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Sondland to testify that Trump directed ‘no quid pro quo’ denial

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  • The US ambassador to the European Union will reportedly tell Congress next week that President Donald Trump relayed his message that there was “no quid pro quo” involved in withholding $400 in aid to Ukraine.
  • Gordon Sondland will tell lawmakers he doesn’t know whether Trump was being truthful when he denied the quid pro quo, The Washington Post reported Saturday.
  • A September 9 text exchange between Sondland and the acting ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor, denied the quid pro quo, and has become a key focus of the House impeachment inquiry.
  • The House is looking into whether Trump inappropriately pressed Ukraine to investigate one of his top political rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The US ambassador to the European Union is reportedly planning to tell Congress that his infamous text message denying a quid pro quo with Ukraine was dictated by President Donald Trump himself — and possibly not truthful.

Gordon Sondland is set to testify Thursday as part of the House impeachment inquiry. He plans to tell lawmakers he doesn’t know whether Trump was being truthful when he denied a quid pro quo, The Washington Post reported Saturday, citing a person familiar with his prepared testimony.

The House is looking into whether Trump inappropriately pressed Ukraine to investigate one of his top political rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden.

Read more: Federal prosecutors are investigating whether Rudy Giuliani violated foreign lobbying laws in Ukraine

One facet of the investigation is Trump’s withholding of $400 million in aid to Ukraine, and whether he sought to exchange it for the investigation into Biden.

A September 9 text exchange between Sondland and the acting ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor, has become a key focus of the House impeachment inquiry.

FILE - In this July 10, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump is joined by Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, second from right, as he arrives at Melsbroek Air Base, in Brussels, Belgium. Sondland, wrapped up in a congressional impeachment inquiry, was a late convert to Trump, initially supporting another candidate in the Republican primary and once refusing to participate in a fundraiser on his behalf.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

In this July 10, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump is joined by Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, second from right, as he arrives at Melsbroek Air Base, in Brussels, Belgium.
Associated Press


“I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” Taylor texted Sondland.

Roughly five hours later, after reportedly phoning Trump, Sondland responded to Taylor.

“The President has been crystal clear: no quid pro quo’s of any kind,” Sondland wrote. “The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelenskiy promised during his campaign.”

Read more: Familiarity with the Ukraine scandal is rising and so is support for impeaching Trump

Trump and his allies have used Sondland’s text as evidence that Trump wasn’t trying to withhold the aid for his own personal gain.

But Sondland plans to tell Congress that he does not know whether Trump was being truthful when he denied the quid pro quo.

“It’s only true that the president said it, not that it was the truth,” the person familiar with Sondland’s testimony told The Post.



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Sony delays PlayStation 5 reveal as George Floyd protests continue

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Sony was set to makes a major announcement about the PlayStation 5 on Thursday, June 4, teasing “a look at the future of gaming on PlayStation 5.” Now, Sony is postponing the event.

“We have decided to postpone the PlayStation 5 event scheduled for June 4,” the company said in a message shared to social media. “While we understand gamers worldwide are excited to see PS5 games, we do not feel that right now is a time for celebration and for now, we want to stand back and allow more important voices to be heard.”

The PlayStation 5 is scheduled to arrive this holiday season, but Sony has yet to detail the console in any major way. It hasn’t revealed which exclusive games are coming to it, what the console looks like, or its selling price.

Sony’s note — and the event’s postponement — is a direct response to protests that have broken out across the United States in the last week. 

On May 25, a 46-year-old black man named George Floyd died in Minneapolis after a white police officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes.

In a widely circulated video of the incident, Floyd can be heard pleading for his life before becoming unresponsive. “Please, please, please, I can’t breathe,” he says in the video. “Don’t kill me.”

Floyd’s death has sparked peaceful protests and riots across the United States.

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Amex sees slight improvement from billings – Business Insider

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The issuer and network’s CEO Steve Squeri indicated at a conference that the firm is beginning to see signs of early recovery from the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic — but challenges remain as the US economy recovers slowly, according to a Keefe, Bruyette & Woods note seen by Business Insider Intelligence.

