Gordon Sondland has been considered a figure who could crack the impeachment inquiry wide open. Not just because he was the witness directly talking to President Trump about Ukraine but also because of who he is: a Republican and Trump donor, a high-profile ambassador unanimously confirmed by the Republican Senate.
And despite his background as a Trump ally — the president last month called him “a very good guy and a great American” — in his opening statement Wednesday, Sondland stepped on nearly all of Republicans’ primary defenses for the president.
GOP: There was no quid pro quo
Sondland: “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? As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”
GOP: This is all based on a whistleblower complaint that is hearsay
Sondland: He heard, firsthand, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani state what Trump wanted.
Mr. Giuliani conveyed to [Energy] Secretary [Rick] Perry, Ambassador [Kurt] Volker, and others that President Trump wanted a public statement from [Ukrainian] President [Volodymyr] Zelensky committing to investigations of Burisma and the 2016 election. Mr. Giuliani expressed those requests directly to the Ukrainians. Mr. Giuliani also expressed those requests directly to us. We all understood that these prerequisites for the White House call and White House meeting reflected President Trump’s desires and requirements.
Republicans’ counsel, Stephen R. Castor, later asked how Sondland knew Giuliani was acting at the direction of the president.
“Well, when the president says, ‘Talk to my personal attorney,’ and his personal attorney makes certain requests or demands, we assume it’s coming from the president,” Sondland said.
GOP: This is a deep-state attack by career government officials
Sondland: He reminded the committee that he was appointed by Trump: “As a presidential appointee, I followed the directions of the president.” [Continue reading…]
Clutching handwritten notes scrawled with a Sharpie, President Donald Trump on Wednesday fought back against bombshell impeachment testimony from Gordon Sondland that tied the president even closer to a quid pro quo involving Ukraine and investigations into Trump’s political rivals.
“I don’t know him very well. I have not spoken to him much,” Trump said on the South Lawn of the White House, as he sought to downplay his relationship with Sondland, despite effusively praising him in the past. “This is not a man I know well. He seems like a nice guy, though.”