As the second trove of transcripts from the closed-door House impeachment inquiry hearings was released today, more incriminating new details were revealed that further reinforce the reality of the existence of a quid pro quo tying U.S. military assistance to Ukraine to that country’s cooperation in Donald Trump’s investigation of his political opponents.
Today’s transcripts contain the testimony of Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt Volker, the former special envoy for Ukraine negotiations, and feature some damning revelations that will force the Trump administration to spin mightily to counteract their obvious implications of criminal intent.
One of the most incriminating details that was exposed today was an encrypted text message sent by special envoy Volker to a high-level Ukrainian official that outlined the exact words that the administration wanted President Volodymyr Zelensky to use in announcing his country’s agreement to investigate Trump’s politically-motivated targets and to try to give credence to the discredited right-wing conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine rather than Russia that interfered in the 2106 American presidential election.
Coupled with the testimony of EU Ambassador Sondland — who today revised his earlier sworn statements and conveniently admitted the existence of a quid pro quo that was indeed being held over the heads of Ukrainian government officials in order to gain the release of U.S. military assistance funding — the text adds to the “smoking gun” nature of the evidence of the crimes committed by the Trump administration that are being uncovered by the House probe.
Sondland’s sudden reversal of his earlier testimony indicates how effective a memory booster the subsequent testimony of witnesses like former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and her successor Bill Taylor can be when it suggests that one may have committed perjury with one’s prior statements.
All in all, it appears that the House Democrats are successfully piecing together the pieces of a puzzle that — when completed — will provide a strong case to forward to the Republican-controlled Senate for impeaching the president on his high crimes and misdemeanors.
Whether the GOP majority in the Senate will rise to the occasion and put the laws and values of the country as a whole over their partisan political interests is the trillion-dollar question to which the nation awaits an answer. Unless the voters in states let their Senators know that they won’t accept anything but Trump’s removal from office if their elected representatives expect to keep their seats, that answer may not be the one that they want to hear.
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Original reporting by Natasha Bertrand at Politico.