Sondland, a crucial yet flawed witness, could upend impeachment probe

Sondland’s credibility is likely to come under fire from Democrats and Republicans — but his centrality to nearly every facet of the impeachment inquiry has made him perhaps the most important witness so far as Democrats seek to draw out evidence that Trump abused his power.

Sondland has already made one of the more explosive revelations throughout the impeachment process — one that Democrats view as crucial for their case against Trump. In his amended testimony, Sondland revealed that he told a senior Ukrainian national security official on Sept. 1 that the country “likely” would not receive the critical military aid unless it publicly committed to the investigations Trump was seeking.

Democrats view the conversation as the most direct evidence of an alleged quid pro quo, and it was made more explosive coming from a witness who frequently talked to Trump and claimed to be carrying out his directives.

Sondland is also directly involved in another episode he declined to previously disclose. Last week, an aide at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv told impeachment investigators that he overheard Sondland telling Trump in a phone call that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had committed to announcing the investigations.

David Holmes, the political counselor at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv, said he could clearly hear Trump asking about the status of “the investigations.” But Sondland’s recollection of the July 26 conversation will represent even more of the firsthand evidence that Democrats have been seeking.

Witnesses described Sondland as the nucleus of an “irregular” channel of diplomacy that sidelined traditional foreign service officers with oversight of Ukraine policy. He worked with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, former U.S. envoy Kurt Volker and Energy Secretary Rick Perry to push a Ukraine agenda that at times appeared to contradict longstanding U.S. posture toward the Eastern European ally.