Annual change in AMex US consumer card billed business



Business Insider Intelligence


Amex is seeing tepid improvement overall, but key categories remain down: 

  • Amex spending is still down, but less so than earlier this year. As of mid-May, Amex’s billed business was down 30% on an annual basis — a substantial decline from the 7% growth it posted last Q2 and the -2% in Q1 2020, when the pandemic had just begun and consumer spending was hit hardest. But that’s an improvement from the 45% annual decline in billed business seen in April, indicating that as states begin to lift stay-at-home orders and retail reopens, albeit with restrictions, consumers are beginning to spend tentatively again. Though Amex still expects a big downturn for the quarter, it could be less extreme than originally thought based on April numbers.
  • However, travel and entertainment (T&E) remains very depressed, which could impact Amex’s return to growth. Though it showed slight improvement from April, T&E spending still remains down 90% annually in mid-May. For Amex, T&E is a key category: Many of its top cards offer travel-centric rewards and entertainment perks like dedicated concierges in order to build relationships and incur spend. But travel restrictions and large event bans have naturally hit the category, and the lasting decline — since these industries will likely be some of the last to return — could remain a drag on Amex’s business in the long term. 

Further, Amex is redirecting staff to collections and credit work, per Bloomberg — which could point to ongoing challenges with charge-offs as the pandemic stretches on. Like other issuers, Amex rolled out robust financial support offerings for cardholders affected by the pandemic, including payment deferrals.

By mid-April, 845,000 Amex customers were enrolled in those programs  — and though that total has decreased to 500,000 customers, the firm continues to shift staff to collections and credit work to find new ways to offer relief. Though Amex reports that two-thirds of those who have left forbearance programs are now current on their accounts, a push to redirect resources could indicate an uptick in delinquencies as the financial crisis weathers on, and finding ways to work with customers to avoid that should remain a priority for credit providers. 

To weather the pandemic, the firm will need to find ways to incentivize spending without overextending resources. Amex has tweaked a number of its rewards offerings to appease customers who relied on T&E categories, including discounts to incentivize paying with points, partnerships with food delivery programs for rewards, grocery points on top cards, and more.

While these incentives are set to help the firm keep spending and primary card status by playing to current spending trends, they need to be balanced with the delinquencies that might arise moving forward through ongoing financial assistance programs and relief.

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10 things in tech you need to know today, June 1

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Protests in Minneapolis, George Floyd

People hold signs during the second day of protests in Minneapolis on Wednesday, May 27, 2020, over the death of George Floyd.

Jordan Strowder/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


Good morning! This is the tech news you need to know this Monday.

  1. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended the controversial decision not to take any action on a post from President Trump that apparently threatened the Minneapolis protesters with violence. Zuckerberg said Facebook’s role was to “enable as much expression as possible.”
  2. Unlike Facebook, Twitter slapped a warning label on the post from Trump that stated “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Twitter placed a click-through block on the tweet, saying that it was “glorifying violence.”
  3. Leaked emails obtained by The Verge show considerable dissent among Facebook employees over whether the platform should remove Trump’s post. One employee wrote that “history will not judge us kindly.”
  4. SpaceX on Saturday successfully launched into orbit its first human passengers: NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. On Sunday morning, the astronauts caught up to the International Space Station inside their Endeavour spaceship and docked it there.
  5. SpaceX’s Elon Musk said he was “overcome with emotion” after after the successful astronaut launch. Though his adrenaline was at “100%” during the first launch attempt on Wednesday, the SpaceX CEO said he didn’t feel nervous at all this weekend.
  6. Amazon-owned Whole Foods fired a worker who had been tracking COVID-19 cases across the grocery chain’s stores. The worker said Whole Foods accused her of “time theft” after she took a break to recover from a panic attack, but she suspects she was actually fired for “dissent,” according to Vice. 
  7. Google has rescinded thousands of job offers to temporary and contract workers, as the company continues to feel the sting of the pandemic. According to The New York Times, Google is seeing its advertising business hit hard by the pandemic.
  8. Senators want an investigation into TikTok’s privacy practices after it allegedly broke its promise to delete videos posted by young kids. In a letter sent Friday, the four senators cited a report from leading child advocacy groups claiming TikTok failed to take down videos posted by children under 13, as it had promised to do in a 2019 consent decree.
  9. An Irish drone company has been making deliveries of prescription medication, cake, and pizza to the remote Irish village of Moneygall during the pandemic. The company, called Manna, has been designated an essential service by Ireland’s health service and is serving a population of around 1,000 people.
  10. A former Googler has raised $2.1 million for his augmented reality marketplace startup Poplar in the midst of the pandemic. Founder David Ripert began raising in January, but closed the round in May despite a general slowdown in investment.

Have an Amazon Alexa device? Now you can hear 10 Things in Tech each morning. Just search for “Business Insider” in your Alexa’s flash briefing settings.

You can also subscribe to this newsletter here — just tick “10 Things in Tech You Need to Know.”



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