Impeachment Hearing Day 4 Transcript – Gordon Sondland Testifies - transcription powered by Happy Scribe

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I appreciate the opportunity to speak again to the members of this committee. First, let me offer my thanks to the men and women of the U.S. Department of State who have committed their professional lives to support the foreign policy work of the United States. In particular, I want to thank my staff at the U.S. mission to the European Union. Your integrity, dedication and hard work, often performed without public acclaim or recognition serve as a shining example of true public service.

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And I am personally grateful to work beside you each and every day. It is my honor to serve as the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. The U.S. mission to the EU is the direct link between the United States and the European Union and its members. America's longest standing allies and one of the largest economic blocs in the world. Every day I work to support a strong, united and peaceful Europe, strengthening our ties with Europe serves both American and European goals as we together promote political stability and economic prosperity around the world.

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I expect that few Americans have heard my name before these events. So before I begin my substantive testimony, please let me share some of my personal background. My parents fled Europe during the Holocaust, escaping the atrocities of that time. My parents left Germany for Agwai and then in 1953 emigrated to Seattle, Washington, where I was born and raised. Like so many immigrants, my family was eager for freedom and hungry for opportunity. They raised my sister and me to be humble, hardworking and patriotic, and I am forever grateful for the sacrifices they made on our behalf.

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Public service has always been important to me as a lifelong Republican. I have contributed to initiatives of both Republican and Democratic administrations. In 2003, I served as a member of the transition team for Oregon Democratic Governor Ted Coolin Gorsky. Governor Coolin Gorsky also appointed me to serve on various statewide boards. In 2007, President George W. Bush appointed me as a member of the Commission on White House Fellows. I worked with President Bush on charitable events for his foundation's military service initiative.

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And I also worked briefly with former Vice President Joe Biden's office in connection with the vice president's nationwide &str anti-cancer initiative at a local Northwest hospital. And of course, the highest honor in my public life came when President Trump asked me to serve as the United States ambassador to the European Union. The Senate confirmed me as an ambassador on a bipartisan voice vote and I assumed the role in Brussels on July 9th, 2018. Although today is my first public testimony on the Ukraine matters.

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This is not my first time cooperating with this committee. As you know, I've already provided 10 hours of deposition testimony and I did so despite directives from the White House and the State Department that I refuse to appear as many others have done. I agreed to testify because I respect the gravity of the moment and I believe I have an obligation to account fully for my role in these events. But I also must acknowledge that this process has been challenging and in many respects less than fair.

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I have not had access to all of my phone records. State Department emails and many, many other State Department documents, and I was told I could not work with my EU staff to pull together the relevant files and information. Having access to the State Department materials would have been very helpful to me and trying to reconstruct with whom I spoke and met and when and what was said. As ambassador. I've had hundreds of meetings and calls with individuals, but I'm not a note taker or a memo writer.

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Never have been. My job requires that I speak with heads of state, senior government officials, members of the Cabinet, the president, almost each and every day. Talking with foreign leaders might be memorable to some people, but this is my job, I do it all the time. My lawyers and I have made multiple requests to the State Department and the White House for these materials. Yet these materials were not provided to me and they have also refused to share these materials with this committee.

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These documents are not classified. And in fairness and in fairness, should have been made available. In the absence of these materials, my memory admittedly has not been perfect, and I have no doubt that a more fair, open and orderly process of allowing me to read the State Department records and other materials would have made this process far more transparent. I don't intend to repeat my prior opening statement or attempt to summarize 10 hours of previous deposition testimony. However, a few critical points have been obscured by noise over the last few days and weeks.

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And I'm worried that the bigger picture is being ignored. So let me make a few key points. First, Secretary Perry. Ambassador Voelker and I worked with Mr. Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the president of the United States. We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we were playing the hand we were dealt. We all understood that if we refuse to work with Mr Giuliani, we would lose a very important opportunity to cement relations between the United States and Ukraine.

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So we followed the president's orders. Second, although we disagreed with the need to involve Mr. Giuliani. At the time, we did not believe that his role was improper. As I previously testified, if I had known of all of Mr Giuliani's dealings or his associations with individuals, some of whom are now under criminal indictment, I personally would not have acquiesce to his participation. Still, given what we knew at the time, what we were asked to do did not appear to be wrong.

