Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Trumpublicans want to 'get to the bottom of what happened.' The thing is, there is no bottom.

The GOPlins want to “get to the bottom of what happened”. Yet they, via the White House’s stonewall, resist providing access to documents and individuals who might provide critical information. In the absence of such information, we rely on testimony under oath of others, like Ambassador Sondland.

THe NY Times Editorial Board recounts how Sondland Has Implicated the President and His Top Men. Congress now needs to hear from more witnesses before an impeachment vote.

Their conclusion is important.

It’s worth emphasizing this point: All the witnesses whose testimony has been damaging to Mr. Trump have given that testimony under oath. All of those who we are led to believe would exonerate the president have so far refused to testify.

Remember, all of these people were fully aware of what was going on, according to Mr. Sondland. As he said, “Everyone was in the loop,” and he took exception to the effort being characterized as an “irregular channel” of diplomacy.

“I’m not sure how someone could characterize something as an irregular channel when you’re talking to the president of the United States, the secretary of state, the national security adviser, the chief of staff of the White House, the secretary of energy,” Mr. Sondland said.

Dan Goldman, the staff lawyer for the Democrats, asked if these witnesses would be able to provide key information about the events in question. “I think they would,” Mr. Sondland replied.

If Mr. Trump truly believes he insisted on no conditions for the White House meeting and the aid for Ukraine, he has a clear choice: Let people testify. At this point it’s hard to see what reason they have for continuing to refuse. Nor is there any justification for the administration to refuse to turn over the underlying documents and notes made by those witnesses who have already testified.

Americans shouldn’t be distracted by Republican smoke bombs, but they should also not be satisfied with a truncated inquiry into a question as consequential as whether the president of the United States should be removed from office. There is already abundant evidence that Mr. Trump has abused his power, holding out hundreds of millions of dollars to secure a bribe from a foreign government he wanted to investigate his political rival. In the process, he undermined American national security, and he is continuing to obstruct efforts by a coequal branch of government to get to the bottom of what happened.

These are classic examples of impeachable offenses; some are federal crimes. It is essential for the House to conduct a thorough inquiry, including hearing testimony from critical players who have yet to appear. Right now, the House Intelligence Committee has not scheduled testimony from any witnesses after Thursday. That is a mistake. No matter is more urgent, but it should not be rushed — for the protection of the nation’s security, and for the integrity of the presidency, and for the future of the Republic.

Trump’s defense

Backing up to Sondland’s testimony on Wednesday morning, Judd Legum at provides a readable summary (in a Subscriber’s Post).

On September 24, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry into President Trump. 58 days later, there are no questions left to be answered. It is indisputable that Trump committed multiple impeachable acts in an effort to pressure the government of Ukraine to announce an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party.

Any ambiguity ended on Wednesday, with the testimony of Trump’s Ambassador to the European Union, Gordan Sondland. While Republicans were quick to dismiss other witnesses as “Never Trumpers,” Sondland is the opposite. He donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration.

Trump himself, just last month, described Sondland as “a really good man and great American.” But Sondland’s testimony to the House Intelligence Committee was absolutely devastating.

The call summary released by the White House established that Trump asked a foreign government to investigate his political rival. That, in itself, is impeachable. But Republicans insisted that a “quid pro quo” was necessary for Trump to be truly culpable. On that question, Sondland left no ambiguity. Here’s an excerpt from Sondland’s opening statement:

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.

Sondland testified that he personally pressured the Ukranian government to announce an investigation of Bursima, the company that employed Hunter Biden, and the DNC, “at the express direction of the president.” Sondland advised the Ukrainians that making such a statement was the way to get the things they wanted from Trump, including a White House meeting and hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid.

Sondland detailed this in a statement he provided to the committee after his closed-door deposition:

Also, I now do recall a conversation on September 1, 2019, in Warsaw with [Zelensky aide Andriy] Yermak. This brief pull-aside conversation followed the larger meeting involving Vice President Pence and President Zelensky, in which President Zelensky had raised the issue of the suspension of U.S. aid to Ukraine directly with Vice President Pence. After that large meeting, I now recall speaking individually with Mr. Yermak, where I said 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.

Sondland’s testimony holds particular weight not only because he is a Trump supporter but also because he was in frequent direct contact with Trump and Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Guiliani.

Trump’s brief defense

Trump appeared in front of the White House and delivered a short statement. Trump focused on a September 9 phone call with Sondland. In the phone call, Sondland asked what Trump wanted from Ukraine in exchange for releasing military aid.

Trump quoted himself, according to Sondland’s testimony. “I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelensky to do the right thing.”

But Trump left out a critical point. After saying he wanted nothing, Trump also demanded that Zelensky make a public statement announcing the investigations to “clear things up.” In other words, after denying there was a quid pro quo, Trump described a quid pro quo.

Trump also tried to distance himself from Sondland. “I don’t know him very well. I have not spoken to him much. This is not a man I know well. He seems like a nice guy though,” Trump said.

That’s classic Trump. When some persons disagrees with him, he denies knowledge of them – even though those persons were appointed by him to the posts they hold. “This is not a man I know well.” A man, by the way, who donated a million bucks to Trump in his 2016 presidential campaign.

The Trumpublicans want to ‘get to the bottom of what happened.’ The thing is, there is no bottom.

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