Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, a rich hotel mogul who gave $1 million to President Trump’s inaugural committee, provided devastating testimony Wednesday morning, implicating Trump, Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and numerous other people in a “quid pro quo” arrangement of a White House visit for an announcement of investigations, not the investigations themselves. The sequence of events he testified to eviscerates the defenses that Trump was not directly involved in the scheme, that there was no quid pro quo, that Ukraine did not know about the deal and that Sondland was a rogue actor.

Perhaps the most startling aspect of Sondland’s testimony was the degree to which he implicated Pompeo in the scheme. He pointed to emails sent to Pompeo and Pompeo aides that pointed to his ongoing effort to steer Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky into providing the assurances Trump was looking for. As The Post recounts: “‘I would ask Zelensky to look him in the eye and tell him that once Ukraine’s new justice folks are in place mid-Sept, that Ze should be able to move forward publicly and with confidence on those issues of importance to Potus and to the US,’ Sondland wrote in the Aug. 22 email, using an acronym for president of the United States. ‘Hopefully, that will break the logjam’ on funding.”

Sondland also made clear the degree to which Pompeo is participating in the obstruction of the investigation. Sondland said he was directed by the State Department and the White House not to testify, and further, he stressed that the State Department and White House refused to make documents available to him and the committee. This undoubtedly was raised to account for his changes in testimony, but it also clearly hammered home Pompeo’s self-interest in preventing incriminating documents from surfacing.

Harvard University professor Danielle Allen says it is wrong to discuss impeachment as a purely political question, not a legal, moral, or constitutional one. (The Washington Post)

The stunningly candid testimony made clear that, in a May 23 meeting with Trump, Sondland, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker were told “talk to Rudy,” meaning Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani. From there on out, his communications with the Ukrainians, with Trump and with other State Department officials made clear no White House visit (an official act) would transpire without an announcement of investigations that we know would smear the former vice president and help Trump’s reelection campaign. Sondland explicitly testified that he understood there was a quid pro quo — a White House meeting in exchange for an investigation of the 2016 debunked conspiracy theory and Burisma, which he later learned meant the Bidens. (Throughout he maintained he did not understand this was about the Bidens, although news accounts of and TV appearances by Giuliani made clear this was about the Bidens.)

Sondland also confirmed that in a July 26 call Trump brought up the investigations, something he had been hearing all along from Giuliani. He does not dispute telling the State Department official who overheard the call that Trump did not care about Ukraine, only the “big stuff,” meaning investigations.

Asked by House Intelligence Committee counsel if he figured out the aid was conditioned on the announcements because “two plus two equals four,” Sondland said though the connection between an announcement of investigations and the aid hold was not specifically communicated from Trump, it was the only logical explanation and “everyone” understood this by September.

The impact of Sondland’s account cannot be covered up, obscured or spun. If Republicans continue to insist Trump did nothing wrong or that he did not sacrifice our national security for political gain, it will be because they willfully reject facts that demonstrate Trump violated his oath. As for the public, anyone who cares to can see that the Republicans who do so are simply enablers in a corrupt scheme that harmed our national security.

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