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Gordon Sondland: Whoops, I Guess It Was Quid Pro Quo!

November 5, 2019

Dinah Washington sang What A Difference A Day Makes in the late 1950s.  That tune today has a timely feel given the headline-making news this afternoon.

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland told House impeachment investigators this week that he now remembers telling a top aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that Ukraine would not receive U.S. military assistance until it committed to investigating the 2016 election and former Vice President Joe Biden, according to a person with knowledge of Sondland’s testimony.

Sondland’s latest testimony — stated in a three-page declaration to the House committees leading the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump — represents an update to the testimony he gave in October and contains significant new details. That includes a fuller accounting of the role he played in personally telling the Ukrainians they needed to cooperate with the demands of Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, if they wanted the aid money.

The timeline of events Sondland outlined in his opening statement in October largely absolved him of any wrongdoing or of having any foreknowledge of a scheme to use U.S. foreign policy to advance Trump’s political interests. That characterization, however, was at stark odds with both the testimony of other officials and with written records obtained by the House in its impeachment inquiry. His new testimony makes clear that he had been well aware that releasing foreign aid was conditional to Ukraine launching the desired investigations.

According to the new sworn declaration, Sondland told Congress that his memory was “refreshed” after reviewing the opening statements given to Congress by Bill Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, a former adviser to Trump on Russian and European affairs.

Let us again be reminded of a continuing theme that runs through the Donald Trump White House and his administration.  Over and over the slime, ooze and corruption have coated those who have come into Trump’s orbit.  Careers that had carried luster and achievement, once in the Trump climate, are turned into blemishments and then into disdain from the American public.

The turn around by Sondland surely has a legal foundation, but there should be no doubt as to the other leg of reason as to why there is such a sharp change in his memory.  He wants to be recorded in the pages of history as one who did not fully sell his soul to the dark side.

The news today underscores a truth.  Trump is becoming ever more isolated from those he thought was wedded to his corruption and abuse of power.

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