In often confused and contradictory testimony on Wednesday on Capitol Hill, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland went round and round with GOP Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Republican Counsel Steve Castor during the House Intelligence Committee’s televised impeachment inquiry hearings.
Sondland played possum on his knowledge of Burisma until late in the process — and stated ignorance about any aspect of the controversy touching the Bidens until recently.
If such is true, the ambassador’s media and political aides are not earning their pay.
Pressing Sondland on his assertions of a link between a meeting between the two presidents — President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky — and an investigation of Burisma, Castor asked, “Did the president ever tell you about preconditions?”
Sondland admitted, “No.”
Nunes and Castor seem to be trying to isolate presidential lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s communications to Sondland from those of the president. Is the former mayor being made a fall guy for the president?
If so, is this on committee initiative or on orders from the White House?
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Republicans are keying in on a September 9 conversation Sondland had with the president.
In the exchange, Sondland asked the president, “What do you want?”
That question was in regard to the Ukraine.
By both presidential recollection and Sondland’s testimony, the president responded, “I want nothing! I want no quid pro quo! I just want Zelensky to do the right thing.”
In a later conversation, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) said the president told him the same thing.
But then, contrary to the president’s vehement and explicit words, Sondland said he “presumed” the president wanted the quid pro quo as allegedly demanded by Giuliani.
When asked by Castor why he came to this conclusion, Sondland stated, ”I don’t know why.”
In a later duel with Castor regarding a meeting between Sondland and Ukrainian officials, Sondland admitted in his previous testimony, “I was spinning a little bit.”
That line will not help his credibility with the president or GOP committee members.
The rest of the session, before the lunch break, featured Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Democratic counsel combing through Sondland’s statements and focusing on negative statements about Giuliani and the alleged quid pro quo.
For their part, Nunes and the GOP counsel poked holes in Sondland’s glib posturing and seeming contradictions.
After the segment ended, President Trump, speaking on the White House lawn with Marine One spinning up in the background, said of Sondland, “Don’t know him. Seems like a nice guy.”
Sondland Testified that @realDonaldTrump told him regarding Ukraine "I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid-pro-quo. Tell Zelensky to do the right thing."
— Sara A. Carter (@SaraCarterDC) November 20, 2019
This directly undercuts Sondland’s view of himself as a close presidential adviser.
It plays, though, into Sondland’s apparent reputation for exaggeration.
The president went on to echo the witness, repeatedly quoting from the ambassador’s testimony on Trump’s words on the Dem alleged quid pro quo: “I want nothing! I want no quid pro quo!”
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