Gordon Sondland must have surveyed the landscape over the last couple days and made some calculations. He probably would have liked to have walked a tightrope, being honest as possible without giving up Trump. As the witnesses came forward, in particular Bill Taylor and his staff noting the phone calls Sondland took in the Kyiv restaurant, it surely became apparent to Sondland that he couldn’t divide the baby any further. He thus came out and told the truth. As he speaks on television right now, it is apparent to me that Trump’s presidency is now in a new phase. No matter the outcome of the matter, everything is different today. Sondland has not only sunk Trump, but the entire team. Sondland stated he did not want to work with Rudy Giuliani. But given what he knew at the time, and what they were asked to do at the time, he did not believe he was doing anything wrong in doing so Because he didn’t believe he was doing anything wrong, Sondland and his staff never attempted to hide any aspect of their Ukrainian policy. Everyone was in on it, everyone knew what was happening. This might be the most damning detail of all. There were no secrets in the administration, Sondland says the entire matter was known among all major players. Sondland testifies that Giuliani’s requests on behalf of Trump “were a quid pro quo.” Sondland never understood why the aid was held up, but now believes it was held up for the same reason that the White House meeting was held-up, that a quid pro quo existed, and that aid wouldn’t be released until Ukraine announced publicly that they would be investigating the 2016 election, “the server,” and the Bidens-Burisma. Trump has no defense from this point forward, other than he has the right to do it, because he is Trump. One can sense that the entire feel of the impeachment hearing room has changed. Indeed, everything has changed. No matter what happens from this point forward, it will be an entirely different administration. More “truth” poured forth in the last 30 minutes than we’ve heard in the last 3 years. It is refreshing to hear, an almost foreign feeling, like showering after two days. One has to be listening to appreciate just how devastating this testimony is to Trump. But I’ll add some notes from Twitter: Ok, who saw Sondland as the guy bringing the pizzaz? — Charlie Sykes (@SykesCharlie) November 20, 2019 Me, and Zoomers, as of two days ago. They deserve a lot of credit. They can’t undo his prior testimony or his underlying conduct. But they helped their client put himself on the right side of history and in the best position for leniency in the event of a criminal prosecution. https://t.co/C5jaH53U5o — George Conway (@gtconway3d) November 20, 2019 True. And Sondland has continued to note the unfairness that he has been denied access to his notes and calendar by the State Department. Sweet mother of God. Sondland is shoveling them under the bus wholesale. — Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) November 20, 2019 Yes he is. Mike Pompeo is having a bad day. It's the crime and the cover-up — Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) November 20, 2019 And deservedly so. We’re now entering questioning. I will report […]
John Dean, Nixon’s White House Counsel, agrees with us here in Zoom land. Dean noted on CNN that Ambassador Sondland is the most consequential witness in the impeachment inquiry, and he is scheduled to testify on Wednesday. Whether Sondland will testify or not won’t be known until he sits in the chair and answers questions. Within the official U.S. government (meaning, excluding Giuliani) Sondland played the role of Trump’s “point man” with respect to implementing the Ukraine “shakedown.” Sondland dealt directly with Trump, providing updates to Trump, while also seeking Trump’s guidance as to the next move. Sondland was the one Trump tasked with making the “demand” to Ukraine, according to The Daily Beast: It’s been widely noted in testimonies by multiple House impeachment witnesses that Sondland interrupted the conversation between Bolton and the Ukrainians when he suggested that the Kyiv officials open investigations into Hunter Biden and the gas company he worked for if they wanted President Volodymyr Zelensky to land a White House meeting with Donald Trump. Sondland is going to have to explain himself and his demand. We know exactly where it originated. In that sense, he can point the most damaging finger right at Trump, or simply convict himself on charges of extortion. Sondland is not a lifelong player in the political game, nor is he a career foreign service officer. He purchased his place at the table with a one million dollar donation to Trump. In other words, Sondland doesn’t have much experience navigating troubled political waters, nor dicey criminal behavior. He has also already been caught lying to Congress, and thus is the only witness (so far) who comes to the public hearings already potentially liable for a crime. The Stone verdict, coming as it did last Friday, must act as a red strobe light in Sondland’s mind. John Dean adds up all the above to arrive at the conclusion that Sondland plays a unique and perhaps definitive role in the impeachment inquiry. “That’s a — you kind of have a huge influence on any witness who might be on the edge. And Sondland is. He has now been refocused a couple times. He’s come up in the hearings. He’s — he is — his life and future is on the block this week. He has a lot of very important conversations. He is the one witness who could give up this president and change the entire dynamics of these hearings.” Zoomers who were with us over the weekend will note that we came to the same conclusion, using the same rationale. Taking it a step further, Sondland is in enough trouble that we may have our first invocation of constitutional rights in this proceeding. “Whether he will or not, I don’t know. But I think he’s got to be thinking about it,” added Dean. “He may also — there is a possibility he’ll take the Fifth Amendment. He feels jeopardy from his earlier testimony. His lawyers might well be asking for immunity for him. That could then open up a whole other door.” If Sondland made an offer of proof that involved a promise to come clean as to what Trump wanted done, how Trump presumed to do it, and all the details, it would be worth granting Sondland immunity, at least from […]
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