“WHAT’S IN THE PRESIDENT’S MIND”
by Sharon Rondeau
Sondland is U.S. Ambassador to the European Union (EU), which includes Ukraine. Sondland was one of only a few Trump administration officials to be subpoenaed and defy the White House’s request not to appear.
Schiff admitted that “it’s been a long day” but proceeded to read from sections of Sondland’s 45-minute opening statement for a total of approximately ten minutes.
At about the halfway point of Wednesday’s hearing, Sondland’s attorney informed Schiff that his client expected to board a plane to return to Brussels that evening and would appreciate a shorter-than-30-minute lunch break, as Schiff had announced,
Schiff added his own commentary to what he read of Sondland’s prepared remarks, which included his interpretation of a reported lack of response to Sondland’s comments about Ukraine matters by Vice President Mike Pence as testified to by Sondland.
Earlier in the afternoon, Pence’s office issued a statement to the effect that Pence never met privately with Sondland to discuss Ukraine.
In a follow-on speech which grew more impassioned, Schiff said, “Let’s look at what’s in the president’s head” regarding his alleged intention to withhold congressionally-authorized military aid to Ukraine over part of the summer, a point to which Sondland testified Wednesday many times.
Prior to boarding Marine One for a trip, President Trump read a statement to reporters in which he quoted Sondland’s own words during a phone call with the president in September: “I want nothing (from Ukraine). No quid pro quo.”
Schiff went on to read from the White House transcript of a July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, which a CIA “whistleblower” claimed Trump exploited to exert undue influence on a weaker foreign government. The complaint accused Trump of attempting to have Zelenskiy investigate a “political opponent” in the person of former Vice President Joe Biden.
During the call, Trump asked Zelenskiy for the “favor” of his launching an investigation into Ukrainian energy company Burisma and alleged Ukrainian meddling in the U.S. 2016 elections.
Biden’s son Hunter was a Burisma Board of Directors member, garnering between $50,000 and $83,000 monthly, while his father served as Obama’s Ukraine point person following Russia’s 2014 invasion and annexation of Crimea.
The Trump administration has sent lethal and non-lethal aid to Ukraine totaling in the hundreds of millions, while the Obama regime, following the Russian invasion, sent blankets.
Trump also expressed to Zelenskiy that he was concerned that a DNC server said to have been breached by Russians is currently in Ukraine and that political elements within that nation had attempted to sabotage his presidential candidacy.
Schiff said it is important to determine “what’s in the president’s mind when he places this inexplicable hold….” on the funds.
At 3:46, Schiff said that the whistleblower complaint did not prompt the impeachment inquiry, but rather, Trump’s conduct. He said that Congress cannot abandon its oath of office, ending the hearing and prompting applause from the gallery.
It was not the first time applause erupted over the course of the day, although at no time were Republicans’ statements applauded.
The impeachment inquiry follows a 22-month Special Counsel investigation into whether or not Trump or his campaign aides “colluded” with the Russians to win the 2016 election. A final report released in March concluded that in fact, no American coordinated with the Kremlin to interfere in the election.
A second finding was that the Russians launched aggressive interference efforts to disrupt the election.
The Justice Department is currently investigating the origins of the “collusion” narrative, reportedly enlisting the assistance of the governments of Italy, Australia, and the UK.
Throughout the hearing, Democrats termed Trump’s expressed concern to Zelenskiy that Ukraine attempted to affect the outcome of the election a “debunked conspiracy theory” without providing evidence as to how it has been dispelled.