Mutually Assured Destruction: Sondland Confirms Quid Pro Quo and Claims Wide Circle Of Knowledge

European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland sent shockwaves around Washington after he not only confirmed what he deduced as a quid pro quo demand but that a wide circle of top officials were fully informed for the effort. Sondland did not directly implicate Trump who he recounted denied any quid pro quo to him in a call on September 9th. However, he offered compelling testimony that he was told to speak to Rudy Giuliani who pursued such a quid pro quo. His testimony suggested knowledge of these efforts by Vice President Michael Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former National Security Adviser John Bolton, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and others. Pence and Pompeo immediately issued direct denials of that meetings or communications with Sondland ever occurred. What was striking is that Sondland made it clear that he would not go down alone. His testimony reflected a type of mutually assured destruction strategy for a wide circle of officials.

Sondland reasonably assumed that Giuliani was pursuing a strategy at the behest of the President and that the demand for investigations “reflected President Trump’s desires and requirements.”

He declared effectively that he would not be a scapegoat. He testified that “At all times, I was acting in good faith. As a presidential appointee, I followed the directions of the President.” He then added that he kept a wide range of officials in the loop: “They knew what we were doing and why. Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.’

He denied understanding any quid pro quo for much of the period under review and declared that “by the 8th of September, it was abundantly clear to everyone that there was a link.”

The Democrats had another good day with members advancing a consistent and coherent narrative.

On Pence, Sondland testified that “I mentioned to Vice President Pence before the meetings with the Ukrainians that I had concerns that the delay in aid had become tied to the issue of investigations. He added “I recall mentioning that before the Zelensky meeting . . . During the actual meeting, President Zelensky raised the issue of security assistance directly with Vice President Pence. The Vice President said he would speak to President Trump about it.”

Pence has denied the account and said it “never happened.

On the other hand, the Republicans also scored from points. They drew their own timeline that noted that Sen. Ron Johnson spoke with Trump in late August and Trump angrily denied the suggestion of a quid pro quo. That was before the whistleblower complaint was sent to Congress. Then on September 9th, Sondland reported that Trump also angrily denied a quid pro quo to him. That later conversation can be questioned since it was the same day as the confirmation of a congressional review of the whistleblower complaint. However, the only two direct statements by Trump on quid pro quo were express denials. Then six days later, the aid was released without any announcement of investigations.

Moreover, various witnesses have testified that the Bidens were not mentioned in meetings and that much of the discussion centered on a call for investigations into the 2016 election fraud and Burisma. Again, some have raised legitimate questions over whether people like Sondland should have known that investigating Burisma meant investigating the Bidens.

I still have serious concerns over the narrowness of this impeachment and the thin (and at points conflicted) record. In particular, the recent effort to pound these facts into a case of bribery remains highly dubious in light of the case law on the meaning of that crime. Nevertheless, the witnesses are painting a damning picture of the work of Giuliani and supporting a narrative of an abuse of power in the withholding (even if briefly) of military aid.

161 thoughts on “Mutually Assured Destruction: Sondland Confirms Quid Pro Quo and Claims Wide Circle Of Knowledge”

  1. This is great!

    While the jury is still out on high crimes and misdemeanors, Schiff has managed to produce during the first few weeks of his impeachment hearings a robust body of evidence and testimony that supports all three of the main tenets of my Ukraine columns.

    In fact, his witnesses have done more than anyone to affirm the accuracy of my columns and to debunk the false narrative by a dishonest media and their friends inside the federal bureaucracy that my reporting was somehow false conspiracy theories.

    The half dozen seminal columns I published for The Hill on Ukraine were already supported by overwhelming documentation (all embedded in the story) and on-the-record interviews captured on video. They made three salient and simple points:

    Hunter Biden’s hiring by the Ukrainian gas firm Burisma Holdings, while it was under a corruption investigation, posed the appearance of a conflict of interest for his father. That’s because Vice President Joe Biden oversaw US-Ukraine policy and forced the firing of the Ukrainian prosecutor overseeing the case.

    Ukraine officials had an uneasy relationship with our embassy in Kiev because State Department officials exerted pressure on Ukraine prosecutors to drop certain cases against activists, including one group partly funded by George Soros.

