What a difference a day makes. Yesterday, thanks to an unforced error by Adam Schiff, Republicans were able to go on what seemed like an endless series of rants about conspiracy theories that from this man’s perspective had the chance of doing considerable damage to what was shaping up as one helluva nightmare for this president.
And then Gordon Sondland took the stand today and not only threw Trump, the man he gave a million dollars to, under the bus, he got in the driver’s seat and ran over him. He then he did the same to several other administration officials, including Mike Pomeo, Rick Perry, and Mike Pence.
In the span of 45 minutes, Sondland made clear that the aid to Ukraine was held up by Trump and that he was directed to work with Rudy Giuliani to make sure that President Zelensky agreed to announce an investigation into the 2016 election, Burisma and the Bidens as a condition for the release of that aid. And then he uttered the nine words that could potentially bring down this administration.
“Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.”
That thump you heard coming from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was the sound of Trump’s whole defense collapsing in on itself. He extorted a foreign leader to help him in the 2020 election and everyone knew it. Case closed.
House Republicans, blindsided, spent most of the hearing doing their best impersonation of Ralph Kramden going homina, homina, but in the end they looked as ridiculous as Jackie Gleason used to. At one point Jim Jordan, desperate to prove that Sondland was making up testimony, went so over the top while interrogating Sondland that he drew laughter not only from Sondland, but from many of the spectators in the Committee room.
Now before I go any further, it’s important to point out that this was Sondland’s third attempt at getting the facts straight, so it’s not like he’s the second coming of John Dean. Frankly, it would’ve been far better for all concerned if he had gotten it right the first time. That being said, I think what we saw here was a very successful business man who finally realized that while Trump can’t be indicted for any crimes he may commit in office, as we saw all too well with Roger Stone, that protection doesn’t apply to people who associate themselves with him. Whatever you may think of him, he’s no fool. There’s no way he’s taking a bullet for this president.
When you combine Sondland’s testimony with that of Laura Cooper’s, who despite Republican claims to the contrary, confirmed that the Ukrainians were aware that the aid had been held up, this was a much better day for Democrats. So far this week, we’ve had four hearings in two days and three of those four did not go well for Trump. All told, eight witnesses have given damning testimony against this president. Even the two lukewarm witnesses that Republicans were counting on did not offer any exculpatory evidence you could hang your hat on.
Where do we go from here? Well for starters, we still have a long way to go. Tomorrow, Fiona Hill and David Holmes will testify. Hill, you’ll remember was the supervisor who gave Alexander Vindman that outstanding review that he referenced in his testimony to refute Republicans’ charge that his judgment was subject; and Holmes was the assistant to Bill Taylor who overheard the phone call in which Sondland is heard saying to Trump that Zelinsky has agreed to start the investigations needed to secure Ukrainian aid. That should be fun.
Look, do I feel better that I did 24 hours ago? Yes. Have Democrats succeeded in their mission? That remains to be determined. As I’ve maintained from the beginning, if the polling for impeach and remove approaches the mid 50s or higher, Senate Republicans are going to have a very difficult time defending this president. You may even see some of them jump ship. And if Mitch McConnell believes his majority is in jeopardy, then all bets are off.
To quote that great Bob Dylan song, “It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.”