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.

The instruction came from Mr Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, Ambassador Gordon Sondland said.

The inquiry is assessing if Mr 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.

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

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

Mr Giuliani specifically mentioned the company Burisma – which had the son of Democratic presidential candidate Mr 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, the Republican president will face an impeachment trial in the Senate. But two-thirds of members of that Republican-controlled chamber would then need to vote for Mr Trump to be removed from office.

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