    There were efforts around Ukraine in 2016 to influence the US election, that included a request from a DNC contractor for dirt on Manafort, an OpEd from Ukraine’s US ambassador slamming Trump and the release of law enforcement evidence by Ukrainian officials that a Ukraine court concluded was an improper interference in the US election.

    All three of these points have since been validated by the sworn testimony of Schiff’s witnesses this month, starting with the Bidens.

    1. “State Department officials exerted pressure on Ukraine prosecutors to drop certain cases against activists, including one group partly funded by George Soros.”

      this is the main body of well funded subversives worldwide, which should be rooted out as ruthlessly as communists were in the past. today the danger comes not from communists, as those who stick to that name are usually not anything close to it, but rather these “progressive activists”

      they are ardent enemies of the very idea of the nation-state itself

      it’s obvious from Soros’ pattern of national subversions that past 30 years that he will not stop until the world is engulfed in chaos and then cries for help from a global-state, his clear objective

      1. should we just get our news from Trump’s Twitter feed?

        LOL! That’s like a first time golfer asking what is the best ball to play on the 17th hole at the TPC Sawgrass. Just take your snowman and move on to the 18th.

              1. Damn you are as slow as Shill. Hack golfers would just as likely put the best golf ball in the water as a bad golf ball. The ball is not their problem. Nothing external to them will fix that.

                Shill asking for suggestions on where to get his news is the same problem. Include yourself in that mix.

      2. “BREAKING: ABC & CBS cut away from impeachment hearing as Fiona Hill was giving credence to the story that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election & when GOP Rep. Ratcliffe on cross examination punched holes in David Holmes’ recollection of a Trump phone call he overheard in Kiev”

        Paul Sperry 2:22 PM · Nov 21, 2019

          1. “Schiff has rigged the impeachment inquiry so voters can’t examine the motives & credibility of the one official who triggered this whole mess–the Democrat “whistleblower”–because if Schiff allowed it, voters would see how Schiff also rigged the whistleblower complaint. #CoverUp” @paulsperry_

  2. Mutually Assured Destruction why not Unilaterally Guaranteed Destruction. That’s what the left is giving us with their support of weapons of mass destruction known as illicit drugs. No need of others we have our own enemies domestic right here and plentiful

  3. He offered no verifiable facts or sources but did admit the comments were based on assumption. At that point the left suffered one more defeat which means one every day so … where’s the beef?

  4. Professor Turley: Did you miss the part of Sondland’s testimony when he told Congressman Turner that everything he said was based on his presumptions and NOT direct knowledge?

  5. One of the “hidden” motivations behind this involves people who call themselves neonconservatives in the Republican Party and liberal interventionists in the Democratic party. They are really the same group. Among their beliefs are that we must be involved everywhere on the planet, and that Russia (a country that possesses one obsolete aircraft carrier, and an economy the size of New Jersey) will take over vast regions if we don’t expand NATO right up to their borders.

    If these, among other foreign misadventures, do not occur, America will sink into the oceans.

    Therefore, when there is someone who questions this like Trump, although he really hasn’t done much about it, they must be taken down at all costs

    When you add the fact that Trump had the audacity to be involved in a process whereby Hilary Clinton was denied her proper coronation, you have an additional dose of visceral insanity in the Democratic Party.

    I think that’s pretty much what’s going on here at the end of the day.

    1. “Among their beliefs are that we must be involved everywhere on the planet”

      “A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction…

      This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence—economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.” ___D. Eisenhower

  6. the worst look for Trump in respect of Sondland, is that he appointed him to anything at all

    a poor personnel choice, which reflects badly on the boss,

    even though it does not seem to me that he confirmed a qpq, rather that he refuted it.

    either way he’s a very weak witness

  7. What irks me is less the details of what’s going on here, but more the systematic attempt to get rid of Trump from the get-go.

    We’ve had a call for electors to abandon their pledges and switch from Trump to Clinton; we’ve heard that the ballot counts can’t be trusted because voting machines might have been hacked; we’ve had emoluments, Logan Act and Russian Collusion, not to mention Stormy and the Creepy Porn Lawyer. And the Mueller investigation. Now, it’s a quid pro quo.

