Maloney hammers Sondland on changing testimony — and extracts key concession

In a tense exchange at Wednesday’s impeachment hearing of President Trump, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., grilled Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, over his changing testimony on what he understood about Trump’s motivation in seeking an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

“Who would benefit from an investigation of the Bidens?” Maloney asked after an extended back-and-forth with Sondland on that point.

“I assume President Trump would benefit —” Sondland said.

“There we have it!” Maloney interrupted. “See? Didn’t hurt a bit, did it? Didn’t hurt a bit. But let me ask you something —”

It was then Sondland’s turn to interrupt. “Mr. Maloney —”

“Hold on, sir,” Maloney responded.

“Excuse me, I’ve been very forthright and I really resent what you’re trying to do —”

“Fair enough. You’ve been very forthright. This is your third try to do so, sir,” Maloney said, referencing Sondland’s original deposition last month, which he subsequently amended after transcripts were released of additional testimony that contradicted it on some points. “Didn’t work so well the first time, did it? We had a little declaration come in after, do you remember that? And now we’re here a third time and we’ve got a doozy of a statement from you this morning. There’s a whole bunch of stuff that you don’t recall, so all due respect, sir, we appreciate your candor, but let’s be really clear on what it took to get it out of you.”

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., questions Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP)

Sondland offered no response.

“So my question is, when the president is putting pressure on the Ukrainians, withholding a meeting to get this investigation that you and I agree would benefit him politically, what kind of position does that put the Ukrainians in, sir?”

“A terrible position,” Sondland replied.

“A terrible position. Why?” Maloney pressed.

“Well, obviously they’re not receiving ultimately what they thought was coming to them, and they’re put in a position that jeopardizes their security,” Sondland answered.

Maloney then hammered home the Democrats’ argument that Trump had engaged in bribery by conditioning the release of military aid on the investigation of Biden.

“A position that jeopardizes their security, and they’re being asked to do an investigation to help their security, essentially, that would benefit the president politically. In other words, you might say they’re being asked to give him a personal benefit in exchange for an official act. Is that a fair summary?”

“In your hypothetical, that’s correct,” Sondland responded.

“It’s not a hypothetical, sir,” Maloney said. “This is real life.”

Gordon Sondland testifies before the House Intelligence Committee. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP)

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