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Third, let me say. Precisely because we did not think that we were engaging in improper behavior. We made every effort to ensure that the relevant decision makers at the National Security Council and the State Department knew the important details of our efforts. The suggestion that we were engaged in some irregular or rogue diplomacy is absolutely false. I have now identified certain State Department e-mails and messages that provide contemporaneous support for my view. These e-mails show that the leadership of the State Department, the National Security Council and the White House were all informed about the Ukraine efforts from May 23rd, 2019, until the security aide was released on September 11th, 2019.

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I will quote from some of those messages with you shortly. Fourth, as I testified previously. As I testified previously, Mr Giuliani's requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for Presidents Wolanski. Mr Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing the investigations of the 2016 election, DNC server and charisma. Mr Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president of the United States, and we knew these investigations were important to the president. Fifth, in July and August of 2019, we learned that the White House had also suspended security aid to Ukraine.

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I was adamantly opposed to any suspension of aid. I was adamantly Sopo, adamantly opposed to any suspension of aid as the Ukrainians needed those funds to fight against Russian aggression.

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I tried diligently to ask why the aid was suspended, but I never received a clear answer. Still haven't to this day. In the absence of any credible explanation for the suspension of aid, I later came to believe that the resumption of security aid would not occur until there was a public statement from Ukraine committing to the investigations of the 2016 elections and Bari PSMA as Mr. Giuliani had demanded. I shared concerns of the potential quid pro quo regarding the security aid with Senator Ron Johnson.

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And I also shared my concerns with the Ukrainians. Finally, at all times, I was acting in good faith. I was acting in good faith as a presidential appointee. I followed the directions of the president. We worked with Mr. Giuliani because the president directed us to do so. We had no desire to set any conditions. We had no desire to set any conditions on the Ukrainians. Indeed, my own personal view, which I shared repeatedly with others, was that the White House and Secuity security assistance should have proceeded without preconditions of any kind.

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We were working to overcome the problems, given the facts as they existed. Our only interest and my only interest was to advance longstanding U.S. policy and to support Ukraine's fragile democracy. Now, let me provide additional details specifically about Ukraine and my involvement. First. My very first days as ambassador to the EU, which was starting back in July of 2018. Ukraine has featured prominently in my broader portfolio. Ukraine's political and economic development are critical to the longstanding and long lasting stability of Europe.

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Moreover, the conflict in eastern Ukraine and Crimea remains one of the most significant security crisis for Europe and the United States. Our efforts to counterbalance an aggressive Russia depend in substantial part on a strong Ukraine. On April 21st, 2019, Vladimir's Zelinsky was elected president of Ukraine and in an historic election. With the express support of Secretary Pompeo, I attended President's Lansky's inauguration on May 20th as part of the U.S. delegation, which was led by Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

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The U.S. delegation also included Senator Johnson, Ukraine Special Envoy Volker and Lieutenant Colonel Alex Venkman of the National Security Council. My attendance at President Zilinskas inauguration was not my first involvement with Ukraine. As I testified previously, just four days after assuming my post as ambassador in July of 2018, I received an official delegation from the government of then Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko. The meeting took place at the U.S. mission in Brussels and was prearranged by my career. EU mission staff and I've had several meetings since then in Brussels.

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Later in February of two thousand and nineteen, I worked well with U.S. Ambassador Maria Evanovich and making my first official visit to Ukraine for a U.S. Navy visit to the strategic Black Sea port of Odessa. And the reason I raise these prior Ukraine activities, the meetings in Brussels, my visit to Odessa, is to emphasize that Ukraine has been a part of my portfolio from my very first days as the U.S. ambassador. Any claim that I somehow muscled my way into the Ukraine relationship is simply false.

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During those Wolanski inauguration on May 20th, the U.S. delegation developed a very positive view of the Ukraine government. We were impressed by President's Lansky's desire to promote a stronger relationship with the United States. We admired his commitment to reform and we were excited about the possibility of Ukraine making the changes necessary to support a greater Western economic investment. And we were excited that Ukraine might, after years and years of lip service, finally get serious about addressing its own well known corruption problems with that enthusiasm.

