Russia Monitor: Ambassador Gordon Sondland — Finally — Tells All

“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.”

— US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland’s prepared statement ahead of 11/20/19 testimony before House Intelligence Impeachment hearings.

By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (11/21/19)

Dear Fellow Readers,

I am writing this Wednesday evening before Thursday morning distribution. The testimony of Ambassador Sondland is certainly the most damning to date for Trump; meanwhile, House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff is providing opening remarks in advance of testimony from Defense Department official Laura Cooper and State Department official David Hale. Cooper is expected to shed light on questions regarding Trump’s decision to withhold the congressionally approved $400 million in Ukraine military aid. Hale will testify to the smear campaign mounted by Trump clown lawyer Rudy Giuliani against now former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.

Hale is the third ranking State Department official. The removal of Yovanovitch is been made clear through her own appearance before the Committee last Friday (11/15). Her removal was necessary to create the room for Giuliani to guide US-Ukraine foreign policy to make sure Trump’s bribery to force Ukraine president Zelensky to publicly announce investigation of Burisma and the Bidens in exchange for release of the military aid and a White House meeting between Trump and Zelensky as an important act of recognition and support for Ukraine; Ukraine recognition and support in the face of an ongoing Russo-Ukraine War that has claimed the lives of 13,000 Ukraine military — and counting. Withholding of weapons and recognition benefits Russian President Vladimir Putin.

This introduction is important because of Hale and Cooper and their commitment to bringing forward the facts and the truth. Journalist Elizabeth Drew wrote an Opinion piece for the New York Times: The Honest People Donald Trump Cannot Fathom Drew cites specific witnesses, but this can be applied to all who have stepped forward:

“While the three witnesses came across as unusually admirable, they’re not atypical of their breed. They will endure only so much abuse or see only so much scandal around them before rising up in some way. All three testified in defiance of the president.”

Trump and the GOP have a problem – a big problem that goes well beyond their disrespect. Witnesses and whistleblowers risk their careers and even the safety of themselves and their families. Trumpsters speak in code, like their view of unlimited powers for a president (see ‘unitary executive’ from last edition); a concept that applies only to Trump, not to the office of the president. But the dog whistle that applies here is ‘unelected government officials’. Google the phrase and you’ll find heated opinions about ‘unelected government officials undermine Trump’. This ‘deep state’ distrust feeds the narrative of only trusting Trump. It is why Dems strive to protect the identity of the Whistleblower.

Not only does Drew stand up for these “career diplomats”, she also counsels Dems to bring Articles of Impeachment beyond a narrow scope of Trump-Ukraine. She offers, “One Democratic member of the Intelligence Committee told me that it would be hard to prove exactly how much money ended up in the president’s pocket. 

Drew pushes back against Trumpster bullying of career diplomatic excellence and wants Trump’s broad corruption highlighted for Impeachment.

She is to be respected on both counts.

But back to the last two days. I will ‘speak’ as if you are reading this on Thursday morning; Hale and Cooper will not be reflected.


A stark contrast between D’s & R’s

Beyond career diplomats, I credit the excellence of some politicians and after Tuesday and Wednesday early credit goes to Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). Schiff has managed the hearing process, conducted his own line of questioning, his coordination with Dem counsel Daniel Goldman and dealt with GOP antics masterfully. After the Wednesday hearing of Sondland, Schiff received his own standing ovation following his closing remarks. An 18-minute video that shows both House Intelligence Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-CA) followed by Schiff. The contrast between Dem investigation and Trumpster defense is as stark a contrast as demonstration of personal capabilities.

Similarly, switching gears a bit, here is the 45-minute video from the Tuesday hearing with Schiff and Goldman interviewing Director for European Affairs for the United States National Security Council Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman who appeared with Foreign Services officer Jennifer Williams.


First-hand witness to bribery & third time’s the charm with Sondland

The interviews to date methodically built forward to the moment of Sondland’s appearance. Given Sondland was in regular, frequent communication with both Trump and Giuliani – he is a first-hand witness.

Sondland was absolutely clear and unequivocal : there was a Trump quid pro quo. Forget the Latin, Sondland has Trump demanding bribery, as in: ‘Zelensky must ‘give me’ a public announcement of an investigation into Berisma/Biden before ‘he grants Zelensky’ recognition and release of the congressionally approved military aid.

Sondland was equally clear – in addition to Trump those behind that were behind the bribery included:

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani,
Sec. of State Mike
Trump chief of staff Mick Mulvaney,
Vice President Pence and yes,
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)

Sondland’s testimony was damning of Trump and many more Trumpsters but he was not always the most cooperative witness. Here’s a moment where Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) slams Sondland after Sondland snidely asks to be treated with more respect. This  is one of the better 2-minute video clips from the hearings you will find.

Trumpster defense is being orchestrated by Trump and Trump is demanding that his defense is ‘no quid pro quo’. Which meant much of Wednesday was spent going back and forth with Sondland over what constituted Trump’s bribery and quid pro quo (bribe) with Ukraine. Many Trumpsters feel a better Trump defense would be to agree ‘he (Trump) did it’ while arguing, ‘so what’ and ‘it’s not an impeachable offense’.


Wednesday was a big Impeachment day. We’re also right in the thick of it so I’ll wrap up with some remarks that give color to the significance of the recent testimony.

Matthew Miller @matthewamiller

Schiff and team have run the most effective Congressional probe in history. Informed of the WB complaint on Sep 9, and in a little over two months have broken WH obstruction, got docs & testimony, flipped reluctant witnesses, and revealed the entire plot. Seriously impressive.

former Republican strategist Rick Wilson tweeted his astonished reaction in real time, saying that he was throwing everyone “under the bus wholesale”: Sweet mother of God. Sondland is shoveling them under the bus wholesale. 

A unique contribution, Giuliani throws himself under the bus just in case Sondland had not – but he also drags Trump with him:

Rudy Giuliani @RudyGiuliani

The investigation I conducted concerning 2016 Ukrainian collusion and corruption, was done solely as a defense attorney to defend my client against false charges, that kept changing as one after another were disproven. 

And even Ken Starr

“The real issue is the senators are watching,” Starr said. “Are senators going to now say in light of what we hear today, it’s going to be a long day even with the ambassador alone, in light of what we have heard, ‘We need to make a trip down to the White House’?”


It’s only possible to offer a snapshot since the fire hose is still at wide open. Not a good few days for Trump, even the Wall Street Journal ran a prominent front-page story titled: Sondland Says He Pursued Ukraine Probes at ‘Express Direction’ of Trump”.

As a final point, a reminder of why all of this is important. We close with this headline as Trump turns on another US ally:

China signs defence agreement with South Korea as US angers Seoul with demand for $5bn troop payment

These career government employees testify at their discretion, their commitment to do what is right and at the peril of their career and safety. I honor them.

Impeach Trump!