Greg Sargent at WaPo writes about the potential for a GOP frame that makes Gordon Sondland the mastermind of the Arms for Dirt plot, rather than Trump. And what deal will Rudy try to make, considering the looming SDNY criminal investigation.
Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, is now getting accused by at least one Trump loyalist of fabricating his latest round of testimony in league with Democrats — even though Sondland is a top Trump donor.
But the new story that Trump and his loyalists are telling about Sondland is deeply flawed: It elides a mountain of evidence that’s already out there on the public record, as will be explained below.
What’s morbidly amusing about Sondland’s fate is he did all he could to protect Trump. At first, Sondland gamely backed up Trump’s claim that frozen military aid for Ukraine was never tied to Trump’s demand that Ukraine launch “investigations” to help him politically.
Then, when credible witnesses demolished Sondland’s story, he conceded in revised testimony that he did communicate to Ukraine that the two were linked — but still insulated Trump from culpability by saying he merely “presumed” that was the case.
2) Holmes, an embassy staffer in Kiev, testified that he, too, overheard Trump demanding via loud cell-phone voice to know from Gordon Sondland whether Zelensky would pursue the sham “investigation” (i.e., smear) of Biden that he wanted.
3) According to Holmes, Sondland says Trump cares more about whether Ukraine is investigating Biden — the “big stuff” — than he does about Ukraine itself.
This undercuts the nonsense that Trump only cared about getting Ukraine to investigate generic “corruption.”
4) Here Trump’s ringleader is also revealing that Trump is incapable of thinking about anything except through the prism of what helps him politically.
This goes to corrupt intent — to the subversion and manipulation of foreign policy to serve Trump’s own corrupt ends.
5) But Holmes’ testimony reveals two other things as well.
First, Trump has a direct and open line to Sondland, to get briefed on every step of the unfolding plot — and to provide direction to Sondland throughout.
Second, Trump is obsessing over how the plot is playing out.
6) Given all this, it is extremely hard to see how Sondland could have freelanced the extortion piece of the plot, without direction from Trump — an argument that Trump’s propagandists are now making constantly.
7) As the plot hit its climax, Sondland had three important conversations — two with William Taylor, and one with Tim Morrison.
In those conversations, Sondland detailed his discussions with Trump himself.
8) Given that Trump was obsessing over the plot and directing Sondland, it takes a huge leap to invent a scenario in which Sondland *wasn’t* taking direction from Trump when he conveyed the extortion message to Ukraine.
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