    Somewhere deep in Hell, Levrenty Beria (“Show me the man and I’ll show you the crime.”) is smiling. Even Professor Turley wouldn’t be immune to the kinds of biased investigations and smear campaigns undertaken to rid the planet of this troublesome president.

    And then, there’s the double standard by media, academia and the other Democrats, which is equally appalling.

    You had Joe Biden threatening to withhold aid to Ukraine unless a prosecutor is fired (“Son of a bitch! They did it!”). And you had President Obama caught on a hot-mic telling Dmitry Medvedev that if Putin can give him “space” before the (2012) election, he (Obama) can be more flexible about giving missile defense systems to Eastern European countries.

    But evil Orange Man is special . . .

    As I explained to my angry son (“How could you . . .”), I voted for Trump not because I liked him, but because I believed that the mainstream media, academia, the deep state, the entertainment industry, all democrats all the time and some republicans all the time, would hold him accountable for all his missteps, big or little, real or imagined, in a way they would not HRC accountable.

    Looks like I got it right.

  8. Did Sondland seem prepped with a clear understanding of the gravity of what he was facing yesterday? The jokes? The awkward attempts to make light? “Easy come, easy go” Haha? He had a plane to catch? He was just there to be “forthcoming”? Who are his lawyers? His demeanor did not match the gravity. There was nothing humorous about it. It was painful to watch him. One would conclude that Sondland did not have good lawyers serving *his* interests and/or he really is that much of a doofus under pressure. It was astounding that his lawyer, seated right next to him, allowed this to happen. Sondland sat there and disputed public accounts given by Pence, Pompeo, Zelensky? Was he even prepped by his lawyers? Did he even review or watch the other testimony?

  9. I totally believe that outside pressures have driven him to be so wishy washy. He gave both sides something. In his heart he knows his Ambassadorship is in question but at the same time Democrats have encouraged demonstrations at his hotels which have occured. He is scared of losing it all

    1. One misguided democrat not democrats. As for protesters (if true), there might be a few rethugs who would march for the rule of law but they would be recognizable by their Brooks Bro suits.

  10. A problem occurs when you overplay your hand. Trump has a distrust of Ukranian officials that is warranted.

    Trump is concerned about overall Ukranian partisanship, at least against him and for others. Trump is skeptical about admitting more countries into NATO. His skepticism of Ukraine can mean there are any number of reasons for his actions regarding foreign aid, and in particular military aid, which Obama did not allow, with regard to Ukraine.

  11. Sondland was the Ambassador to the European Union. Ukraine is not in the European Union. Why was Sondland nosing around in the American relationship with Ukraine? Even if he was, why is his testimony of such unofficial meddling worth anything?

      1. That’s true, Olly. But our confirmed Ambassador, Marie Yavonowhich, was greatly more qualified than Sondland to handle affairs.

        1. Actually, the Foreign Service when she joined it made it a point to recruit people with a generic liberal education, not on point expertise. They hired someone notable for her education in Russian language and history, then sent her to the Horn of Africa.

        2. That depends on what affairs are needing handling. At this point, all that matters is the President didn’t have confidence in how she was handling affairs in support of his foreign policy.

            1. This may come as a shock to you, but ambassadors carry out policy. They don’t substitute their own policy for the President’s policy.

        3. Without concluding how good the Ambassador was she broke international rules and interferred in foreign political affairs. That is a no no for any ambassador. Is that acceptable?

      1. Anonymous – I have a feeling we will have a new Amb. to the EU after the impeachment thingie is over.

  12. Sondland admitted under questioning that no person on Earth told him that Ukrainian aid was tied to an investigation.

    He said, “I presumed.”

  13. “European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland sent shockwaves around Washington after he not only confirmed what he deduced as a quid pro quo demand but that a wide circle of top officials were fully informed for the effort.”
    These are not the words of a lawyer; they’re the words of a partisan. “Deduced” means surmise as in I didn’t personally hear or see it but I think so. Confirming speculation doesn’t make it fact; it makes is factually unsupported opinion times two. “Everybody else knows” is an “ad populum” “argument” so silly my high school debate teacher would have thrown me out the nearest window for announcing it in support of anything — even the location of the classroom light switch.

    That’s not competent evidence here of anything much less “bribery” or “high crimes and misdemeanors.” You couldn’t convict a jaywalker on this proof, and it’s shameless to suggest otherwise.

