Sondland's testimony would probably hasten the House Democrats' motion to impeach the president and send the issue to the Senate for judgment, even though at this point the odds of the offense remain long, not one significant change in public opinion away from the president. 19659002] Sondland was the latest in a line of witnesses who said any attempt to compel a foreign government to investigate a potential political rival was, to a lesser extent, improper and perhaps worse. This raises the question of whether Republicans, unified in arguing that nothing has happened, will now change that position to acknowledge the president's mistake while arguing that it does not constitute an unreasonable offense.
To a minimum, Sondland knocked down some of the defenses offered by Republicans during the hearing and outside the hearing room, especially considering that the terms the president was asking Zelensky for during a visit to the Oval Office reached a quid pro quo. [1
9659002] He recounted a September phone call in which the president said he did not request such a quid pro quo, a call repeatedly cited by Republicans as proof that Trump did not seek such a thing from Zelensky.
But Sondland offered a context to what was said earlier about that statement from the president. He explained that whatever the president said, he did not know if Trump was true to their brief talks, and, regardless, that he still believed there was a quid pro quo to hold important military aid and an intended Oval Visit the office for president of Ukraine.
The president based his defense on the coarse transcript of a July 25 phone call with Zelensky, arguing that no explicit request was made in the conversation and described the call as "perfect." But Sondland described a systematic and sustained effort, led by the president and led by his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to clarify to the Ukrainian leader what he was being asked to get from what he sought from to the president
"We obey the president's orders," Sondland told the House Intelligence Committee.
Instead of calling it a rogue effort by Giuliani or an end that revolves around the administration's existing diplomatic and national security apparatus, Sondland says it is well-known throughout the administration's senior levels, in in part because he has spoken regularly with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others about what is happening.
"Everyone is in the loop," he said.
Unlike many others who testified last week, Sondland was not part of the bureaucratic branch office. He was a wealthy businessman who contributed $ 1 million to the president's inaugural committee and graduated as an ambassador to the E.U. In that sense, he is allied with the president and owes Trump money for putting him where he is today.
Wednesday's testimony is the third time he has offered evidence on impeachment inquiry – once behind closed doors, then in writing. statement in which he revised some of his original statements. On Wednesday, he said, his memory was further refreshed by the testimony of others and a review of some of his own and other emails and text messages, though he said he had been denied access to many. in his State Department documents.
He came for Wednesday's hearing facing an apparent problem, which would risk a charge of lying to Congress by significantly contradicting the evidence that occurred after his earlier statements, or openly not disputed the version of the president's events and thus threatened the wrath of the president's allies as well as many with whom he served in the administration. He chose to preside over the president.
In each new statement to the intelligence committee, Sondland was clearer about the president's role. That ended his appearance on Wednesday. But what made his testimony significant was that he eventually expanded the circle of those who said he knew what was going on. He said Pompeo, Vice President Pence, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton knew everything was going on.
If Sondland had given any lift to Republicans, it was his acknowledgment that Trump never personally told him that he was asking for the 2016 investigations and the Bidens in exchange for the Oval meeting Office or the continuation of military assistance. But he is clear that he and others have been told to follow Giuliani's lead in dealing with the new government in Ukraine and, he said, that the former mayor of New York is calling for a quid pro quo of Ukrainians – an Oval meeting Office on the exchange for the announcement of the investigation.
"Mr. Giuliani announces the wishes of the president of the United States, and we know that these investigations are important to the president," he said.
Later, he said, he terminated the assistance Ukrainian military is part of the quid pro quo.
Sondland issues aspects of the testimony of other administration officials who have been critical of the president, and some of his assertions are controversial by those he names. as in the loop, including a spokesperson for Pence.But none of those at the highest levels of management identified Sondland knowing the pressure campaign was heard from the sworn testimony in an open hearing room.  This includes Giuliani, who is the president's point president in Ukraine, as well as Pompeo, notably silent as career officials in his department offered testimony outlining the campaign's pressure Sondland said the president led. claiming he did not know the ambassador. However, Sondland described a friendly and jocular relationship with the president based on a shared use of salty language. "That's how President Trump and I talked, a lot of four-letter words," he said.
Sondland also confirmed that he was able to call the White House over an open telephone line from a restaurant in Kyiv the day after Trump spoke with Zelensky and spoke directly to the president. While he said he could not remember the entire contents of the conversation, he did not dispute the other testimony that he had told the president that Zelensky would do whatever he asked.
Whether the House's impeachment inquiry will be heard from any of the people in direct contact with the president on these matters remains an unanswered question, given their objection to the present day. Sondland's protests weakened and put the president's Republican defenders in a more difficult position. That way, Wednesday will be another day in Washington.