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We returned to the White House on May 23rd to brief President Trump. We advise the president of the strategic importance of Ukraine and the value of strengthening the relationship with President Stilinski. To support this reformer, we asked the White House for two things. First, a working phone call between Presidents Trump and Zelinski. And second, a working Oval Office visit. In our view. Both were vital to cementing the U.S. Ukraine relationship, demonstrating support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression and advancing broader U.S.

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foreign policy interests. Unfortunately, President Trump was skeptical. He expressed concerns that the Ukrainian government was not serious about reform, and he even mentioned that Ukraine tried to take him down in the last election. In response to our persistent efforts in that meeting to change his views, President Trump directed us to, quote, talk with Rudy. We understood that talk with Rudy meant talk with Mr. Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer. Let me say again. We weren't happy with the president's directive to talk with Rudy.

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We did not want to involve Mr. Giuliani. I believed then, as I do now, that the men and women of the State Department, not the president's personal lawyer, should take responsibility for Ukraine matters. Nonetheless, based on the president's direction, we were faced with a choice we could abandon the efforts to schedule the White House phone call and a White House visit between Presidents Trump pins Wolanski, which was unquestionably in our foreign policy interest. Or we could do as President Trump had directed.

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And talk with Rudy. We chose the latter course not because we liked it, but because it was the only constructive path open to us. Over the course of the next several months, Secretary Perry, Ambassador Voelker and I were in communication with Mr. Giuliani. Secretary Perry volunteered to make the initial calls with Mr Giuliani given their prior relationship. Ambassador Voelker made several of the early calls and generally informed us of what was discussed. I first communicated with Mr. Giuliani in early August.

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Several months later. Mr. Giuliani emphasized that the president wanted a public statement from Presidents Wolanski committing Ukraine to look into the corruption issues. Mr. Giuliani specifically mentioned the 2016 election, including the DNC server and Boris PSMA, as two topics of importance to the president. We kept the leadership of the State Department and the NSC informed of our activities, and that included communications with Secretary of State Pompeo, his counselor, or Brekke Bill, his executive secretary, Lisa Kanna, and also communications with Ambassador Bolton, Dr.

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Hill, Mr Morrison and their staff at the NSC. They knew what we were doing and why. On July 10th, 2019, senior Ukrainian national security officials met with Ambassador Bolton, Ambassador Voelker. Dr. Hill. Secretary Perry. Myself and several others in Washington, D.C.. During that meeting, we all discussed the importance of the two action items.

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I identified earlier, one a working phone call and to a White House meeting between Presidents Trump and Zelinsky. From my perspective, the July 10th meeting was a positive step toward accomplishing our shared goals. While I am now aware of accounts of the meeting from Dr. Hill and Lieutenant Colonel Venkman. Their recollections of those events simply don't square with my own or with those of Ambassador Volcker or Secretary Perry. I recall mentioning the prerequisite of investigations before any White House call or meeting.

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But I do not recall any yelling or screaming or abrupt terminations, as as others have said. Instead, after the meeting, Ambassador Bolton walked outside with our group and we all took some great pictures together outside on the White House lawn. More important, those recollections of protests do not square with the documentary record of our interactions with the NSC in the days and weeks that followed. We kept the NSC apprised of our efforts, including specifically our efforts to secure a public statement from the Ukrainians that would satisfy President Trump's concerns.

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For example, on July 13th. And this is three days after that July 10th meeting. I emailed Tim Morrison. He had just taken over Dr. Hill's post as the NSC Eurasia director.

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And I met him that day for the first time. I wrote to Mr Morrison with these words. The call between Zelinski and POTUS's president of the United States should happen before 7:21, which is the parliamentary elections in Ukraine. Sole purpose is for Zelinski to give POTUS's assurances of new sheriff in town. Corruption, ending, unbundling moving forward and and I emphasize any hampered investigations will be allowed to move forward transparently. Goal is for POTUS's to invite him to oval.

