To call it a bombshell is to underestimate

The Guardian pauses to take a breath and sum up:

With each line of his testimony, Sondland has blown another hole in Donald Trump’s defenses. To describe the testimony as a bombshell is perhaps to underestimate its potential for damage to Trump. To attempt to describe the shock that it is Sondland delivering this message is to come up short for words.

Since the impeachment inquiry began, Trump has ranted that there was no quid pro quo with Ukraine, no conditions placed on a White House meeting, no strings on US military aid, only a desire to fight corruption in Ukraine and to pursue the truth about 2016. It is all a witch hunt, a hoax, Trump has said.

But every bit of it is true, and most every word from Trump’s mouth and his Twitter about it has been a lie, Sondland is testifying. There was a clear quid pro quo, repeatedly stated, and explicitly ordered by Trump through his designated agent, Rudy Giuliani.

Sondland is saying: he did it.

Sondland is also saying: we did it. He is quoting emails demonstrating that the plot, which secretary of state Mike Pompeo once pretended ignorance to, was well known inside the state department, National Security Council and budget office – and by vice president Mike Pence. “It was no secret,” Sondland said.

Now he begins a cross-examination period sure to generate moments that will go down in US political history.

What did the Mike Ps know and when did they know it.

Schiff is driving down on what the Mike Ps – Pompeo and Pence – knew and when they knew it.

Did Pompeo ever deny the connection between investigations and the White House meeting?

“Not that I recall.”

In a meeting with the vice-president in Warsaw, Sondland said he told Pence that he thought the military aid would not flow without the announcement of investigations.

Pence remained sphynxlike, in Sondland’s telling:

The vice president nodded like he heard what I said and that was pretty much it.

Sphynxlike? I think the correct word for that is “stupid.” Pence nodded because his head is empty.

Now Sondland is talking about a phone conversation in which Trump told him there was no quid pro quo. Earlier Sondland had said he took the president at his word. Now Sondland is saying he and everyone else knew there was a clear quid pro quo.

Sondland said after “frantic emails to me and to others about the security assistance” from ambassador Bill Taylor, Sondland called Trump and asked, “what do you want from Ukraine… what do you want?”

It was a very short abrupt conversation, he was not in a good mood. He said I want nothing, I want nothing, there’s no quid pro quo. Tell Zelenskiy to do the right thing.

That’s Trump all right. “There’s no quid pro quo, tell Zelenskiy to do the right thing, get it?

But the Republicans want us to take the lies at face value.

Castor, the Republican lawyer, asks Sondland if Trump ever told him personally that aid or a meeting were conditioned on an announcement of investigations.

Sondland: “Personally, no.”

Castor: So how did you know Giuliani spoke for Trump?

Sondland: “Well when the president says talk to my personal attorney and then Mr Giuliani says ‘as the president’s attorney,’ we assume it’s coming from the president.

Then Castor splits hairs between Trump saying “Go talk to Rudy” and “Talk to Rudy”. It wasn’t an order, correct? Castor says.

We understood we had to talk to Rudy to get anything done on Ukraine, Sondland said.

Oh but no no no this was all a rogue operation by Rudy Giuliani, entirely on his own, nothing to do with Trump, Trump had no idea it was going on, he is shocked, SHOCKED to hear of it.

But Giuliani has insurance:

Is Giuliani going under the bus?

You’ll recall:

Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, has said he is confident the president will remain loyal to him as an impeachment inquiry unfolds in which the former New York mayor has become a central figure.

But Giuliani joked that he had good “insurance” in case Trump did turn on him, amid speculation Republicans will seek to frame him as a rogue actor.

In a telephone interview with the Guardian, in response to a question about whether he was nervous that Trump might “throw him under a bus” in the impeachment crisis, Giuliani said, with a slight laugh: “I’m not, but I do have very, very good insurance, so if he does, all my hospital bills will be paid.”

Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert Costello, who was also on the call, then interjected: “He’s joking.”

Nah, he’s not. They’re both crooks and they know each other well.

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