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E.U. ambassador to testify that ex-Ukraine ambassador was 'great' despite Trump ouster

Marie Yovanovitch told Congress last week that Trump personally pressured the State Department to have her removed from her position.
Image: Gordon Sondland
U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, speaks to members of World Oregon in the organization's Portland, Oregon headquarters on March 25, 2019.John Rudoff / Sipa USA via AP file

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland will tell Congress on Thursday that he thought former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was “great” and that he has nothing negative to say about her job performance, despite her ouster by President Donald Trump.

A person with knowledge of Sondland’s testimony tells NBC News that Yovanovitch was an able and professional diplomat, and that he had no issues with her whatsoever. The person spoke to NBC News on the condition of anonymity.

Yovanovitch told House impeachment investigators last week that Trump personally pressured the State Department to have her removed from her position. Sondland is expected to testify under subpoena on Thursday as part of the impeachment inquiry.

Sondland will also testify that after he attended Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s inauguration in May, he met with Trump, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and former U.S. special envoy Kurt Volker in the Oval Office. In that meeting, Sondland will say, Trump told them that any in-person meeting between Trump and Zelenskiy would have to be approved by Rudy Giuliani.

Sondland will testify that it was only later that he became aware that a public commitment by Ukraine’s new government to address corruption – including Burisma Holdings – was a prerequisite for a Trump-Zelenskiy meeting. Sondland will also say that at the time that he learned that, he did not know that Burisma was linked to former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter.

In a July 25 interview with state-run Ukrainian television, Sondland said he’d spoken directly with Trump before the president’s phone call with Zelenskiy that same day, in which the president pressed Zelenskiy to investigate the Biden family. The July phone call set off a torrent of events that led to the impeachment inquiry.