“I was presuming.”
With those three little words, American Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland destroyed the case he'd made for impeaching the President in his dramatic 45-minute (!) prepared statement in Wednesday’s “inquiry” hearing. That statement contained the allegations Democrats were desperately seeking –- but one has to wonder if he even wrote it. (His four attorneys all happen to be Democratic donors; Robert Luskin, who sat next to him Wednesday, has donated over $130,000 to Democrats and recently represented FBI informant STEFAN HALPER ding ding ding. ) Sondland accused both Trump and Rudy Giuliani of quid pro quo, but then was quickly taken apart under the masterful questioning of Intel Committee member Michael Turner.
Of course, watching these hearings is, in general, about as enjoyable as sitting in a fire ant bed wearing burlap underwear and eating month-old sushi. But on Wednesday, there were some magnificent moments.
First, Turner made the point that Sondland’s statement had caused Schiff to run out during a break and give a press conference saying he had justification for impeaching the President of the United States. This had led to CNN putting up the banner headline: “Sondland Ties Trump to Withholding Aid.” Turner then asked, “Is that your testimony today, Mr. Sondland...?”
“I’ve said repeatedly, Congressman, I WAS PRESUMING,” Sondland said.
What?? You see, that’s what this whole case is based on --- presumptions.
Turner continued. “...Nobody else on this planet told you that Donald Trump was tying aid to these investigations. Is that correct?”
He repeated the question and added, “’Cause if yous answer’s yes, then the chairman’s wrong and the headline on CNN is wrong. No one on this planet told you that President Trump was tying aid to investigations, yes or no?”
“So, you really have no testimony today that ties President Trump to a scheme to withhold aid from Ukraine in exchange for these investigations.”
“OTHER THAN MY OWN PRESUMPTION.” (Emphasis mine.)
“Which is nothing...”
Well, how do you like that? Sondland’s statement is merely what he “presumed” happened. Under cross-examination, though, it was also established that the only direct conversation he’d had with Trump about this issue could not have been more different, or more clear. It went like this:
Sondland to Trump: “So, what do you want from Ukraine?”
Trump: “I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. I want Zelensky to do the right thing. I want him to do what he ran on.”
How does someone hear this from Trump and decide he DOES want a quid pro quo? I guess the same way that Democrats can hear Sondham's testimony now and still cry for impeachment.
On the other hand, he’s made it easy for them to remain deluded by conveniently leaving this out of his exhaustive statement, which ran 23 pages. Imagine: the most important thing he could possibly say, about the one direct conversation he had with Trump about this, he chose not to include. When asked about this, he actually said he couldn’t fit it in –- didn’t have room. This excuse was so preposterous, even Sondland smirked and suppressed a laugh when confronted with it by Jordan.
But something else also came out in testimony: Since he first testified behind closed doors, Sondland, his family and his business have been victimized by threats, boycotts and bullying protesters. Lindsay Graham theorizes he might have tailored his statement to “get the monkey off his back.” The bullying allegedly has been encouraged by Democratic Congressman Earl Blumenauer. Here are the atrocious details of what sure looks like witness tampering.
Jordan's questioning established that Ukraine did nothing to get the military aid, which was held up for a few weeks but delivered well before the end-of-September deadline, with no preconditions. Likewise, President Zelensky got to visit with Trump in person, with no preconditions.
Jordan: “When the chairman asked you about the security assistance dollars, you said there needed to be a public announcement from Zelensky, so I’m asking you a simple question: When did that happen?”
Sondland: “Never did.”
Jordan: “Never did. They got the call, July 25. They got the meeting, not in the White House but in New York on September 25. They got the money on September 11. When did the meeting happen again?”
Sondland: “Never did.”
Jordan: “You don’t know who was in the meeting?”
Sondland: (pause) “Which meeting are you referring to?”
Jordan: “The meeting that never happened. (Sondland laughs heartily.) You know how Zelensky announced it? Did he tweet it, did he do a press statement, did he do a press conference? You know how that happened? I mean, you got all three of them wrong. They get the call, they get the meeting, they get the money...”
We’ve also learned through testimony that this type of aid is frequently delayed, for a variety of reasons. Happens all the time.
But, like everything else, it’s wrong when it happens under Trump. Things that occur all the time under other Presidents are unacceptable if they involve this one, because, as Nancy Pelosi says, “he’s an imposter.” Hard-core Democrats and those stuck in airports where all they have is CNN will still say the President committed bribery (!) and should be impeached, along with Mike Pence, because, well, he’s involved somehow. Sadly, people watching mainstream media are almost guaranteed NOT to see the exchanges I’ve outlined above --- exchanges that in a court of law would likely lead a judge to rule for a summary judgment (dismissal of charges) and send everybody home.
Rep. Turner made an appearance on Wednesday’s HANNITY show, where he pointed out that in the giant game of “gossip” that was being played among the diplomatic corps, all roads led to Sondland. The previous testimony we’ve heard was based on hearsay that appears to have come from him. As Gregg Jarrett has pointed out, “George Kent...said he believed there was a quid pro quo because he heard it from Taylor, who heard it from Morrison, who heard it from Ambassador Sondland.”
In other words, it all started with a “presumption.”
Trump knows he did nothing wrong and will likely wear the “impeachment” (think they won’t do it?) as a badge of honor, knowing it’s the price he’s paid for exposing wrongdoing and draining the swamp. I believe that when this case gets to the Senate, Democrats are going to deeply, deeply regret giving in to impeachment fever. They have to know that when Senate Republicans call their own witnesses, they'll finally show what really went on in Ukraine.
Now that will be some magnificent TV –- not that most media will run it. Watching THOSE hearings will be like listening to the best of The Beatles while sitting in a comfy lounger, looking out at the ocean on a perfect day while eating delicious but calorie-free chicken-fried steak.
John Solomon, who should win a Pulitzer but won’t, is very happy about what he’s already seen in the testimony on Ukraine, as it validates the reporting he’s been doing all along on that subject –- and that includes the REAL bribery involving the Bidens. John, if you feel vindicated now, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.