A top White House aide charged with impeachment strategy and communication inaccurately said three times on a network morning television show that US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who testifies publicly Wednesday, is the “ambassador to Ukraine.”
Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi was pressed on CBS’ “This Morning” whether the President knew Sondland well and whether they were in frequent contact.
“He was ambassador to the Ukraine, he is ambassador to the Ukraine and the President knows him. The President does not know him very well. He’s a short-term ambassador. Of course he knows him,” Bondi said.
But Sondland has never been ambassador to Ukraine. And he has been confirmed in his post as US ambassador to the European Union since June 2018. In fact, it’s his role as European Union ambassador acting in the capacity he did on Ukraine that is partly under scrutiny.
Asked again about Sondland’s assertion in closed testimony that he could speak to President Donald Trump whenever he wanted, Bondi repeated her mistake a third time.
“Well, he clearly had a conversation with the President of the United States, he’s the ambassador to Ukraine,” Bondi said.
Sondland’s testimony is critical: he is the first official to testify publicly who was in direct contact with Trump regarding aid to Ukraine. Sondland told Ukrainian officials on multiple occasions that security aid and a one-on-one meeting were conditioned on announcing investigations into Trump’s political rivals, and several other witnesses have testified they were told by Sondland that the President told him they were linked.
“We’re not going to get ahead of the testimony. The testimony is going to speak for itself today,” Bondi said.
Bondi joined the administration along with former Treasury Department official Tony Sayegh as the public phase of the impeachment inquiry began earlier this month. On the first night of public impeachment hearings, Bondi and Sayegh were spotted at a book party for Donald Trump Jr. hosted by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump last week.
Earlier this week, Bondi and Sayegh were on Capitol Hill, meeting with Senate Republican communications staffers to discuss messaging ahead of this week’s public hearings.
Bondi’s hiring was seen as a sign that the administration is taking the proceedings seriously and is bolstering its communications strategy for the White House, Capitol Hill Republicans and other outside allies. Part of that strategy includes being a spokesperson on television to reach viewers beyond Fox News.
Bondi also told CBS that Trump would “probably not” testify in the impeachment inquiry, despite his tweet earlier this week that he was “strongly” considering doing so.
“I know why he wants to testify. Of course he wants to testify because he did nothing wrong,” she said.
Bondi said Trump would “absolutely … love to come in and take an oath and tell the truth,” but said, twice, that someone who gets a jaywalking ticket has “more rights than the President of the United States has been afforded.”
CNN’s Sarah Westwood, Kaitlan Collins, Jeremy Herb, and Manu Raju contributed to this report.