At the heart of the impeachment inquiry, members of Congress may have been mistakenly led to believe that there were two phone calls between President Donald Trump and Ambassador Gordon Sondland in early September—with the second call having the possibility of helping the President’s case. That’s not what happened. There was only one call, and it was highly incriminating.
The call occurred on September 7th. In this call, Trump did say there was “no quid pro quo” with Ukraine, but he then went on to outline his preconditions for releasing the security assistance and granting a White House visit. The call was so alarming that when John Bolton learned of it, he ordered his’ deputy Tim Morrison to immediately report it to the National Security Council lawyers.
Sondland has testified there was a call on September 9th in which Trump said there was “no quid pro quo,” but that he wanted President Zelenskyy “to do” the right thing. A close reading of the publicly available evidence shows that the latter call was actually the very one that sent Morrison to the lawyers, and that Ambassador Bill Taylor foregrounded in his written deposition to inform Congress of the quid pro quo.
As this article was in the publication process at Just Security, the Washington Post published a report raising doubts about the existence of the September 9 call. The analysis that follows is consistent with the Post’s report and, among other points, shows why Sondland’s “no quid pro quo” call is in fact the same as the September 7th call that Morrison reported to NSC lawyers on September 7th. [Continue reading…]