Weekend Reads Sondland: ‘Was there a quid pro quo? ... The answer is yes’
Michael Avenatti finds 'nothing funny' about Pete Davidson's 'SNL' impression in tongue-in-cheek tweet
Lawyer Michael Avenatti found “nothing funny” about Saturday Night Live’s cold open this weekend that put a soap opera twist on the latest developments in the House impeachment hearings - and poked a bit of fun at people forgetting him. In what seemed a caricature of President Trump's Twitter style, Avenatti said there was “Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake News NBC!" Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake News NBC! Question is, how does that total loser Pete Davidson save his dieing mediocre career by playing me and get away with these total Democratic hit jobs without retribution? This is the
Ambassador Gordon Sondland is poised to testify Wednesday more bluntly than he had before that President Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, sought to condition a White House invite for Ukraine’s new president to demands that his country publicly launch investigations that could damage Trump’s political opponents.
“I know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a ‘quid pro quo?’” Sondland said in prepared testimony. “With regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”
Fox Anchor Chris Wallace: Sondland Just Ran the Bus Over Trump, Pence, Pompeo, Giuliani and Mulvaney
pDuring the first break in Wednesday’s impeachment hearings—which featured U.S. Ambassador to the EU and million-dollar Trump donor Gordon Sondland implicating President Donald Trump in a quid pro quo with Ukraine—Fox News anchor Chris Wallace declared that Sondland “took out the bus and ran it over” President Donald Trump and a number of his allies and aides. “I think what Gordon Sondland was trying to do here is protect himself more than he is to protect anybody else,” Wallace said during Fox News’ special coverage.
In his sworn statement, Trump’s U.S. Ambassador to the European Union also told the House Intelligence Committee that while he never knew for sure if the White House had frozen nearly $400 million in security assistance as part of the pressure campaign against Ukraine, he operated as if that was the case.
“In the absence of any credible explanation for the hold, I came to the conclusion that the aid, like the White House visit, was jeopardized,” Sondland said. “My belief was that if Ukraine did something to demonstrate a serious intention” to launch the investigations Trump wanted, “then the hold on military aid would be lifted.”
Sondland, the star witness in the House impeachment inquiry, said that he was concerned enough about the aid holdup that he sought to improvise a solution to that in August, before the larger question could be settled for Trump of whether Ukraine would launch the investigations.
Five bombshells from explosive Sondland testimony
President Trump's hand-picked ambassador to the European Union appeared Wednesday on Capitol Hill, where the latest witness in the Democrats' impeachment investigation delivered hours of explosive testimony tying Trump directly to a politically motivated pressure campaign in Ukraine. Gordon Sondland, a Republican mega-donor-turned E.U. ambassador, had previously denied that Trump leveraged White House meetings and U.S. military aid in return for investigations into the president's political rivals.
Sondland revealed an email showing he asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to help him orchestrate a face-to-face encounter between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, off to the side of a World War II commemoration ceremony that the two were scheduled to attend in Poland on Sept. 1.
“I would ask Zelensky to look him in the eye and tell him that once Ukraine’s new justice folks are in place mid-Sept, that Ze should be able to move forward publicly and with confidence on those issues of importance to Potus and to the US,” Sondland wrote in the Aug. 22 email, using an acronym for President of the United States. “Hopefully, that will break the logjam” on funding.
“Should we block time in Warsaw for a short pull-aside for Potus to meet Zelensky?” Sondland asked.
“Yes.” Pompeo replied three minutes later.
Days later, Trump would decide not to travel to Warsaw and to instead stay in the U.S. as Hurricane Dorian threatened Florida.
The huge Gordon Sondland revelation almost everyone missed
The huge Gordon Sondland revelation almost everyone missedGordon Sondland made a LOT of news in his opening statement to the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday. There was a quid pro quo between the Americans and the Ukrainains. Everybody in the White House knew about it. And the Ukrainians knew too.
Vice President Pence made the trip in place of Trump, and off to the side, Sondland held his own, impromptu meeting with Zelensky confidant, Andrey Yermak.
Sondland was more direct with his warning, he said, telling Yermak that the resumption of U.S. aid “would likely not occur” until Ukraine took some kind of action on publicly committing to the investigations Trump sought.
Sondland’s account in his prepared remarks that there were conditions on the aid and that he relayed those to Ukrainian officials stand as a major reversal from closed-door testimony he provided in the impeachment inquiry a month ago.
During more than seven hours of questioning on Oct. 17, both Republicans and Democrats repeatedly asked Sondland if aid was part of the White House quid pro quo. Numerous times he said he could not recall.
Sondland was questioned at one point that day by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. McCaul asked Sondland if he had any conversation with Zelensky about withholding U.S. aid in connection with the investigations sought by Trump.
