Hello and welcome to our live coverage of day four of the impeachment hearings. Today, Americans will come together and have an hours-long, nationally televised chat about The Gordon Problem.
That’s how former National Security Council adviser Fiona Hill referred to Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union who played a key role in pressuring Ukrainians to announce investigations that could help Donald Trump win re-election in 2020, according to testimony.
Sondland, the hotelier who got his job after he gave $1m to make the Trump inauguration beautiful, is scheduled to begin testifying this morning at 9am, in a day that has the White House worried and the Democrats banking on a breakthrough.
Why is Sondland’s testimony a big deal? Because he could testify that Trump was directly orchestrating the Ukraine plot, which amounted to an attempt by Trump to use the power of the presidency to keep himself in the presidency, his critics say.
If that’s not impeachable, critics of the president’s conduct have asked, then what is?
Sondland spoke on the phone regularly with Trump, according to other witnesses and his own previous testimony. One witness overheard Trump ask Sondland on the phone, “So he’s going to do the investigation?” and heard Sondland reply, “He’s going to do it,” adding that President Volodymyr Zelenskiy will quote, “Do anything you ask him to.”
Other witnesses have described Sondland pressuring the Ukrainians in multiple scenes, including at a 10 July White House meeting; on 25 July in advance of the phone call in which Trump himself pressured the Ukrainians; and on 1 September during bilateral meetings in Warsaw.
One point of potential drama to look out for today: Sondland himself has changed his testimony, originally telling investigators that he took Trump at his word that there was no “quid pro quo” with Ukraine, but then admitting he had informed an adviser to Zelenskiy that no military aid was likely to flow without an announcement of investigations. Which Gordon will show up on Wednesday?
There are so many questions. Is it true that Trump demanded that Zelenskiy say “investigations”, “Biden” and Clinton”, as witnesses have testified? Is it true that military aid specifically was on the line, and did the Ukrainians understand that, as witnesses have testified? Is it true that Trump did not “give a shit about Ukraine”, as witnesses etc?
Thanks for joining us.