When U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland testified before the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment inquiry hearing on Wednesday, Democrats initially believed he had given them the testimony they’ve been seeking for three years to build an article of impeachment against President Trump.
“I know that members of this committee frequently frame 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 the White House meeting, the answer is yes. Mr. Guiliani conveyed to Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker and others that President Trump wanted a public statement from President Zelensky committing to investigations of Burisma and the 2016 election,” Sondland asserted during his opening statement.
Sondland went on to say that “everyone was in the loop.”
“It was no secret. Everyone was informed by email on July 19, days before the presidential call.”
The mainstream media breathlessly reported Sondland’s “quid pro quo” claim.
But Sondland’s bold assertion wilted on cross examination from Republican members of the committee when Sondland admitted he simply “presumed” there was a “quid pro quo” and he had no direct evidence that the president had asked for a “quid pro quo.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, a Republican representing Ohio’s 10th Congressional District, said sometimes Sondland seems to make direct connections and “sometimes they appear to be dead ends.”
“You have said to us everyone was in the loop. I’ve listened to you today. Not only are your answers somewhat circular, but frequently you have contradicted yourself in your own answer,” Turner said.
“The text messages and emails you’ve put up there, Kurt Volker walked us through it and he has a completely different understanding of what you were saying that what you’re saying you were saying.”
Turner want on to say Sondland was testifying to hearsay, despite Adam Schiff and CNN saying otherwise.
The transcript of Turner’s questioning of Sondland was devastating to Democrats’ hopes to hang credible charges that the president had committed an impeachable offense on his opening statement testimony.
TURNER: Chairman Schiff went out and said he gets to impeach the president of the United States because of your testimony.
And if you pull up CNN right now, their banner says “Sondland ties Trump to Withholding Aid.” Is that your testimony this morning, Ambassador Sondland, that you have evidence that Donald Trump tied the investigation to the aid? Because I don’t think you’re saying that.
SONDLAND: I said repeatedly, Congressman, I was presuming …
TURNER: So no one told you. Mr. Giuliani didn’t tell you. Mulvaney didn’t tell you Pompeo didn’t tell you. Nobody else on this planet told you that Donald Trump was tying aid to these investigations. Is that correct?
SONDLAND: I think I already testified . . .
TURNER: Answer the question. Is it correct? No one on this planet told you Donald Trump was tying this aid to the investigation, because if your answer is yes, then the chairman’s wrong, and the headline on CNN is wrong. No one on this planet told you President Trump was tying aid to the investigations, yes or no?
TURNER: So. You really have no testimony today that ties President Trump to a scheme to withhold aid from Ukraine in exchange for these investigations.
SONDLAND: Other than my own presumptions
TURNER: And you’re giving them the evidence and CNN’s headline is saying that you’re saying the President of the United States should be impeached because he tied aid to an investigation, and you don’t know that, correct?
SONDLAND: I never said the President of the United States should be impeached.
TURNER: No, but you have left people with the confusing impression that you were giving testimony that you did not. You do not have any evidence that the President of the United States was tied to withholding aid from Ukraine in exchange for investigations.
“I’ll guarantee you that CNN does not play that clip all evening,” War Room: Impeachment host Stephen K. Bannon said of Turner’s questioning of Sondland on the podcast’s Wednesday afternoon episode.
U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, a Republican representing Ohio’s Fourth Congressional District, asked Sondland directly when, specifically, Zelensky had announced the investigation.
Sondland’s response — “It never did.”
Jordan went on to say “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 replied by saying it never did.
To which Jordan asked if he knew who was in the meeting. Sondland asked which meeting he was referring to.
“The meeting that never happened,” Jordan said.
“They get the call. They get the meeting. They get the money. It’s not two plus two. It’s zero for three. I’ve never seen anything like this. And you told Mr. Castor (that) the president never told you the announcement never had to happen to get anything. In fact, he didn’t not just tell you that. He explicitly said the opposite. The gentlemen from Texas just read it. You said to the president of the United States ‘What do you want from Ukraine?’ The president: ‘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. What did he run on, Ambassador Sondland?”
Sondland’s response — transparency and dealing with corruption.
Jordan then demanded to know why Sondland didn’t put that in his opening statement?
To that, Sondland said “it wasn’t purposeful” for a 23-page opener.
U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe, a Republican representing Texas’ Fourth Congressional District, said he wanted to summarize all of Sondland’s direct communications with Trump as it related to the inquiry.
Ratcliffe said Sondland had a random meeting with Trump and told him he had been called to testify before Congress and Trump said ‘Good. Go tell the truth.’
Sondland said that was correct.
On the Wednesday afternoon edition of the War Room: Impeachment podcast, host Stephen K. Bannon tracked the development of the story throughout the day in real time.
“If I’m a conservative or a Trump supporter I can get depressed. Ambassador drops a bomb. Bombshell day. John Dean moment. Ken Starr says Senators may ask him to resign!” Bannon said of the reaction of the mainstream media to Sondland’s opening statement.
I mean just an avalanche. If you put CNN on. If you put MSNBC’s got Brian Williams. Chris Cuomo’s down here. They brought all the first times. It’s just an avalanche. This is it. It delivered. It was a bombshell. So I want to start with you, Jason. And then Raheem we’ve got a bunch of live polls to go through.
And I think Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper is currently testifying. And if anything happens Raheem, the team from the War Room ten feet away from us will tell us and we’ll pull it. Jason, if you’re a Trump supporter and you’re coming home this afternoon. You’ve been a hard-working American. You haven’t had time to take off and watch this. You hadn’t had time to go to the websites.
You’re not just going to get time to have an adult beverage kick back and go to WarRoom.org. But before you go to the sites, it looks like President Trump should maybe not come back from Austin. Just fly to Mar-a-Lago and retire.
Co-host Jason Miller agreed with Bannon’s take on the initial reporting.
“Yeah and unfortunately for even too many of the conservative sites there is nothing or they’re writing something negative or they’re talking about an issue that’s something that’s not germinated at all to anything going on at all. If you look at one of the mainstream media sites it may be buried down in paragraph 40,” Miller noted.
“Maybe after the second-page jump, you’ll find out that Sondland said that President Trump never told me directly that the aid was conditioned on the investigations. The aid was my own personal guess. So you’re going to find all of our messaging is almost non-existent. I mean the key takeaway today, there’s no quid pro quo. No bribery. No extortion. No coercion. No obstruction,” Miller continued.
“Didn’t he say there was a quid pro quo?” Bannon asked:
He’s a witness of fact. Didn’t he back up? Let’s go back to President Trump’s mantra. Substance. Granularity. Get into the details. We’ll get back to that momentarily. The mainstream media is telling me, the New York Times is telling me this. NBC’s telling me this. CNN’s telling me this. They’re telling us there was a bombshell moment. Quid pro quo. Bribery. Extortion. Everything we talked about this morning that Sondland proved.
After playing clips of the questioning of Sondland by Rep. Turner, Rep. Jordan, and Rep. Ratcliffe, co-host Jason Miller said “Gordon Sondland pretty much is exactly who we thought he was. He’s an exaggerator. Puffery extraordinaire. He’s a Grey Poupon commercial waiting to happen.”
“At first, it looked like it was going to be horrific, and it got turned around as people started asking him questions,” Bannon noted.
“This was the day the music died. This was the Democrats last best chance to get President Trump, and they miffed. They failed spectacularly. They didn’t get it,” Miller concluded.
You can watch the full podcast of Wednesday afternoon’s episode of War Room: Impeachment here:
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