I expect that Jennifer Williams’s and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s testimony this morning will confirm other witnesses’ testimony, with few if any surprises.
The most interesting testimony this week is likely to come from Kurt Volker (this afternoon) and Gordon Sondland (Wednesday). It is hard to predict what they will say. A report last night said that Sondland is changing his deposition again.
Volker has been the Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, the negotiations on getting Russia out of eastern Ukraine. He has been a foreign service officer, like Chargé d’Affaires William Taylor and others who have testified. And yet he was one of the “Three Amigos,” Sondland and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry being the other two. He seems to have known about the Giuliani channel into Ukraine and worked with it. Seemingly working for the United States of America, but with some special stuff on the side for Donald Trump personally. Perhaps we will learn how he reconciled those two things.
Sondland’s career has been building a hotel chain. As a big donor to the Trump Inauguration Committee, he got in line for an ambassadorship and is now Ambassador to the European Union. There is nothing in his history that suggests he is in any way qualified for that job. He stretched (or was told to stretch) his responsibilities to Ukraine, which is not part of the EU. In fact, having the American Ambassador to the EU messing around with Ukraine would be likely to irritate Russia and raise questions in other places about US intentions.
Adam Schiff and the House Intelligence Committee are doing a great job in the hearings, but I have some questions of my own for Gordon Sondland.
1) Did Donald Trump suggest the job of Ambassador to the EU, or did you?
2) How did he describe what he wanted you to do in the job? Do you have a written job description?
3) Did you contact current or former ambassadors to learn how to ambassador? If you did, was that before or after the job offer?
4) Do you know that Ukraine is not a member of the EU? That Russia feels strongly about that? Did you know when you told Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch that you were in charge of Ukraine?
5) Did you at any time meet with or take instruction from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo?
6) Did you have any training in security issues? Did Trump tell you to disregard security precautions?
7) Are you aware that the Federal Records Act applies to your communications with the President?
Great post, Cheryl!
Yovanovitch, maybe? Viktor Yanukovych is someone else.
As I’m sure Gin & Tonic will not
ETA: Pedantry aside: I agree with Quinerly, great post. I’m sure Gym Jordan will ask all those questions.
Normally. In this case, Putin laughed so hard he spit out his vodka.
@SFAW: Corrected, thanks!
Gin & Tonic
Volker was pretty well-respected in Ukraine, but his loyalty to Trumpworld is a little puzzling, as (even though he was a FSO) he was a McCainiac.
Close enough for government work.
Has any of the RWMF mental giants called it “the Ukraine” yet?
I follow Ambassador McFaul on twitter. He is genuinely concerned about Volker’s testimony. McFaul says he has known Volker to be a stand up guy but does not know what to expect from his upcoming public testimony.
My question for Sondland is, has anyone tried to offer you large sums of money to retract your revised testimony and “get with the program” ie defend trumpov at all costs?
Oh wait, question #2: has anyone threatened you if you don’t retract your revised testimony and “get with the program” ie defend trumpov at all costs?
@SFAW: Steve Castor did in that clip I posted in the previous impeachment thread.
Adam L Silverman
@Patricia Kayden: That’s just unfair to concentrate.
I know this goes without saying but I think it should be noted that for ordinary people (not wealthy real estate developers) “changing” your testimony because you’re a liar is not a no harm, no foul event.
Mr. Sondland didn’t magically transform into a serial fabricator when he bought this job. This is what he is.
Who was that goober trying to parse the word “favor” with Lt. Col. Vindman? And what happened to Rep. Stefanic other than her opponent raising over $1m subsequently?
I saw interview clip of Sondland and his wife on one (probably Rachel) of msnbc shows last evening. I already thought he was a dope learning of his open phone call, etc but the clip and background info on him just confirmed that. Fits perfectly into the trump orbit, no brain cells or integrity and tons of money are a toxic stew.
Sondland is a fool who, I’m guessing, contributed more to Trump”s campaign than Trump did. What’s happening to him is quite nasty, though, broadly speaking, he’s getting what he deserves.
Ah, there she is.
@Kay: Someone should flat-out ask him why anybody should believe anything he says, given his …spotty memory.
Steve in the ATL
Unrelated: latest email from Next Door: “Anyone missing 4 Rottweilers?”
I may keep the cat inside for a bit.
It’s so unexpected that the RWMFs would bring in an incompetent counsel.
@Steve in the ATL:
That is one tough, mean-ass cat, if he/she made four Rotties “go missing.”
@SFAW: Hey, don’t fuck with cats. Dogs forgive, cats carry grudges.
You know, I would have been okay if Vindman lept over the table and plunged a tactical knife into the side of Gym Jordan’s neck uttering the words ‘…all enemies foreign and domestic…’ and then proceeded to sit back down and request the next question, subtly wiping the knife off on a handkerchief under the table.