Aide says ambassador on ‘political errand’ for Trump
Aide says ambassador on ‘political errand’ for TrumpFiona Hill told House investigators she came to realize Ambassador Gordon Sondland wasn’t simply operating outside official diplomatic channels, as some assumed, but carrying out instructions from Trump,
“I don’t recall any conversation about this,” Sondland replied.
Asked later by another investigator “So, you’ve never made a statement relating the aid to conditions that the Ukraine ought to comply with?”
Again, Sondland testified: “I don’t remember that, no.”
After his denials were contradicted in testimony later provided by William B. Taylor Jr., the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and Tim Morrison, the top Russia and Europe adviser on the National Security Council, Sondland filed a supplemental statement early this month, stating the testimony of Taylor and Morrison had “refreshed my recollection about conversations involving the suspension of U.S. aid.”
It marked a second time Sondland had become a more problematic witness for the White House.
A longtime Republican donor who gave $1 million to Trump’s inaugural, Sondland had initially been seen as a loyalist of the president with a supportive version of events.
In a text message that was among the first bits of evidence released in the impeachment inquiry, Sondland had been shown to assert to Taylor in September that Trump did not seek “quid pro quo’s of any kind.” The text was seized upon by Trump and his supporters to argue he had not used the power of his office for personal political gain.
'SNL': Alec Baldwin's Donald Trump Fields Impeachment Questions With Will Ferrell's Ambassador Sondland
The night's host joined Baldwin for an awkward but short cold open.Baldwin reprised his role as the president yet again, taking a press conference in front of his helicopter in an attempt to avoid taking questions from reporters.
In his closed-door testimony, Sondland undercut part of that argument, telling congressional investigators that he texted the now infamous phrase only after it was relayed to him directly by Trump. He also said he had been working to barter the White House visit for Zelensky for the investigations demanded by Giuliani, Trump’s informal emissary on the issue.
In his prepared remarks, Sondland drops distinctions he’d earlier drawn between his work for Giuliani and his work for Trump, saying that he worked with Giuliani “at the express direction of the President of the United States.”
Still, his testimony contains many contradictions with Taylor, Morrison, and David Holmes, an embassy official.
In one major discrepancy, Sondland had previsouly said he had only two calls with Trump between July and September. Morrison said he understood there were a half dozen.
Holmes, a counselor in the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, said he was present for one, which Sondland for the first time is now acknowledging.
In that call, placed July 26 from a restaurant in Kyiv, Holmes said he remembers Sondland using colorful language with the commander in chief to provide an encouraging update about Trump’s sought-after investigations. At one point, Holmes testified, Sondland told Trump that “President Zelensky ‘loves your ass.’ ”
The impeachment case against Donald J. Trump, as it stands
After two weeks of pubic hearings, here's what we know that can be traced directly to Trump.Whether Trump explicitly signed off on quid pro quos is something we don’t know, though, and Sondland said he hadn’t heard Trump do that. Some people argue that’s irrelevant. But as the impeachment inquiry enters a new phase, it’s worth taking stock of what we do and don’t know about Trump’s personal actions, as we hurtle toward what appears to be the third impeachment of a U.S. president.
Trump’s voice could initially be heard across the table, Holmes said, because it was so loud that Sondland grimaced and pulled the receiver away from his ear.
“I then heard President Trump ask, ‘So, he’s gonna do the investigation?’ ” Holmes testified, according to a transcript. “Ambassador Sondland replied that ‘he’s gonna do it,’ adding that President Zelensky will do ‘anything you ask him to.’ ”
Holmes testified that after the call, he asked Sondland if it was true that Trump did not care about Ukraine.
“Nope, not at all, doesn’t give a s--- about Ukraine,” Holmes recalled Sondland saying. “I asked why not, and Ambassador Sondland stated, the President only cares about ‘big stuff.’ I noted that there was ‘big stuff’ going on in Ukraine, like a war with Russia.’ Sondland said ‘no, big stuff that matters to him, like this Biden investigation that Giuliani is pushing.’ ”
At least three other witnesses have said Sondland was speaking about a Biden investigation sought by Trump. Sondland has said he only ever heard and used the word Burisma – the energy company where former vice president Joe Biden’s son Hunter held a board position.
Sondland’s reported use of the word Biden is the only element of Holmes account that the ambassador says he cannot recall, according to this prepared remarks.
“It is true that the President speaks loudly at times. .. It is true that the President likes to use colorful language,” Sondland said in his remarks.
“The July 26 call did not strike me as significant at the time. Actually, I would have been more surprised if President Trump had not mentioned investigations, particularly given what we were hearing from Mr. Giuliani about the President’s concerns,” Sondland states.
But it wasn’t about the Bidens, he adds.
“I have no recollection of discussing Vice President Biden or his son on that call or after the call ended.”
Trump’s big, ‘exonerating’ piece of Ukraine evidence takes a hit .
Trump’s big, ‘exonerating’ piece of Ukraine evidence takes a hit Except the call might not have actually taken place — at least not like Sondland remembers it.
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