Ukraine Focus Shifts To Trump’s Ambassador To The EU

The New York Times reports:

Gordon D. Sondland, the blunt-spoken hotelier who is President Trump’s ambassador to the European Union, was boasting on Ukrainian television that Mr. Trump had honored him with a “special assignment” — “overseeing” relations between the two countries “at the highest levels.”

At the time, his television remarks might have been the kind of diplomatic bluster one would expect of Mr. Sondland, a big, loquacious man who has been a prominent Republican donor and fund-raiser for years and loves to remind people of the good relationship he has developed with Mr. Trump.

But in the glare of the impeachment inquiry swirling in Washington, Mr. Sondland’s mission is now being scrutinized in an entirely different light, to assess whether it was to give a lift to American relations with Ukraine, or actually to serve as Mr. Trump’s personal fixer.

The Washington Post reports:

By mid-May, the U.S. relationship with Ukraine was unraveling: The U.S. ambassador had been recalled home for no apparent reason, the country’s new president was anxious about U.S. support, and President Trump’s personal lawyer was hawking Kiev conspiracy theories.

Amid this turbulence, an unexpected figure stepped forward to assert that he was now in charge of the U.S.-Ukraine relationship. Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, had no apparent standing to seize this critical portfolio, nor any apparent qualifications as a diplomat beyond the $1 million he’d given to Trump’s inauguration.

But when some in the White House and State Department sought to block his power grab, current and former U.S. officials said, he rebuffed their demands to know who had granted him such authority with two words: “The president.” Newly released texts exchanged by Sondland, Volker and other U.S. officials during this period read like a government-sanctioned shakedown.

Hit both links for much, much more. The WaPo piece, in particular, reads like a spy novel starring the mafia.