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Voelker, Perry, Bolton and I strongly recommend. Mr Morrison acknowledged and said thank you and specifically noted that he was tracking these issues again. There was no secret regarding moving forward and the discussion of investigations. Moreover, I've reviewed other State Department documents, some of which are not currently in the public domain, detailing Mr Giuliani's efforts, for example, on July 10th, the very same day that Ambassador Voelker, Secretary Perry and I were meeting with the Ukraine officials in Washington.

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Ambassador Taylor received a communication that Mr Giuliani was still talking with Ukrainian prosecutor Uri Lits Sancho. In WhatsApp messages with Ambassador Voelker and I, Ambassador Taylor wrote to us as follows. Just had a meeting with Andre and Vadim, referring to Ukraine Foreign Minister Vadim, pre-State CEO. Taylor said the Ukrainians were, quote, very concerned about what loots Sankoh told them. That according to R.G., meaning Rudy Giuliani Zelinsky, POTUS's meeting will not happen. Voelker responded.

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Good grief. Please tell the team to let the official U.S. government representatives speak for the US. Loots Sanco has his own self-interest here. Taylor confirmed that he had communicated that message to the Ukrainians and he added, I briefed alric this afternoon on this, referring to State Department counselor Oelrich Brekke. Again, everyone's in the loop. Three things are critical about this what's AppExchange? First, while the Ukrainians were in Washington at the White House, Mr Giuliani was communicating with the Ukrainians without our knowledge.

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Ambassador Taylor, Ambassador Volker and I were all surprised by this. Second, Mr Giuliani was communicating with the reportedly corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor Luis Sanco, and discussing whether a Zelinsky Trump meeting was going to happen again without our knowledge. And third, with this alarming news, Ambassador Taylor briefed alric Brekke Bull, who is the counselor to Secretary of State Pompeo. And even as late as September 24th of this year, Secretary Pompeo. Was directing Kurt Volker to speak with Mr.

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Giuliani in a WhatsApp message. Kurt Volker told me in part spoke with Rudy per guidance from S s is the State Department's official designator for the secretary spoke with Rudie per guidance from S. Look. We tried our best to fix the problem. While keeping the State Department and the NSC closely apprised of the challenges we faced. On July 25th, Presidents Trump and Zelinsky had their official call. I was not on the call and I don't think I was invited to be on the call.

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In fact, I first read the transcript on September 25th, the day it was publicly released. All I had heard at that time was that the call had gone well. Looking back, I find it very odd, very odd that neither I nor Ambassador Taylor nor Ambassador Voelker ever received a detailed read out of that call with the Biden references. Now, there are people who say they had concerns about the call, but no one shared any concerns about the call with me at the time, which frankly would have been very helpful to know.

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On July twenty sixth, Ambassador Taylor. Ambassador Voelker and I were all in Kiev to meet with President Zelinski. The timing of that trip immediately after the call between Presidents Trump and Zelinsky was entirely, entirely coincidental. The key of meetings had been scheduled well before the date that the White House finally fixed the call. During our Kiev meeting, I do not recall Presidents Wolanski discussing the substance of his July 25th call with President Trump. Nor did he discuss any requests to investigate Vice President Biden, which we all later learned was discussed on July 25th call.

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And this is consistent with the reported comments from Ambassadors Volcker and Taylor. After the Zelinsky meeting, I also met was the Lansky's senior aide, Andre your mak-. I don't recall the specifics of our conversation, but I believe the issue. Obviously a part of that agenda, our meeting. Also, on July 26, shortly after our Kiev meetings, I spoke by phone with President Trump. The White House, which has finally, finally shared certain call dates and times with my attorneys, confirms this.

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The call lasted five minutes. I remember I was at a restaurant in Kiev, and I have no reason to doubt that this conversation included the subject of investigations. Again, given Mr. Giuliani's demand that President Zelinsky make a public statement about investigations. I knew that investigations were important to President Trump. We did not discuss any classified information. Other witnesses have recently shared their recollection of overhearing this call for the most part, I have no reason to doubt their accounts.

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It's true that the President speaks loudly at times, and it's also true. I think we primarily discussed a SAP Iraqi.