    Sondland leaves out the exculpatory material from his opening statement (written by his Democrat legal team) that the President wanted “nothing” from the Ukrainians in exchange for the aid. (Inadvertent omission and too long, he says. As if another 30 seconds of his sonorous 45 minutes introductory spiel would have mattered on the critical point of the inquiry. Sure, I guess we look stupid and not media savvy.) The key evidence of his unsupported opinion was dragged out of him on cross and JT thinks only the wild “presumptions” (Sondland’s words) of Sondland matters.

    Okay here’s the truth:

      1. This is one of the consistent problems with Sondland’s testimony.

        He disagreed with the other ambassador’s testimony because he said the meeting definitely was being delayed because aid was tied to the investigation. Otherwise, they would have had the meeting and been done with it.

        That’s not what the other ambassador said.

        Everyone knew this?

        Who? Trump didn’t say there was a quid pro quo. Giuliani didn’t. One by one, no, no, no. So, who is “everyone knew” if literally zero people on the planet said the aid was tied to the investigation and the Ukrainians didn’t know?

        This is such a farce.

        1. Karen, stop asking questions. This is like a Democrat leadership birthday party, Trump is the pinata, and everyone is obliged to take a whack at him.

          1. And…now that image is stuck in my brain. Complete with blindfolded Demcorats wildly lashing out, unsuccessfully trying to land a blow.

        2. It sounds similar to the confirmation of the Steele Dossier in that the idea is seeded, perhaps innocently but without fact, and that idea grows legs as the game of telephone is played. Eventually everyone knows the substance but no one can trace it back to how the idea began or verify its truthfulness. That is a problem with hearsay.

      2. Sondland is an idiot. what a dissembler! and yet he finally admitted that he had no basis for his ‘bombshell” testimony. which means, he’s just a presumptuous chump! he admitted he relied “only on his own presumption.”

        I hear his hotels stink and have one star reviews. pathetic worm!

    1. YES!!!

      Why was the complete deflation of the allegations not conveyed in Professor Turley’s article? Why was the harassing of Sondland by Democrats not covered? The chyron on CNN read that Sondland confirmed quid pro quo literally while he was admitting, on camera, that no one one planet earth informed him there was a quid pro quo tied to the aid?

      Why is the emphasis not on the universal consensus among witnesses that there was at least the appearance of conflict of interest with the Bidens? That would warrant an investigation.

      This entire impeachment process is a sham. I predict most Democrats will vote to impeach, however.

  14. This may be a narrow impeachment, but it certainly is focused and penetrating. Still, there’s likely to be an impeachment vote without the essential testimony of at least 5 witnesses: Vice President Pence, Rudy Giuliani, John Bolton and, almost like twins joined at the head, Donald Trump and the whistleblower.

    Schiff’s calm demeanor is more convincing than the histrionics of Nunez and Jordan, although Mike Turner cools things off to good effect.

    At Senate trial, it still looks 50-50. Any GOP defection may embolden others to follow. I don’t think anybody buys that it’s not impeachable. When it comes to withholding the money, it certainly is. But the posture of “bad but not bad enough” is unprecedented. Trump will shriek it’s all a witch hunt, but the GOP may just have to admit he goofed, but then corrected himself. In other words, it’s a state of mind “crime”. We’ll have to examine that state of mind when he froze the money, but also when he released it. The fact that he did release it, without getting his demanded price, may be the most important thing the GOP senators can hide behind.

    1. I don’t think anybody buys that it’s not impeachable.

      I don’t buy that it is impeachable. If the President determines there is sufficient concern that corruption within Ukraine puts aid assistance at risk, he has an obligation to withhold that aid. If he has concerns one or more of our citizens have been involved in corruption in Ukraine, it is within his powers to ask for cooperation with the Ukrainian President to thoroughly investigate. It does not matter if that is a presidential candidate or a homeless person. The facts are, military aid to Ukraine has been significantly more robust under this administration than the Obama administration. Aid was released to Ukraine within the fiscal year it was authorized to be released. The aid was released without any of the alleged preconditions being met. The rest of this charade is all about witnesses expressing what they feel, perceive, assume.

      1. The President did nothing wrong. Schiff, Pelosi and the Democrats are doing a lot wrong and causing great harm to our Republic.

