Multiple media outlets pointed to a supplemental written testimony provided by U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland as part of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry as the highly sought after “quid pro quo” smoking gun that proves President Donald Trump demanded political dirt in exchange for sending Ukraine military aid.
It does not.
But before getting into any of that, it is helpful to remember a few key facts up front.
First, the aid was released in mid-September. Second, Ukraine opened no investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden or his son, Hunter, before releasing the aid.
Third, Trump mentioned no quid pro quo with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during the July 25th call that led Democrats to launch the inquiry.
Fourth, Ukraine was not aware its aid was being delayed until August, which of course makes for a bad attempt to allegedly seek a quid pro quo.
And finally, Zelensky has stated on multiple occasions he did not feel pressured to open any investigations merely because Trump raised the subject.
With these facts up front, let’s take a look at Sondland’s supplemental declaration.
He wrote (see page 10): “[B]y the beginning of September 2019, and in the absence of any credible explanation for the suspension of aid, I presumed that the aid suspension had become linked to the proposed anti-corruption statement.”
Do you catch that? He “presumed” the aid was linked to a “proposed anti-corruption statement.” Sondland had no firsthand knowledge.
Trump mentioned to Zelensky during their July 25 call the need to address corruption in the country, and later in the conversation brought up the subject of then-Vice President Joe Biden demanding in 2016 that a Ukrainian prosecutor be fired in exchange for the release of $1 billion in U.S. aid.
That prosecutor happened to have investigated Burisma Holdings, a natural gas company paying Biden’s son Hunter a reported $50,000 per month to sit on its board.
Joe Biden’s demand was a clear quid pro quo.
Sondland wrote in his supplemental testimony that he told Zelensky adviser Andriy Yermak that “resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks.”
Again, Sondland was saying he “presumed” and believed it “likely” the aid would not be released without an anti-corruption statement.
As noted above, the aid was released and no public anti-corruption statement was made.
Sondland testified before House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff’s investigators (page 5) that he called Trump in September asking him, “What do you want from the Ukraine?” and the president responded, “I want no quid pro quo. I want Zelensky to do the right thing.”
Politico called it an “explosive shift” in the investigation, while CNN labeled it a “significant reversal.”
GOP Rep. Debbie Lesko of Arizona, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, told The Western Journal that the law actually required Trump to address the issue of corruption before releasing aid to Ukraine or any other country.
“In fact, it was in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act,” she said.
“I think the whole process is a total sham,” Lesko added. “Very politically motivated. To this point, I don’t see any basis for impeaching the president.”
Republican Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, argued Tuesday that many media reports regarding Sondland’s supplemental testimony are “overblown” or “outright false.”
“Seeing many overblown (and outright false) reports about Ambassador Sondland’s testimony. Here’s what he actually said. 1. I did not (and still don’t) know why aid was held up 2. I ‘PRESUMED’ it was because of corruption 3. I told Yermak my assumption,” Meadows tweeted.
Seeing many overblown (and outright false) reports about Ambassador Sondland’s testimony. Here’s what he actually said.
1. I did not (and still don’t) know why aid was held up
2. I “PRESUMED” it was because of corruption
3. I told Yermak my assumption
See paragraph 4 here: pic.twitter.com/STZ2vtrVsv
— Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) November 5, 2019
Sitting astride over the entire impeachment inquiry is one great irony: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Schiff and the rest of the House Democrats are contending it was wrong for Trump to ask Ukraine to look into alleged political corruption by the Bidens, because Joe Biden is a possible 2020 Democratic nominee.
The Democrats allege Trump was using his position in the government to try to affect the outcome of the 2020 election.
If they truly believe this, how much worse is it for them to conduct a sham impeachment inquiry, the sole purpose of which is to try to politically damage the presumptive GOP presidential nominee in the hope that the eventual Democratic nominee can defeat him next November?
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