Weekend Reads Five bombshells from explosive Sondland testimony

01:40  21 november  2019
01:40  21 november  2019 Source:   thehill.com

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Ambassador to EU testifies as House impeachment hearing: ‘Was there a quid pro quo? The answer is yes’.

Gordon Sondland may have provided much-needed aid to Republicans defending Donald Trump on Capitol Hill during the House-led impeachment Trump impeachment: Nunes doesn't appear to ask Sondland anyhting substantive about his testimony . Trump impeachment: Four key moments from

Gordon Sondland wearing a suit and tie: Five bombshells from explosive Sondland testimony© Greg Nash 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.

On Wednesday, with the TV cameras rolling, Sondland changed his tune, telling impeachment investigators that the quid pro quo was explicit - and came from Trump himself.

Sondland: ‘Was there a quid pro quo? ... The answer is yes’

  Sondland: ‘Was there a quid pro quo? ... The answer is yes’ Sondland: ‘Was there a quid pro quo? The answer is yes’“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.

Even Republicans are predicting impeachment is looming for Trump as Sondland admits: ‘We followed the president’s orders’.

In the explosive impeachment-hearing appearance by Gordon Sondland , drama and farce were never far apart. The man deploying the bombshells seemed oddly to be enjoying himself. The testimony of the ambassador to the European Union, Gordon D. Sondland , was deeply serious in substance

Here are five bombshells from Sondland's nearly seven hours of testimony.

Sondland refutes Trump: Clear quid pro quo

Sondland wasted no time getting to the guts of the impeachment inquiry, telling lawmakers that Trump pressed Ukrainian leaders to launch investigations into his political opponents by dangling a meeting and a phone call with Ukraine's newly elected president - both of which Kyiv was desperate to secure amid an ongoing war with Russia.

Sondland said Trump, through his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told U.S. officials in Kyiv that he wanted a public statement from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky "committing to investigations of Burisma and the 2016 election."

"Was there a "quid pro quo?'" Sondland asked. "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

  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.

While Sondland 's testimony drew Trump and his orbit further into the controversy, the president and his allies pushed back on the EU ambassador's most damning claims. Trump continued to distance himself from Sondland , saying he doesn't know him well. Sondland , a GOP donor-turned-diplomat

Devin Nunes (R) listen to testimony by Gordon Sondland , the U.S ambassador to the European Union, before the House Intelligence Committee in The third day of public testimony in the impeachment inquiry left journalists in Washington scrambling for new ways to say “damning” as U.S

In another damning statement, Sondland said Trump was not interested in fighting corruption, per se, but merely wanted a public declaration that former Vice President Joe Biden was under investigation.

"He had to announce the investigations; he didn't actually have to do them," Sondland said, referring to Zelensky.

Biden is a leading 2020 presidential contender, and such an announcement might have helped boost Trump's reelection chances. The Democrats' impeachment inquiry is examining whether Trump abused his office by asking a foreign power for help in a U.S. election.

On the question of whether U.S. military aid was withheld to secure those same investigations, as a government whistleblower and several other witnesses have alleged, Sondland was more demure, saying that was his "personal presumption" - one he relayed to top Ukrainian officials.

Such statements fueled the Republican argument that Sondland, despite direct contact with Trump, is yet another unreliable witness leaning too heavily on secondhand accounts. Yet Sondland said Trump had made clear that Giuliani was speaking on his behalf.

The huge Gordon Sondland revelation almost everyone missed

  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.

WASHINGTON — Gordon D. Sondland , the American ambassador to the European Union, has emerged as a critical witness in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine.

Sondland delivered explosive testimony in the House impeachment inquiry Wednesday. Sondland made clear in his lengthy opening statement that the State Department and White House have blocked his After this round concludes, we expect to begin the five -minute round for member questions.

"When the president says talk to my personal lawyer, Mr. Giuliani, we followed his direction," he said.

Instruction came from Trump himself

Based on Sondland's telling, Trump was dictating Ukraine policy through Giuliani. And Giuliani was demanding a quid pro quo: No White House visit for Ukraine's new president until Kyiv agreed to publicly announce investigations into Trump's political rivals.

The ambassador testified that the Three Amigos - he, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker - worked with Giuliani on Ukraine matters "at the express direction of the president of the United States."

Trump would often tell the Three Amigos on Ukraine issues: "Talk with Rudy."

"We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we played the hand we were dealt," Sondland testified. "We all understood that if we refused to work with Mr. Giuliani, we would lose an important opportunity to cement relations between the United States and Ukraine. So we followed the president's orders."

Sondland regularly bragged about his proximity and access to Trump, often telling others that he spoke regularly to the president by phone. On July 26, Sondland was dining with three colleagues at SHO restaurant in Kyiv when he called up Trump on an unsecure mobile phone. One attendee, David Holmes, testified that he overheard Trump asking Sondland about the status of the "investigations" by Ukraine.

Aide says ambassador on ‘political errand’ for 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,

Sondland is the eighth witness to offer televised testimony in the Democrats’ impeachment probe against The GOP has tried to paint some of the most explosive testimony as nothing but “hearsay” and But Sondland ’s testimony is by far the most dramatic moment amid a two-week slog of public

Pence's office disputes Sondland 's testimony . Sondland implicated Pompeo and State Department leadership in his testimony , saying that "throughout these events, we kept After that, the hearing will move to questioning from individual members, alternating periods of five minutes between both parties.

