“I know that members of this committee frequently frame these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a ‘quid pro quo?’ As I testified previously with regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting, the answer is yes.”
—EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland
The final twenty minutes of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 cinematic masterpiece The Godfather features the killing of everyone protagonist Michael Corleone considers enemies to his crime family. The mob boss refers to this as “taking care of all family business.” This is the best analogy to describe what EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland did this week in his testimony to congress. Those who figured this pro-Trump donor, rich guy who bought his way into his position would plead the fifth amendment and be a hostile witness to the Democratic-led impeachment hearings were way off. The man came with a story and that story is that not only did the President of the United States demand that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelinisky make a public statement that his country would be conducting investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son’s involvement in a company called Burisma, but whether the investigation actually transpired mattered in no way to Donald Trump, only that it was publicly announced, so the President could use it as a political hammer to pummel who be believed was his most threatening opponent in the 2020 election.
Essentially, days after the Mueller Report made it clear a frightening number of members of the Trump 2016 campaign for president worked with Russians to dig up dirt on his then opponent Hillary Clinton, Trump was doing it again. I mean, what country makes public announcements about starting an investigation? But, shit, who can blame him? It worked the first time. Sondland, a businessman with no experience being an ambassador of anything, was tasked with “making deals” with the President’s private counsel, Rudolf Giuliani, in Ukraine to help the President out. Instead, he got busted and went all Michael Corleone, repeating over and over this week under oath, “We followed the President’s orders.”
During his opening statement Sondland emphatically stated, “We all understood that these pre-requisites for the White House call and White House meeting reflected President Trump’s desires and requirements. Secretary (Rick) Perry, Ambassador (Kurt) Volker, and I worked with Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the President of the United States.”
Sondland evoked the infamous “Three Amigos,” who were running a counter shadow diplomacy (shakedown) with the Ukraine president while diplomats like Dr. Fiona Hill, who testified the next day she was pissed at Sondland for undermining their work, were woefully unaware. But they were not alone. Before Sondland was done guffawing his way through his testimony he dragged half the Trump Administration into this fiasco—Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House Chief of Staff Mike Mulvaney, Vice President Mike Pence and all those in their employ. “I don’t remember anyone ever sounding an alarm bell,” he said under questioning. “Everyone’s hair was on fire, but no one decided to talk to us.”
Sondland testified that “everyone was in the loop” on what amounted to a half-baked plan to get Ukraine into American domestic politics because Trump has proven he cannot win an election without foreign aid. Again, this makes sense: if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. But this time he was a sitting president, and according to one of the first and foremost edicts of the founders of this nation, there should never be foreigners involved in any American election. And so now Trump is being impeached over it, which also makes sense to me, because if it is broke, you kind of have to try and fix it.
But what now of the Secretary of State, who has already been implicated by what has appeared over the past few months to be a seriously brain damaged Rudy Giuliani, who went on every television station available to say the State Department begged him to conduct this lunacy? Pompeo has also admitted to being on the July 25 call that was the smoking gun to all of this, and if Sondland and Giuliani are to be believed—and who the fuck knows about that because they’re are both as guilty as sin and running wild trying to toss as much mud everywhere else—then he, and thus the State Department, was more or less in charge of this operation.
Giuliani seems to be the sacrificial goat here, as his partners in crime and Republicans in the House try and make him the end-game on how this craziness went off the rails, somehow separating the private attorney for Trump who was doing something that would benefit the President as a rogue agent. For his part, Giuliani continues to claim to be some kind of lawyer yet litigates on TV shows and waves around documents corroborated by idiots and delinquents, then gets caught in several criminal operations which are currently being investigated by the state of New York.
Then it was Mike Mulvaney’s turn. You might remember the President’s Chief of Staff and the one responsible for the money being held up for Ukraine that alarmed the whistleblower and the parade of witnesses proving an impeachable offense this week, holding a press conference admitting weeks ago that Trump was extorting the Ukrainians and that we “should get over it.” Turns out Sondland was also reporting this nonsense back to him and that he knew all about it and this is why neither he nor Pompeo want any part of testifying in these hearings despite Republicans and Trump supporters shouting about how innocent, normal, and “perfect” this behavior is by the President. Why, you may ask, do they hide from exonerating him? Sondland says they can’t speak simply because they’re guilty, like he’s guilty, which made his testimony so compelling. The guy, with a huge smile on his face like someone busted with his hands in the cookie job, openly implicated himself in front of Congress. That is bad ass.
Then Sondland turned on the Vice President, making sure Congress and the American people understood he was also in this nefarious “loop.” This took Republicans by surprise. They had spent all week jumping through rhetorical hoops to divest Pence from this mess just in case things went haywire in the Senate and Trump did get sent packing. To this end, smelling a possible presidency, the office for Mike Pence had to scramble in real time to send out a mass press email denying all of it. Trump followed Sondland’s show with his classic, “I barely know this guy” routine–which may soon be the case with Giuliani, Mulvaney, and Pence.
Can’t you see it?
“Sure, Mike is the Vice President, but I hardly talk to him and can’t even picture what he looks like.”
Because, of course, all of these crimes, testified Sondland, was at the behest of Donald J. Trump. This, I should point out, was after the multi-millionaire, who doesn’t need this gig, watched former Trump associate Roger Stone go to jail earlier in the week for seven counts of fraud, lying, and the usual stuff people around Trump go to prison for. At first Sondland, who began his opening statement by stating proudly he was “a lifelong Republican,” couldn’t remember half of this in his initial deposition, but testimony from colleagues began to out him, which duly jogged his memory.
That memory is the final nail in Trump’s coffin in the House. He will doubtless now be the fourth president stained with impeachment forevermore and by all rights should be on a helicopter out of D.C. by Christmas, but the Republicans will make a monumental statement by not convicting him in the Senate—all of this is fine for the next president and the one after that, whether Republican, Democrat, or Russian, or Ukrainian. Anything goes, and there isn’t a fucking thing the second equal-branch of government can do about it.