We wrote yesterday about the stirring opening testimony of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, and buried in his testimony before Congress was the name Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union. In fact, Vindman singled him out as someone who had brought up potential investigations into the 2016 election and Hunter Biden originally:
Ms. Hill and Colonel Vindman testified that John R. Bolton, then the national security adviser, ended the meeting abruptly when Gordon D. Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, brought up the investigations and that some in the room took the conversation downstairs where it turned heated. Mr. Volker mentioned none of that in his original testimony.
Further, from Kurt Volker, Trump’s envoy to the Ukraine:
“As I remember, the meeting was essentially over when Ambassador Sondland made a general comment about investigations,” he said on Tuesday. “I think all of us thought it was inappropriate.
Finding himself squarely on the hot seat, and set to testify on Wednesday, Sondland made the choice to essentially flip on Trump:
Here are some of the key passages from his opening statement:
First, Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker and I worked with Mr. Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the President of the United States. We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we played the hand we were dealt. We all understood that if we refused to work with Mr. Giuliani, we would lose an important opportunity to cement relations between the United States and Ukraine. So we followed the President's orders…
Fourth, as I testified previously, Mr. Giuliani's requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky. Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing investigations of the 2016 election/DNC server and Burisma. Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the President of the United States, and we knew that these investigations were important to the President.
Now, as you might imagine, there's a degree of hedging here as he went along in his statement and the testimony:
But even if he’s using language like “my belief,” this is the most direct evidence yet that Trump directed Rudy Giuliani to set preconditions on Ukraine before they would be given aid or even a personal meeting, and those preconditions were that they had to investigate both the 2016 election and Hunter Biden’s Burisma connections. He states it in plain English, and the only “ambiguity” is that Trump used a go-between instead of saying some of this stuff himself. But it’s made abundantly clear that Trump directed them to the go-between, and that Giuliani was acting directly in Trump’s interests.
How much more can anyone need? This makes it impossible for the Democrats to do anything but go ahead with impeachment, because unless the rules have stopped mattering, it’s a clear violation. Whether or not the Senate will follow through (they won’t) is irrelevant: Sondland has broken the case, and Trump has been caught red-handed.