<blockquote>3) Did you contact current or former ambassadors to learn how to ambassador?</blockquote>
The verb for “what an ambassador does” should clearly be “ambassa.“
Part of the mental illness that is the GOP is that they don’t need to reconcile such things. Remember? They consider it *good* if they prevent non-Republicans from voting, or damage blue state economies, etc.. The USA = the GOP to them.
Hm. Mental illness is a bit kind – “moral illness” is a bit more fitting.
From what I’ve seen in other cases American ambassadorships are handed out as political prizes rather than being assigned to people with experience of foreign affairs. I presume any nation presented with a car dealer, sports team owner or actress as the new American ambassador does a grip-and-grin, arranges a formal dinner to welcome them and talks to the 10-year State Department veteran permanent charge d’affaires to discuss any real business at hand.
I have felt from the beginning that the Sondland origin story is the most interesting part of this. He has no history as part of the trump menagerie, he is a RINO type guy. Exactly how does he go from a celebrity appointment in a relative diplomatic backwater to pushing aside the NSC and the State Department, announcing that he is in charge of Ukraine policy because “the president said so”.
Generally this process is via trump seeing some guy on Fox, but not in this case. I would really be interested in an answer to this.
@Steve in the ATL: I once saw a sign taped to a lamppost in my neighborhood that read “Iguana-Found: If you are missing a 4 foot long iguana, you will be happy to know that he/she is safe at the local humane society. I, on the other hand, had a _very_ stressful Monday after your dinosaur found its way onto my balcony. You owe me a beer. I can be reached at (phone). You’re welcome.”
(yes, I took a picture, and no, I’m not in Florida)
I expect Sondland, a real rich person, to have a decent lawyer. I expect him to use whatever Fifth Amendment protection still applies to avoid answering any further questions, until he gets some sort of immunity.
Jungle Gyn Jordan’s on a wingnut roll.
J R in WV
Cheryl, nice post. I especially like the last two questions:
They could put Mr. Sondland into a very tight box with legal issues on all sides!
Gin & Tonic
@Robert Sneddon: The US has always posted career FSO’s to Ukraine.
@Robert Sneddon: It’s a mixed bag. All the ambassadors to Ukraine have been foreign service professionals. The previous ambassador to Estonia (which I keep tabs on) was a foreign service officer. The latest put up for approval is a donor.
In the past, when donors were named, they usually had some connection to the country and some reason to believe that they would work with the foreign service people. That expectation, like much else in government, has been obliterated by Trump.
I just realized Gym Jordan sounds like that character from “KIng Of The Hill” – Boomhauer.
What I have heard is that the US can get away with sending out bozos as ambassadors because we’re so important to the world order. The real diplomacy takes place in Washington between senior people at the State Department and the other country’s ambassador to the US. The stuff that happens in the other country’s capital is unimportant, so who our ambassador is is similarly unimportant.
While eating lunch I saw Will Hurd continuing the same R inane line of questioning. Wasn’t he supposed to be the great moderate hope?
Not snark; never been exposed to that world: is everyone in high-end real estate trash? And stupid to boot?
Further question for Sondland: did you know you were a dumbass before you got into this clown car, or did you only figure that out in the past few weeks?
What needs to be fleshed out in these hearings is a timeline of when, exactly, the quid pro quo of military assistance for a (sham) investigation into the Bidens and Crowdstrike became explicit, and who knew it and when did they know it. Trump froze the aid on July 18, and then told Zelenskyy on the 25th to “do him a favor,” in return for some missiles the Ukrainians wanted. But it from what I’ve seen, it appears that the Ukrainians didn’t actually realize that the whole military aid package was being held up specifically because of the “corruption issue” until late August sometime and then went into panic mode. In other words, the president’s phone call on July 25 was just dropping a sort of hint. When Zelenskyy demurred, Trump got pissed and told Giuliani and Sondland (and Volker?) to start ratcheting up the pressure. Giuliani and Volker had breakfast on July 19. What did they discuss? Were either of them aware that Trump had held up the aid package? Giuliani meets Zelenskyy’s aid Yermak in Madrid a few days later to demand the investigation; Sondland starts telling Taylor that Trump needs the “deliverables,” etc. On August 28, Yermak went to Volker to ask what the hell was going on. Volker needs to testify explicitly to what he told Yermak at that point. It was obviously the quid pro quo because two days later, Yermak meets with a gobsmacked Taylor and says this is what Volker has told him. This prompts Taylor to reach out to Sondland and ask WTF? and that’s when Sondland then goes to Trump and Trump tells him to tell Taylor “there’s no quid pro quo,” but that he needs the investigation in order to release the military aid (and also confirming Trump has no idea what quid pro quo means).