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It's true that the president likes to use colorful language. Anyone who has met with him for any reasonable amount of time knows this. Well, I cannot remember the precise details. Again, the White House has not allowed me to see any readouts of that call. And the July 26 call did not strike me as significant at the time, actually. Actually, I would have been more surprised if President Trump had not mentioned investigations, particularly given what we were hearing from Mr.

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Giuliani about the president's concerns. However, I have no recollection of discussing Vice President Biden or his son on that call or after the call ended. I know that members of this committee. Frequently frame these complicated issues in the form of a simple question. Was there a quid pro quo? As I testified previously with regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting. The answer is yes. Mr Giuliani conveyed to Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volcker and others that President Trump wanted a public statement from Presidents Wolanski committing to investigations of charisma and the 2016 election.

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Mr Giuliani expressed those requests directly to the Ukrainians and Mr Giuliani also expressed those requests directly to us. We all understood that these prerequisites for the White House call and the right White House meeting reflected President Trump's desires and requirements. Within my State Department emails. There is a July 19th email. This e-mail was sent. This email was sent. To Secretary Pompe Payo. Secretary Perry. Brian McCormick, who is Secretary Perry's chief of staff at the time. Miss Khanna, who is the acting?

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Pardon me? Who is the executive secretary at for Secretary Pompeo?

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Chief of Staff Mulvany and Mr. Mulvaney's senior adviser, Rob Blair. A lot of senior officials. A lot of senior officials here is my exact quote from that e-mail. I talk to Zelinsky just now. He is prepared to receive POTUS's call, will assure him that he intends to run a fully transparent investigation and will turn over every stone. He would greatly appreciate a call prior to Sunday so that he can put out some media about a friendly and productive call.

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No details prior to Ukraine election on Sunday. Chief of Staff Mulvany responded, I asked the NSC to set it up for tomorrow. Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret. Everyone was informed via email on July 19th. Days before the presidential call. As I communicated to the team, I told Presidents Wolanski in advance that assurances to run a fully transparent investigation and turn over every stone were necessary in his call with President Trump. On July 19th, in a WhatsApp message between Ambassador Taylor, Ambassador Volker and me, Ambassador Vill Voelker stated.

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Had breakfast with Rudy this morning, that's Ambassador Voelker and Rudy Giuliani teaming up call with your MAC Monday that senior advisor Andre your Mac must have helped. Most important is from the Zelinski to say that he will help investigation and address any specific personnel issues, if there are any. On August 10th, the next day, Mr. Yarmouk texted me. Once we have a date. Which is a date for the White House meeting. We will call for a press briefing announcing upcoming visit and outlining vision for the reboot of the U.S.

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Ukraine relationship, including, among other things, Brisman and election medaling and investigations. This is from Mr. Yarmouk. To me. The following day. August 11th, and this is critical. I sent an e-mail to Councillor Brekke, Bill and Lisa Kanna, Lisa Karno frequently used as the pathway to Secretary Pompeo, as sometimes he preferred to receive his emails through her. She would print them out and put them in front of him. With the subject Ukraine, I wrote Mike referring to Mike Pompeo, Kurt and I negotiated a statement from Zelinsky to be delivered for our review in a day or two.

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The contents will hopefully make the boss happy enough. The boss being the president to authorize an invitation. Zelinsky plans to have a big presser press conference on the openness subject, including specifics next week. All of which referred to the 2016. And the Brisman. Miss, I replied Gordon. I'll pass to the secretary. Thank you again. Everyone was in the loop. Curiously. And this was very interesting to me. On August 26. Shortly before his visit to Kiev, Ambassador Bolton's office requested Mr Giuliani's contact information for me.

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I send Ambassador Bolton the information directly. They requested Mr Giuliani's contact information. On August twenty sixth. I was first informed that the White House was withholding security aid to Ukraine during conversations with Ambassador Taylor on July 18th. 2019. However, as I testified before, I was never able to obtain a clear answer regarding the specific reason for the hold, whether it was bureaucratic in nature which often happens or reflected some other concern in the interagency process. I never participated in any of the subsequent D.O.D or d._o._s review meetings that others have described, so I can't speak to what was discussed in those meetings.

