Why Does Sondland’s Testimony Matter? The Trump Loyalist Can’t Be Called A ‘Never Trumper’
President Donald Trump is set to have a really bad day.
The current ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, who was part of an alleged effort to undermine State Department policy in order to get Ukraine to agree to open investigations to benefit Trump politically, is testifying on Wednesday, changing his remarks from earlier depositions he made before the impeachment inquiry.
What’s he saying now? It’s not good news for Trump.
According to his prepared opening statement, Sondland plans to alter his original testimony to the House investigation, stating clearly and in plain language that the administration pursued a quid pro quo arrangement with Kyiv, withholding military aid and a publicize meeting between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in order to secure an investigation into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, the Washington Post reported.
The biggest sound byte from his opening statement reads as follows (emphasis in bold added):
“I know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a ‘quid pro quo? With regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”
Sondland also stated in his prepared remarks he worked with Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, diplomat Kurt Volker, and Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani “at the express direction of the President of the United States,” according to Mother Jones.
Ambassador Sondland believed no aid would be released until Ukraine publicly committed to investigate the 2016 U.S. election and Burisma. Live #impeachmenthearing updates https://t.co/mf44H4az2S #Sondlandtestimony pic.twitter.com/SeWwNpO8oK
— Reuters (@Reuters) November 20, 2019
This is, to put it in the bluntest of terms possible, a monumental s*** hit the fan moment for Trump. So far, the main witnesses for the impeachment inquiry have been State Department and national security officials that the president has written off as never being supportive of him — of being “Never Trumpers” hellbent on interfering in his policy initiatives.
Accusations of “Never Trumpism” against him have been leveled at a number of witnesses, though not always in rational ways. Trump called Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top expert on Ukraine within the president’s own National Security Council, a “Never Trumper” when he testified, a term that befuddled Vindman. “I would call myself a never partisan,” Vindman said in response to a question during his deposition asking if he was in the “Never Trump” camp, CNN reported.
The accusations against Vindman from Trump have never made since, especially because Trump appointed him to be part of a high-level envoy to Ukraine for Zelensky’s inauguration earlier this year.
Even so, among Trump’s supporters, the moniker seems to be sticking. But the same strategy can’t possibly work for Sondland, as he’s a longtime supporter of Trump’s from the get-go. Some have even alleged that he received his post as EU ambassador because of a million-dollar donation to Trump’s inauguration committee, Newsweek reported.
So the common attack Trump has employed at this point — that those testifying against him are mere “Never Trumpers” out to get him — is not proper for Trump to try when it comes to Sondland. Indeed, Trump was praising Sondland’s words in glowing terms at the start of last month in a number of tweets.
This is possibly the most damaging testimony to date for Trump. Not only can he not attack Sondland in a way he has utilized for others before him, but it’s a “firsthand” account that the quid pro quo was happening — something that Trump has also complained about in the past.
Don’t expect Trump to stop his complaints of the impeachment inquiry, nor to not find other arguments against it. But Sondland’s words on Wednesday are clearly a problem for the president — in both his short- and long-term futures as president.