        Let’s look at something a President might do that would be considered wrong.

        A $400 Million dollar secret bribe to the Iranians that was printed up and laundered in Switzerland. Those doing it, Obama and team, knew it was illegal and that is easily recognized by it being laundered before being presented.

      2. That’s exactly right, Olly.

        We also released lethal aid, compared to comfort aid under Obama. Of course we have to ascertain corruption is being rooted out in Ukraine.

        This President has been harassed by Demcorats abusing their authority since before the election, when he was still a candidate.

        I am so disappointed that this has been allowed to continue.

        1. I am so disappointed that this has been allowed to continue.

          Democrats have ignored the law of holes. Barr, Horrowitz and Durham will bring bulldozers to bury them in it once and for all.

  15. We have heard that the funds were suddenly released by Trump to Ukraine because of the whistleblower complaint but Senate Republicans said that happened in part because Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, threatened to block $5 billion in Pentagon spending for 2020 if the aid wasn’t given to Ukraine. NBC news has this on their timeline of events. We have not heard this in any of the hearings.

  16. Turley: “European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland sent shockwaves around Washington after he not only confirmed what he deduced as a quid pro quo demand … ”

    There is a disconnect between Turley’s title “Sondland Confirms Quid Pro Quo” and the text which states that he deduced the presence of quid pro quo. That’s quite a title which is spin worthy of MSM. Sondland did not say that he deduced or heard quid-pro-quo from anybody but that he presumed that to be the case. The last time I looked deduction and presumption are not synonyms.

    At the first opportunity Schiff ran out to reporters and announced that the facts are in and Trump is guilty of quid-pro-quo. He should have waited a few minutes minutes when Turner, Jordan, Ratcliffe and Stefanik cut and diced Sondland up and destroyed the quid-pro-quo story which left Schiff out to dry.

    (Turner and Jordan – restricted to two links)

    1. Olesmithy, I think it was Nunes who mocked Schiff for his on-camera statement during the first recess yesterday.🤭

    2. “Sondland did not say that he deduced or heard quid-pro-quo from anybody but that he presumed that to be the case.”

      Excellent summary olesmithy and thanks for the videos.

      Turley’s posting shows me that he is quite selective when looking at the evidence and his type of selection seems not to be based on his intellect. He appears totally biased.

  17. JT, you didn’t watch the cross-examination, did you? Bad professor, working on half knowledge. You have to watch the whole hearing, not just the part you like.

      1. Al O’Heem – since I have the time to watch the entire impeachment hearing, I have found that the Democrats are dealing with hearsay and feelings. Poor Soundland is having his hotels boycotted (witness tampering) while he is trying to testify. Was this condemned by Schiff?

  18. That’s funny – what I took away was he still had no direct knowledge of anything whatsoever, and this after other witnesses said quite simply, ‘No.’. I’m sorry, but hearsay just isn’t good enough, and that continues to appear to be all the dems have. It’s absurd.

        1. Don’t watch CNN nor do I worship any talking head. I think for myself; sadly, that concept escapes you. You really are dumb and need to educate yourself before posting your ramblings.

          1. YNOT:

            I must really make you uncomfortable for you to constantly insult my intelligence.

            What are your preferred news sources? How do you learn about current events?

    1. It’s possible that Sondland himself is the source of the hearsay.

      He admitted that no one on Planet Earth told him the aid was tied to an investigation. He said he just presumed it was.

      Others have confirmed that Ukraine knew nothing about it, despite months going by and numerous meetings, until Politico wrote about the allegation.

      Transcripts show no quid pro quo.

      If no one on the planet told him the aid was tied to the investigation, then he made it up.

      Democrats are guilty, repeatedly, of what they accuse Republicans of.

      Biden openly bragged about a quid pro quo on camera. He withheld over a $billion in aid to Ukraine unless they fired the prosecutor looking into Burisma by the time he left in 6 hours.

      As has been pointed out by others upstream, Obama engaged in a quid pro quo by giving Iran crates of laundered money for American hostages.

      Trump never asked for a quid pro quo. The witness who actually spoke with him confirmed he said he wanted NOTHING.

      Multiple witnesses have confirmed the Bidens engaged in conflict of interest and that allegations of wrongdoing are justified.

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