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Nonetheless, before the September 1st Warsaw meeting, the Ukrainians had become aware that security funds had yet to be dispersed. In the absence of any credible explanation for the hold, I came to the conclusion that the aid, like the White House visit, was jeopardized. In preparation for the September 1 Warsaw meeting, I asked Secretary Pompeo whether a face to face conversation between Trump and Zelinsky would help to break the logjam. And this was when President Trump was still intending to travel to Warsaw.

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Specifically, on August 22nd, I emailed Secretary Pompeo directly copying secretary at Kanna. I wrote, this is my email to Secretary Pompeo. Should we block time in Warsaw for a short pull aside for POTUS's to meet Zelinsky? I would ask Zelinsky to look him in the eye and tell him that once Ukraine's new justice folks are in place in mid-September, that Solecki, he's Wolanski, should be able to move forward publicly and with confidence on those issues of importance to POTUS's in the US.

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Hopefully that will help break the logjam. The secretary replied yes. I followed up the next day asking to get 10 to 15 minutes on the Warsaw schedule for this. I said we'd like to know when it's locked so that I can tell Zelinski and brief him.

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Executive Secretary Kenny replied, I will try for sure. Moreover, given my concerns about the security aid, I have no reason to dispute that portion of Senator Johnson's recent letter in which he recalls conversations he and I had on August 30th. By the end of August, my belief was that if Ukraine did something to demonstrate a serious intention to fight corruption and specifically addressing Boris Month and the 2016, then the hold on military aid would be lifted. There was a September first meeting with Presidents Wolanski and Warsaw.

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Unfortunately, President Trump's attendance at the Warsaw meeting was canceled due to Hurricane Dorian. Vice President Pence attended instead. I mentioned to Vice President Pence before the meetings with the Ukrainians that I had concerns that the delay in aid had become tied to the issue of investigations. I recall mentioning that before the Zelinsky meeting. During the actual meeting, Presidents Wolanski raised the issue of security assistance directly with Vice President Pence, and the vice president said that he would speak to President Trump about it.

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Based on my previous communication with Secretary Pompeo, I felt comfortable sharing my concerns with mystery., your Mac. It was a very, very brief Placide conversation that happened within a few seconds. I told Mr. Your Mac that I believe that the resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine took some kind of action on the public statement that we had been discussing for many weeks. As my other State Department colleagues have testified, this security aide was critical to Ukraine's defense and should not have been delayed.

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I expressed this view to many during this period, but my goal at the time was to do what was necessary to get the aid released to break the logjam. I believe that the public statement we had been discussing for weeks was essential to advancing that goal. You know, I really regret that the Ukrainians were placed in that predicament, but I do not regret doing what I could to try to break the logjam and to solve the problem. I mentioned at the outset that throughout these events we kept State Department leadership and others apprised of what we were doing.

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State Department was fully supportive of our engagement in Ukraine efforts and was aware that a commitment to investigations was among the issues we were pursuing. To provide just two examples. On June 5th, the day after the U.S. EU mission hosted our Independence Day, we did it a month early. Acting Assistant Secretary Phil Reeker sent an email to me, to Secretary Perry and to others forwarding some positive media coverage of President WSA Lansky's attendance at our event. Mr Reeker wrote and I quote, This headline underscores the importance and timeliness of Zelinsky, his visit to Brussels and the critical and the critical, perhaps historic role of the dinner and engagement.

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Gordon Coordinated, thank you for your participation and dedication to this effort. Months later. On September 3rd. I sent Secretary Pompeo an e-mail to express my appreciation for his joining a series of meetings in Brussels following the Warsaw trip, I wrote. Mike, thanks for schlepping to Europe. I think it was really important and the chemistry seems promising. Really appreciate it. Secretary Pompeo replied the next day on Wednesday, September 4th, quote. All good. You're doing great work.

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Keep banging away. State Department leadership expressed total support for our efforts to engage the new Ukrainian administration. Look, I've never doubted the strategic value of strengthening our alliance with Ukraine. And at all times, at all times, our efforts were in good faith and fully transparent to those tasked with overseeing them. Our efforts were reported and approved, and not once do I recall encountering an objection. Remains an honor. To serve the people of the United States is their United States ambassador to the European Union.

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I look forward to answering the committee's questions. Thank you.