Sondland last month testified before a House committee that he told Zelensky’s aide that the U.S. would not resume foreign aid until the country announced two investigations into Trump political rivals; however, the aide, Andriy Yermak, told Time in an interview published Tuesday that the conversation never happened.
“Gordon and I were never alone together,” Yermak told Time.
“We bumped into each other in the hallway next to the escalator, as I was walking out,” he continued, adding that several members of the American and Ukrainian delegations, bodyguards and hotel staff were nearby. “And I remember — everything is fine with my memory — we talked about how well the meeting went. That’s all we talked about.”
Yermak told Time that no U.S. officials, including congressional committees overseeing the impeachment inquiry, have contacted him to seek testimony.
During his public hearing, Sondland testified that he told Yermak “I believed the resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine took some kind of action on the public statement that we had been discussing for many weeks.”
Trump’s alleged withholding of foreign aid in return for an announcement of an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who sat on the board of the Ukrainian energy firm Burisma Holdings, is at the center of the House’s impeachment probe.
House Democrats revealed two articles of impeachment against Trump Tuesday after weeks of public testimony from officials, including Sondland, who testified about Trump’s communications with Ukraine.
Sondland’s lawyer told Time in a statement that the ambassador “stands by his prior testimony and will not comment further.”
Some Republicans seized on the news, highlighting Yermak’s remarks as they continue to defend the president against the allegations leveled against him.
“Bombshell. On the same day Democrats introduce their impeachment articles, a President Zelensky top aide undercuts the Democrats’ star witness, Gordon Sondland. He says Ukraine wasn’t told (and never believed) aid and political investigations were connected,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C), who has staunchly defended Trump throughout the impeachment process, tweeted. “Wow.”
Rep. Matt Geatz (R-Fla.), another fierce critic of the ongoing impeachment, tweeted, “Thinnest. Weakest. Most partisan. Impeachment. Ever,” in response to Yermak’s comments.