Volker and Sondland appear to scurry to seal the deal

The Guardian has a helpfully concise summary of the texts issue.

Just before midnight Thursday, three House committees involved in the impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump released a letter advising colleagues of discoveries they had made over the course of nine hours of testimony that day by Kurt Volker, the former US special envoy to Ukraine.

Attached to the letter were six pages of transcripts of text messages among Volker; acting US ambassador to the Ukraine Bill Taylor; US ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland; and an aide to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelinskiy.

I was misled by the matching “ambassador” titles earlier this morning until I read further. Bill Taylor is a career diplomat, a civil servant; Gordan Sondland is a hotel tycoon and big Trump donor. The two “ambassadors” have radically different loyalties and motivations and qualifications.

The text messages capture a running conversation among the diplomats about how to fulfill a demand from “Potus” and his personal agent, Rudy Giuliani, that Zelinskiy make a public statement that Ukraine would investigate a company tied to Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son.

In exchange for the public statement, the diplomats dangle an official White House invitation for Zelinskiy. Also on the table is a large military aid package for Ukraine that Donald Trump had suspended.

While Volker and Sondland appear to scurry to seal the deal, (“I think Potus really wants the deliverable,” Sondland writes), Taylor uses the text exchange to memorialize what he believes is outrageous conduct. “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” he says in one text.

Sondland replies, implausibly, that nobody is talking about a quid-pro-quo here.

At the center of the current impeachment inquiry against Trump is the allegation that he used the power of the presidency to wrest help for his political campaign from foreign countries.

Many people read the text exchange as jaw-droppingly powerful evidence of exactly that conduct.

Preet Bharara:

All week I’ve been saying you never see direct written evidence of a quid pro quo. I stand corrected.

Matt Miller:

I keep imagining him walking around the last couple months asking “can you say that again a little more clearly and right into this lapel?”


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