So, Mr. Volker — who’s right? Remember you’re under oath. And good lawyers never ask a question they don’t already know the answer to.
@Cheryl Rofer: Hmm, I can’t recall any names, but I remember the Bush administrations having something of a reputation for appointing donors with no particular ability to do the job. The difference was, they knew they were just getting a government-paid home abroad, and just did ceremonies and photo ops, leaving the actual diplomacy to the career professionals.
How did Volker, Sondland and Perry get the name of “3 amigos”? Did they name themselves that or did some other dipshit come up with that idea?
Brownie (a.k.a. “Heckuva job, Brownie)?
Wasn’t he a horse trainer or something?
@Martin: So someone agrees with me
@Cheryl Rofer: Some connection with the nation they are sent to? From the US Embassy’s website, in Britain:
Ambassador Johnson has served for more than thirty years as the Chairman and CEO of The Johnson Company, New York, NY, a private asset management firm; and since 2000 as the Chairman and CEO of the New York Jets football team and New York Jets Foundation.
I see no connection with the UK or anywhere outside the CONUS in that posting which, I presume, ranks as one of the more important Ambassadorships for the US.
In contrast, the UK Ambassador to the US is/was Kim Darroch, a 40-year veteran of the Foreign Office with decades of experience in Europe and elsewhere at a high level.
After the cables leak that caused him to resign in post, awaiting his successor to be appointed he got gonged in May’s Resignation Honours (showing that she didn’t think he did anything wrong in privately advising HMG that “the Trump administration  was inept and insecure”). Once he’s replaced I’d expect him to get another important post given his wealth of experience. Your sports team guy, God knows what will happen to him once the administration changes in 2021.
God, no, because then we’re down the rabbit hole again, like we were with Cohen. Cohen implicates Trump but it doesn’t matter, because as we all know all Trump hires lie constantly. That actually happened. The lying benefits Trump coming and going. They lie for him and then when they flip the response is “well, they’re liars!”
James E Powell
How about, The question is, Mr Sondland, were you lying then, are you lying now, or are you not in fact a chronic and habitual LIAR!
Devin Nunes has descended to new depths of dickishness and buffoonery.
@Robert Sneddon: As I said, it was the practice before Trump for even donor ambassadors to have some connection with the country they were sent to. The Paris and London embassies have always been plum jobs – lots of parties. But the donor ambassadors usually let the foreign service officers run things
ETA: The sports team guy will be replaced by the next administration.
Trump has finally made an appearance. Based on his hair he has been performing in an A Flock of Seagulls cover band.
West of the Rockies
I’m really surprised current Pence aide is testifying. Why isn’t she going the route of just saying no? I imagine she’s getting heat from Pence and Trump, no?
@Baud: Comment of the day! :)
I really really want the US to reform after Trump and make Ambassadors be experienced Civil Service.I have felt for years that it was at best a bad look for it to be known that you could donate to the winner of our elections and get a fun diplomatic post. I didn’t like it when Bill Clinton was President, or Obama. I wasn’t really aware before then.
Do you have a link?
Check the video:
Gin & Tonic
@West of the Rockies: Jennifer Williams is career FSO, not political.
Where in cold-as-shit was the 1940 DNC held? :)
James E Powell
Chicago. One suspects that the rooms were smoky.
@hilts: try this again…
Here is the link:
By all accounts, with the help of his wife’s family money he became a successful businessman. He thinks that he is smart enough to thread any needle, and that he could bend the truth without being caught. In the case of the restaurant phone calls, I am guessing that he would say that he omitted referring to them because no one specifically asked about them.
Pres. Franklin Roosevelt picked Joseph Kennedy Sr. to be Ambassador to the UK in 1938 (he only lasted 2 years). So picking rich, well connected people is nothing new for either party.
True: but FDR sent old Joe Kennedy off to the UK basically to get rid of him. IIRC, Roosevelt set up his own parallel channels of communication , so that the nominal Ambassador could run around making a fool of himself, while the real work of diplomacy (which would work fairly well in WWII) was accomplished by professionals responsible – and loyal – to FDR.
Kinda/sorta like Trump was trying to re Ukraine: except that FDR was a brilliant and capable leader, while Trump is an incompetent moron.
@gvg: My understanding is that the State Department is very much underfunded, and in certain flashy postings, eg. UK , Paris, EU, they need a rich ambassador to fund the entertaining that must be done. And rhat normal political ambassadors defer to the professionals. All the important stuff is done in DC.
If so, poor pathetic Sunderlan needs to go to jail, just as an object lesson to other rich morons about the limits of their authority.
Also, State Department shouldn’t be so underfunded.