House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., talks to reporters about the release by the White House of a transcript of a call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelenskiy, in which Trump is said to have pushed for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his family, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Today, it was revealed that Gordon Sondland, the Ambassador to the EU caught in the middle of impeachment-gate 2019, “revised” his testimony and it’s got a lot of people in a froth.
My colleague Elizabeth Vaughn hit the news portion of this story earlier today but some of the hot takes I’m seeing from others leave me scratching my head. Did they read what he said? Do they simply not care that they are misconstruing matters greatly? And I’m not just talking about the legacy media, which spent all day pumping out op-eds telling us this was the big one. Once again, a lot of conservatives with a platform decided to get all jacked up without applying the 24-hour rule.
Let me give you some examples and hopefully bring some clarity to what was and wasn’t said by Sondland.
Trump’s own political appointee admits the quid pro quo >
“I said that resumption of the U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anticorruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks,” Mr. Sondland said https://t.co/NVUNr7gtDe
— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) November 5, 2019
Opinion: Gordon Sondland just gave us this scandal’s smoking quid pro quo https://t.co/U1voMugTx6
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) November 5, 2019
Sounds bad, right? Except it’s completely untrue. Mr. Sondland did not “admit” a quid pro quo because in the same testimony he says he was making a presumption and still (as in: to this day) does not know why the aid was technically put on hold. Notice the use of the word “likely” there. In other words (or actually in Sondland’s words), he was giving his opinion and interpretation of what was going on without any direct command from higher up the chain.
While all the usual suspects are salivating over Sondland's addendum (because they think this is their shot), it's pretty important that Sondland says he was making presumptions and still does not know why aid was actually suspended. https://t.co/VYqM2nwsFD
— Bonchie (@bonchieredstate) November 5, 2019
In other words, he's offering his opinion to the Ukrainians about what could be going on behind the scenes.
That's a very different thing from carrying a message to Kiev from Trump or Rudy, saying X is tied to Y.
This is smoke. There may be fire somewhere, but this isn't it.
— David Martosko (@dmartosko) November 5, 2019
Rep. Mark Meadows also lays it out with citations in the transcript.
24-48 hour rule on bombshells people, works every time https://t.co/aerSNaVmMM
— Undercover Huber (@JohnWHuber) November 6, 2019
I’m also seeing this new theory being floated by a certain set of conservatives on Twitter.
Note well: according to Ambassador Sondland, the aid was held up for a *statement* not an actual investigation.
This is relevant to Trump's motive: to make political hay about a rival, not to actually investigate corruption. https://t.co/QXAlKuvyz7
— Gabriel Malor (@gabrielmalor) November 5, 2019
— Seth Mandel (@SethAMandel) November 5, 2019
While that’s a possible interpretation, the assertions being made here are well in the realm of rampant speculation. Nothing in Sondland’s testimony actually shows that they didn’t care about the actual investigations taking place. It’s perfectly reasonable to assume that they wanted the public statement in order to pressure Ukraine into following through without being able to back out easily behind the scenes.
What is actually new here? The answer is nothing. Sondland, fearful that contradictions between him and Taylor could get him in trouble, ran to make sure he has cover. That’s fine, but even then he does not admit to any coordinated quid pro quo, much less any impropriety even if one existed. In fact, Sondland’s testimony wholly points to him assuming matters and riffing with the Ukrainian Ambassador about it. None of this is “good” for the administration, but it’s also not what is being described as an impeachable offense by so many.
In the end, we are continuing to go in circles. There’s no grand revelation coming. It’s beyond time for the House to just vote already and send this to the Senate.
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