By Robert A. Vella
Contrary to speculation that Gordon Sondland would refuse to answer questions in today’s impeachment hearing on Fifth Amendment grounds in order to avoid charges of lying to Congress (which Roger Stone was recently convicted for), the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union instead testified candidly about his active role in the Ukraine scandal. He unequivocally implicated President Trump, Trump’s “personal lawyer” Rudy Giuliani, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and others (including Vice President Mike Pence) in a quid pro quo scheme to coerce the Ukrainian government. Sondland admitted that a high profile meeting at the White House and nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid to Ukraine, both of which were desperately wanted by newly elected president Volodymyr Zelensky, were conditioned on Zelensky’s public intent to “investigate” Joe Biden and Ukraine’s fictional interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Sondland’s stunning testimony is sending shock waves through Washington D.C. and is forcing Republicans to find yet another rationale to defend the President. As the weight of witness testimony closes in on Trump, more of his officials and operatives will be thrown under the bus in an attempt to save himself, and Giuliani probably tops that list because it was he who was carrying out Trump’s orders to pressure Ukraine.
Sondland said that what Trump wanted from Zelensky was no secret, that it was understood by all, and that he kept everyone advised about what was happening including the State Department and National Security Council. This revelation puts additional scrutiny on the veracity of testimony given yesterday afternoon by two Republican-called witnesses, former Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and former NSC staffer Tim Morrison, who both wouldn’t acknowledge the quid pro quo even though they both expressed or reported concerns about the political nature of Trump’s interactions with Zelensky. Sondland also said that former National Security Advisor John Bolton was intricately involved (a revelation which might further compel him to testify before the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry), and that the White House is withholding documents which would refresh his memory and clarify his testimony.
This post may be updated later today with new developments and other news stories if warranted.