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Gordon Sondland delivers the 'John Dean' moment

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US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland said he - as well as Energy Secretary Rick Perry and US diplomat Kurt Volker - did not want to work with Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters, but they did so because "we were playing the hand we were dealt."

Posted: Nov 20, 2019 1:20 PM
Updated: Nov 20, 2019 1:20 PM

The John Dean moment in this impeachment inquiry has arrived -- President Donald Trump's abuse of power has been confirmed by a witness with direct involvement in the scheme.

Dean, we remember, was the White House lawyer and aide whose testimony before Congress revealed during the Watergate hearings in 1973 that President Richard Nixon knew all about crimes committed against his political opponents and covered them up. It was Dean who told Nixon, "We have a cancer within, close to the presidency, that's growing."

Forty-five years after Dean spoke, EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland, testifying to the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, confirmed that Trump and his out-of-control personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani extorted Ukraine in a scheme to smear a political rival and rewrite the history of the 2016 election (a charge both men have denied).

Calm, sober, and direct in a way Trump has never been in his public appearances, Sondland said, "We followed the President's orders" as he worked with Giuliani on a "quid pro quo" that required Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to do certain favors before his country would receive promised aid for its war against Russia and its proxies. Thousands have died since Russia backed the start of the war and Ukraine desperately needed the nearly $400 million in weaponry that Congress had approved and the Pentagon had determined should be sent.

As Sondland confirmed in his statements, Trump and Giuliani wanted Zelensky to announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden's family and into a debunked conspiracy theory about Ukrainians somehow waging an influence war on the 2016 election.

The world knows that Russia was the source of a massive disinformation effort intended to tip the 2016 election in Trump's favor. Confirmed unanimously by US intelligence officials, the Russian plot put a stain on Trump's narrow victory, which he was obviously seeking to remove by shifting the blame to Ukraine.

It's not hard to imagine the excitement Trump and Giuliani could have felt as they pulled the strings. Biden was the leading contender among Democrats running for president. His son Hunter had served on the board of a Ukrainian firm called Burisma, which the two men wanted Zelensky to target for investigation. If, as they asked, Zelensky had announced that Burisma and the 2016 election would be scrutinized, President Trump's 2020 reelection drive would be served.

According to Sondland, who echoed others who have appeared before the House Intelligence Committee, Giuliani pursued a blunt effort of increasing pressure on Zelensky. In response to a question from committee chairman Adam Schiff, Sondland said that "more and more conditions were being placed" on the plan for Zelensky to be granted a visit to the White House to meet with Trump. Such a meeting was of great importance, as it would signal to Russia that America remained a reliable ally to Ukraine.

"Everyone was in the loop," said Sondland as he explained that he had informed administration officials from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney about Zelensky's plan to give in to the pressure.

Sondland, in both his own recollections and confirmation of testimony from others, described a President committed to his own political interests and disinterested in normal policy. Sondland said Trump expressed no concern for an ally at war and had a firm commitment to the bizarre idea that a company called Crowdstrike operated a computer server in Ukraine that was the key to the chaos of the 2016 US election. The idea has no currency outside extreme right wing media and no real proof of it has surfaced anywhere.

With his testimony, Sondland portrayed the Trump-Giuliani scheme as constructed out of lies and fantasies and characterized the schemers to be aggressive, abusive and heedless of the damage they were doing to both the United States and Ukraine. As the military aid was delayed, battles raged and soldiers died. As Trump and Giuliani devoted themselves to undermining US intelligence agencies with their promotion of a conspiracy theory, they presented an American face to the world that is no better than a raving drunk in a barstool debate. To them, facts don't matter. Reality is secondary. And if you don't agree, something bad will happen. As Trump darkly said to Zelensky of then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, "She's going to go through some things."

Sondland's testimony rings true to anyone who knows the Trump record, both before and after his election. Manipulative and deceptive, Trump is renowned for his lies and for a commitment to them that seems profoundly self-destructive. In the past all he risked was his business, which was built in his name. That name now lies in ruins. As president, he risked America's well-being and its standing in the world. Both have taken a beating in the Trump era. The recovery may well have started on Wednesday with Sondland's John Dean moment.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 28770

Reported Deaths: 1092
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds224739
DeSoto144216
Madison124234
Jones109149
Neshoba97070
Lauderdale89479
Rankin86012
Forrest82942
Harrison79410
Scott75715
Copiah58016
Leake56519
Jackson55716
Holmes53641
Wayne52212
Lee51816
Oktibbeha51625
Washington5129
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Warren46317
Lowndes45912
Lincoln43734
Lamar4317
Grenada3965
Pike39312
Monroe37529
Lafayette3684
Attala35523
Newton3329
Sunflower3216
Covington3175
Bolivar29813
Panola2956
Adams28018
Simpson2713
Chickasaw26418
Tate2648
Marion26311
Pontotoc2616
Jasper2516
Noxubee2478
Pearl River24532
Clay24410
Winston2446
Claiborne23910
Marshall2123
Smith21111
Clarke20424
Coahoma1906
Union1819
Walthall1794
Kemper17614
Yalobusha1667
Lawrence1621
Carroll16111
Humphreys1309
Itawamba1308
Tippah12711
Webster12610
Calhoun1244
Montgomery1242
Hancock12313
Tallahatchie1153
Jefferson Davis1074
Prentiss1003
Greene968
Jefferson963
Wilkinson929
Tunica903
Amite842
George753
Tishomingo731
Choctaw724
Quitman690
Perry634
Alcorn601
Stone541
Franklin392
Benton270
Sharkey270
Issaquena81
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 41362

Reported Deaths: 983
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson4532143
Montgomery3875102
Mobile3797134
Tuscaloosa210739
Marshall162210
Lee124537
Shelby110923
Madison11047
Morgan10203
Walker87123
Franklin86314
Dallas8419
Elmore83614
Baldwin7359
Etowah64413
DeKalb6415
Butler60727
Chambers60027
Tallapoosa57269
Autauga55312
Unassigned50724
Russell5030
Lowndes45820
Lauderdale4576
Houston4464
Limestone4290
Cullman4114
Pike4075
Colbert3775
Bullock3649
Coffee3592
Barbour3331
Covington3327
St. Clair3192
Marengo29911
Hale29621
Escambia2936
Wilcox2848
Talladega2827
Calhoun2805
Sumter27912
Clarke2686
Dale2620
Jackson2522
Winston2373
Blount2181
Pickens2176
Chilton2152
Marion20613
Monroe2052
Choctaw19212
Randolph1889
Conecuh1866
Greene1788
Macon1778
Bibb1761
Perry1541
Henry1303
Crenshaw1243
Washington1027
Lawrence1000
Cherokee797
Lamar711
Geneva700
Fayette671
Clay612
Coosa571
Cleburne301
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