White House Adviser Considered EU Ambassador A National Security Risk: Report

2019-10-16 16:10:08

Former White House foreign policy adviser Fiona Hill told House impeachment investigators that she viewed Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, as a national security risk, according to The New York Times

Citing two people familiar with Hill’s private, hourslong testimony on Monday, the Times reported that Hill said she considered Sondland’s inexperience and naiveté threats to national security. The story added that Hill, who served as senior director for European and Russian affairs at the National Security Council, stopped short of suggesting that Sondland “maliciously or intentionally” put the U.S. at risk.

Sondland, a Trump inauguration donor and hotel owner, had no foreign policy experience before being installed in his current role. His involvement in a scheme to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into investigating President Donald Trump’s political enemies is at the heart of the congressional impeachment inquiry.

According to the Times report, Hill told investigators that malicious actors might take advantage of Sondland’s habits of using his personal cellphone for official diplomatic business, circumventing protocol to personally invite foreign dignitaries to the White House, and sharing U.S. officials’ phone numbers with foreigners. 

In a Sept. 9 text message exchange with Sondland, William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, expressed dismay over the idea that Trump was involving the State Department in an effort to leverage military aid to force Ukraine to investigate the president’s political opponents. 

“I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” Taylor wrote. 

Sondland waited five hours to reply to Taylor’s text, according to records released by the House chairmen leading the impeachment investigation. In that time, Sondland spoke with Trump on the phone, according to reporting by NBC News and The New York Times. 

The E.U. ambassador then dismissed Taylor’s concerns. “The president has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind,” he wrote to his colleague. 

Sondland has been subpoenaed to testify in the impeachment investigation on Thursday, and his lawyers say the ambassador intends to honor the subpoena despite White House instructions not to.

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