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the final report from the House Intelligence Committee concluded last week that Sondland made this offer of a quid pro quo clear to Yermak that day in Warsaw. “Following this meeting, Ambassador Sondland pulled aside President Zelensky’s advisor, Mr. Yermak, to explain that the hold on security assistance was conditioned on the public announcement of the Burisma/Biden and the 2016 election interference investigations,” the report states.
Yermak disputes this. “Gordon and I were never alone together,” he said when TIME asked about the Warsaw meeting. “We bumped into each other in the hallway next to the escalator, as I was walking out.” He recalls that several members of the American and Ukrainian delegations were also nearby, as well as bodyguards and hotel staff, though he was not sure whether any of them heard his brief conversation with Sondland. “And I remember – everything is fine with my memory – we talked about how well the meeting went. That’s all we talked about,” Yermak says.
These comments cast doubt on an important moment in the impeachment inquiry’s reconstruction of events: specifically, the only known point at which an American official directly tells the Ukrainians about the link between U.S. aid and the announcement of specific investigations.
In a statement, Sondland’s lawyer said “Ambassador Sondland stands by his prior testimony and will not comment further.” Yermak said no one from the congressional committees that are overseeing the impeachment inquiry have contacted him to seek his testimony, nor have any other U.S. officials.
Legal experts said at the time that the amendment looked like an attempt to protect Sondland from accusations that his initial testimony had misled Congress. Lying to Congress is a crime that can carry a punishment of up to five years imprisonment.
Does facts matter to the Democrats? Does the truth really matter?
But the mere sight of Zelensky’s top adviser meeting with a former Trump adviser-turned-lobbyist was enough to raise eyebrows.
Yermak is a key figure in the impeachment probe against Trump, as he was the main intermediary for the Ukrainian president in efforts by top Trump officials and Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to have the Ukrainian government pursue an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden and widely debunked claims of Ukrainian election interference in 2016.
Lanza, a managing director at Mercury Public Affairs LLC, served as an adviser on Trump’s 2016 campaign and transition, and has described the impeachment proceedings against Trump as a “sham impeachment” and “partisan coup” on Twitter.
Last year, he also worked on behalf of a Russian oligarch-owned aluminum company to have U.S. sanctions lifted.