Ex-Trump aide's lawyer pushes back on Sondland testimony

A lawyer for Fiona Hill, who previously served as the top White House expert on Russia, is pushing back against claims made by a Trump-appointed diplomat whose deposition transcript was publicly released by House Democrats on Tuesday.

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland testified that he had met with Hill “once or twice a month,” describing their relationship as “very cordial.” He also described instances in which Hill offered praise regarding his work in Ukraine.

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But Hill’s lawyer, Lee Wolosky, claimed Wednesday that Sondland had “fabricated communications” with his client. 

Wolosky also appeared to jab at Sondland’s work with Ukraine and criticized efforts by Trump officials to oust former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

“Sondland has fabricated communications with Dr. Hill, none of which were over coffee,” Wolosky tweeted.

“Dr. Hill told Sondland what she told lawmakers — the lack of coordination on Ukraine was distastorous, and the circumstances of the dismissal of Amb Yovanovitch shameful,” he added.

 

Multiple witnesses have testified before Congress about an effort to remove Yovanovitch. She has claimed that she was removed due to her anti-corruption efforts. She said this effort was led by President TrumpDonald John TrumpButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California Kavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation MORE's personal lawyer Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiTrump knocks testimony from 'Never Trumpers' at Louisiana rally Jordan calls Pelosi accusing Trump of bribery 'ridiculous' Giuliani under investigation for alleged campaign finance, lobbying breaches: report MORE, Giuliani associates, embittered Ukrainian officials, and John Solomon, a former opinion contributor at The Hill.

Sondland, however, testified about receiving words of praise from Hill, according to the nearly 400-page transcript of Sondland’s closed-door testimony released Tuesday.

“In February, when I went to Odesa [Ukraine], Dr. Hill congratulated and praised me for my effort in helping support Ukraine. So I took that to mean the NSC was supportive along the way,” he said, referring to the National Security Council. 

Sondland, who amended his testimony one day before its public release, also changed his previous statements that described a “likely” quid pro quo in the Trump administration’s decision to withhold aid to Ukraine in order to secure a commitment to open two politically motivated investigations.

And as it related to Hill, Sondland described a coincidental meeting in Wyoming in which he met with Hill and her family.

“I had texted her, and she coincidentally happened to be [in Jackson Hole, Wyo.]. We met for coffee. I think her family was there and my wife and I had a nice drink or coffee or something. And she sent me a nice note about Ukraine in February when we went to the Odessa thing,” Sondland recalled.

But in addition to her lawyer pushing back, Hill had testified that she believed Sondland, a wealthy hotelier and GOP mega-donor with no diplomatic experience, created a counterintelligence risk as a result of his lack of experience, according to The New York Times.

The Times reported, citing people familiar, that Hill felt Sondland did not act maliciously, but she compared his efforts to driving somewhere unfamiliar with no guardrails.