However, Trump, speaking to reporters on Wednesday, said he hardly knows Sondland: "I have not spoken to him much. This is not a man I know well."

Everyone was in the loop

Some Republicans have suggested that Sondland, a billionaire hotel magnate and Trump donor with an outsized ego, had gone rogue and wasn't acting on behalf of Trump or his top brass.

Sondand's response: He read emails and texts to top Trump officials outlining specific details of the quid pro quo with Ukraine.

"Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret," Sondland testified.

On July 19, Sondland said he sent an email to Perry, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and other Trump officials, informing them that then-candidate Zelensky wanted a phone call from Trump and was prepared to announce an investigation and that he'd "turn over every stone."

Mulvaney responded: "I asked NSC to set it up for tomorrow."

That same day, Volker sent a WhatsApp message to the top diplomat in Ukraine, William Taylor, and Sondland, stating that he just had breakfast with Giuliani. "Most impt is for Zelensky to say that he will help investigation," Volker texted.

By Aug. 11, Sondland sent another email to Pompeo and some of his top aides, saying that he and Volker had negotiated a statement by Zelensky - known as "Ze" - on the investigations that Trump had wanted.

'SNL': Alec Baldwin's Donald Trump Fields Impeachment Questions With Will Ferrell's Ambassador Sondland

  '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.

Sondland testimony targets Trump, Pompeo and confirms deal with Ukraine. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland is pointing the finger at President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former national security adviser John Bolton in explosive public testimony on Wednesday in

Trump referred to Sondland ’s testimony as the ambassador testified to the House Intelligence Committee. The president read off the testimony transcript from his notes as he left the White House for Texas to visit an Apple computer manufacturing plant.

"The contents will hopefully make the boss [Trump] happy enough to authorize an invitation," Sondland emailed. "Ze plans to have a big presser on the openness subject (including specifics) next week."

"Again," Sondland testified, "everyone was in the loop."

During a Sept. 1 meeting in Warsaw, Zelensky raised the issue of security aid with Vice President Mike Pence, Sondland testified. Pence replied that he would talk to Trump about it. Moments later, Sondland told a top Zelensky aide there that the aid would not be released until Kyiv announced the launch of the Trump-sought investigations.

Then came the pushback on Sondland. On Wednesday, Pence chief of staff Marc Short refuted Sondland's account, as did others. Pence never had a conversation with Sondland about "investigating the Bidens, Bursima, or the conditional release of financial aid to Ukraine based on potential investigations," Short said. "The alleged discussion recalled by Ambassador Sondland never happened."

Diplomats saw Giuliani as toxic

Wednesday's hearing amplified a recurring theme in the impeachment investigation: Giuliani, numerous witnesses have said, was a toxic figure in Ukraine, one hell-bent on advancing Trump's political interests - and his own business pursuits - in ways that threatened to undermine U.S.-Ukraine relations and strengthen Russia's hand in the region.

Sondland added voice to that assessment.

"We weren't happy with the president's directive to talk with Rudy. We did not want to involve Mr. Giuliani," Sondland said. "I believed then, as I do now, that the men and women of the State Department, not the president's personal lawyer, should take responsibility for Ukraine matters."

Fiona Hill left a legacy for angry women during impeachment hearing

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Gordon Sondland , the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, delivered the most explosive testimony yet in the House impeachment hearings on Wednesday, saying President Donald Trump effectively directed him to broker a quid pro quo with Ukraine to investigate a chief political rival.

In explosive testimony , Gordon D. Sondland , the United States ambassador to the European Union, directly implicated President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other top administration officials in what he said was a push for a “clear quid pro quo” with the

That message has been supported almost universally by the other witnesses in the impeachment investigation.

John Bolton, Trump's former national security advisor, had characterized Giuliani as "a hand grenade" who would ultimately "blow everybody up," according to testimony from Fiona Hill, formerly Trump's top Russia analyst who will testify Thursday.

George Kent, a top diplomat in Kyiv, testified last week that Giuliani had orchestrated a "campaign of lies" designed to oust Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, whose push for tougher anti-corruption measures was seen as an obstacle to some of Giuliani's business clients.

Sondland said the diplomats had little choice but to work with Giuliani, given his proximity to Trump. Still, "if I had known of all of Mr. Giuliani's dealings or of his associations with individuals now under criminal indictment," he added, "I would not have acquiesced to his participation."

Sondland airs frustration with higher ups

Sondland on numerous occasions Wednesday accused both the White House and the State Department of refusing to provide him with information surrounding his many meetings and phone calls with foreign dignitaries and administration officials, including Trump. That, he said, had hobbled his ability to recreate the events at the center of the impeachment inquiry.

"My lawyers and I have made multiple requests to the State Department and the White House for these materials. Yet, these materials were not provided to me and they have also refused to share these materials with this committee," he said.

"These documents are not classified and, in fairness ... should have been made available."

The White House in September has vowed not to participate in the impeachment inquiry, saying it was legally invalid. Since then, however, a number of administration officials have bucked that directive to appear for interviews, most of them under subpoena.

Sondland was one such witness. He was almost apologetic for the gaps in his memory.

"Having access to that State Department materials would have been very helpful to me in trying to reconstruct with whom I spoke and met and when and what was said," he said.

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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