeachment inquiry that he followed President Donald Trump’s orders to put pressure on Ukraine to investigate his Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Ambassador Gordon Sondland said the instruction came from Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

The inquiry is assessing if Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine as a precondition. He denies any wrongdoing.

It is illegal in the US to seek foreign help to gain electoral advantage.

Biden is one of top contenders for the Democratic nomination for the 2020 presidential election.

Sondland, the US ambassador to the EU, told the latest hearing in the US House of Representatives that Giuliani had sought a public statement from Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky announcing a probe into “corruption issues”.

Giuliani specifically mentioned the company Burisma – which had the son of Democratic presidential candidate Biden, Hunter, as a board member – and issues surrounding the 2016 US presidential election, he said.

If found guilty in a majority vote in the House,  Trump will face an impeachment trial in the Senate. But two-thirds of members of that Republican-controlled chamber would then need to vote for  Trump to be removed from office.BBC