It truly is that simple, The whistleblower is irrelevant, Lindsey won’t even consider the case when it comes before the Senate, and more deposition transcripts are coming. Step-by-step, Gordon Sondland won’t be left holding that bag.
David Corn and Dan Friedman in Mother Jones identify that “Trump designated Giuliani as the architect of this extortion racket in a crass attempt to improperly—and perhaps illegally—exploit his office for political gain.”
Sondland and Volker’s overlapping testimony that they took direction from Giuliani because Trump ordered them to do so obliterates Giuliani’s claim that he was no rogue player and was acting at the State Department’s behest. That’s been his cover story: it was all on the up and up because Foggy Bottom asked me to get involved in this Ukrainian business. In late September, the former New York City mayor cited text messages from Volker in asserting that he had not improperly interfered with US foreign policy. “If State was so upset and nervous about me why would they ask me to meet with [Andriy Yermak, a Zelensky deputy]?” he wrote in a text message to Mother Jones.
Asked if he thought the officials had come to him on their own accord or at Trump’s command, Giuliani wrote, “Since they presented it to me, it seemed like it was their idea. I don’t remember anything to the contrary.” Giuliani’s account is basically that he did the State Department a favor when Sondland and the others came to him for assistance. That sure is not how Sondland and Volker depicted it: Giuliani was Trump’s button man, and they were forced to deal with him.
Giuliani did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
Something else of interest happened at that May 23 meeting. As Sondland, Perry, and others tried to make the point that Zelensky could be a good partner for Washington, Trump kept repeating, “They tried to take me down.” This apparently was a reference to Ukrainians and the aforementioned conspiracy theory that claims Ukrainian officials helped concoct the hoax that Russia attacked the 2016 election and schemed against Trump by investigating Paul Manafort, his campaign manager (who had once made millions working as a consultant for a corrupt Ukrainian president). So not only was Trump looking to withhold US favor to force the Ukrainians to assist him politically; he was seeking vengeance. And Giuliani would be his avenging angel.
There are a lot of complications to the Trump-Ukrainian scandal. Giuliani, for example, had other interests in Ukraine that appeared to bump into those of a controversial oligarch who the Justice Department once called an upper-echelon Russian-organized crime associate (a charge the oligarch denies), and he had two business associates helping him on the Biden front who were involved in their own sketchy business dealings in Ukraine. (And these two guys just happened to be arrested recently and charged with making illegal political contributions to Republicans in the United States.) But Sondland’s testimony—even if it seems carefully designed to distance him from the most explicit aspects of the quid pro quos that occurred—is easy to follow. Trump told the professional diplomats to forget about proper channels and sent them to his freebooting lawyer for instructions, and that loyal lieutenant handed them an underhanded offer they felt they could not refuse.
With Sondland's testimony, it's now crystal clear that Trump committed the most egregious abuse of power in modern American history. It makes Watergate look virtuous by comparison. And now the only question is this: will Republicans continue to defend the indefensible?
— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) November 5, 2019
Republicans limber up for impeachment, @AnnTelnaes draws.
— Washington Post Opinions (@PostOpinions) November 6, 2019
The clown, Rep. Nunes, used his entire time to question Ambassador Sondland trying to get him to talk about the Steele Dossier, and Sondland was like "I have no idea what you're on about." pic.twitter.com/UiNthWKZRb
— Gabriel Malor (@gabrielmalor) November 5, 2019
Anthony Scaramucci says Donald Trump has "systematically" broken law, compares old boss to Night King https://t.co/1U0gBGItJ4
— Newsweek (@Newsweek) November 6, 2019
Here's everything you need to know about the impeachment process, including how this is all likely to end https://t.co/SzSiVMWYfc
— New York Magazine (@NYMag) November 6, 2019