Trump reacts to damning testimony by claiming he barely knows Sondland: 'He seems like a nice guy'

The president is seen holding notes reading: '"I WANT NOTHING. I WANT NOTHING. I WANT NO QUID PRO QUO'

Phil Thomas
New York
Wednesday 20 November 2019 17:54 GMT
Donald Trump reenacts conversation with Gordon Sondland after bombshell impeachment testimony

Donald Trump has responded to shocking testimony that he personally directed a "quid pro quo" – which Democrats say amounts to bribery – by again saying that he barely knows the witness, Gordon Sondland, but adding: "He seems like a nice guy though."

Weeks after praising Mr Sondland, whom he appointed US ambassador to the EU, as a "great American" and "highly respected", the president told reporters outside the White House: "I don't know him very well. I have not spoken to him very much.

"This is not a man I know well. He seems like a nice guy though."

Mr Sondland, who donated $1 million to Mr Trump's inauguration before being made an ambassador, had initially testified that the president did not ask for a quid pro quo with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenesky, which would involve withholding US aid to the former Soviet republic and a White House visit until the Ukrainians announced an investigation into Mr Trump's political opponents.

But the ambassador later amended his evidence to say there had been a quid pro quo. In public testimony on Wednesday morning he went further, saying that everything was done at Mr Trump's direction.

Speaking to reporters before flying to Texas, the president re-enacted his conversation with Mr Sondland.

At one point he said: "Ready, do you have the cameras rolling?", before relating Mr Sondland's initial evidence that there was no quid pro quo and that Mr Trump wanted nothing.

Donald Trump holds notes reading 'I WANT NOTHING. I WANT NOTHING. I WANT NO QUID PRO QUO' as he speaks to reporters outside the White House
Donald Trump holds notes reading 'I WANT NOTHING. I WANT NOTHING. I WANT NO QUID PRO QUO' as he speaks to reporters outside the White House (REUTERS)

The president was holding notes on which could be seen, in capital letters: "I WANT NOTHING. I WANT NOTHING. I WANT NO QUID PRO QUO."

He also disputed Mr Sondland’s suggestion that he had been in a bad mood during their conversation, saying: "I’m always in a good mood. I don’t know what that is."

Later the White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, released a statement reading: "Ambassador Sondland’s testimony made clear that in one of the few brief phone calls he had with President Trump, the President clearly stated that he 'wanted nothing' from Ukraine and repeated 'no quid pro quo over and over again'.

"In fact, no quid pro quo ever occurred. The US aid to Ukraine flowed, no investigation was launched, and President Trump has met and spoken with President Zelensky. Democrats keep chasing ghosts."

Mr Trump is known to quickly disassociate himself from allies when they get in trouble or turn against him.

He described his election campaign manager Paul Manafort as someone "who played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time" during his route to the White House. Manafort was jailed for more than two years for offences including witness tampering and tax and band fraud.

Mr Trump's longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, became "not somebody that was with me that much ... I would see him sometimes" when Cohen was jailed for three years for campaign finance violations and tax fraud.

Other convicted criminals who were close to the president – including his national security adviser Michael Flynn and one-time foreign affairs adviser George Papadopoulos – were dismissed as having done "volunteer work" for him. Papdopoulos was also described as a "coffee boy".

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