- The House Intelligence Committee released several transcripts from testimonies in the impeachment inquiry on Monday, including one from U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland, a key player in the investigation.
- Sondland had originally testified that there was no explicit quid pro quo involving security assistance to Ukraine in exchange for the country announcing an investigation presidential presidential candidate Joe Biden, a political rival of President Trump.
- But the now-released transcript shows that Sondland later changed his testimony in an amendment.
- In the amendment, Sondland wrote that he told an aide to Ukrainian President Zelensky “that resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks.”
Sondland Testimony Released
Gordon Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the EU who is a key witness in the impeachment inquiry, changed his testimony to say that there was a quid pro quo with Ukraine.
Sondland, generally considered a strong Trump ally, had previously denied that the U.S. withheld nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine to pressure the country to investigate presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Sondland was mentioned by name in the whistleblower’s complaint alongside the former U.S. envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker.
In the complaint, the whistleblower wrote that Volker and Sondland “reportedly provided advice to the Ukrainian leadership about how to ‘navigate’ the demands that the President had made of Mr. Zelenskyy.”
Sondland was also implicated in a set of text messages released by the House that involved key people organizing the call between President Donald Trump and Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the conversations that followed.
One of the most significant interactions from those texts was between Sondland and William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine where the two discussed the Trump administration’s decision to withhold aid.
During the conversation, Taylor texted Sondland: “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”
Sondland responded to that concern, telling Taylor that Trump “has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind.”
“The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign I suggest we stop the back and forth by text,” he continued.
Sondland’s First Testimony
Sondland was supposed to testify on Oct. 8, but at the last minute, his testimony was blocked by the State Department. He ended up testifying about a week later.
Sondland initially told lawmakers that he knew Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani had told Ukraine to announce an investigation into Biden in exchange for a meeting between Trump and Zelensky at the Oval Office.
However, he denied direct quid pro quo involving military aid, saying, “I do not recall any discussions with the White House on withholding U.S. security assistance from Ukraine in return for assistance with the President’s 2020 re-election campaign.”
Sondland Changes Testimony
The now-released transcript shows that Sondland later went back and changed his testimony.
In a supplemental statement, Sondland said that he remembered a conversation with a top Zelensky aide on Sept. 1, “where I said that resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks.”
Sondland’s amended testimony is significant for two main reasons.
First, it shows a senior official who is a central figure in the impeachment inquiry directly saying that Trump withheld aid from Ukraine in exchange for an investigation into his political rival.
And second, Sondland changed his initial testimony after it was contradicted by testimonies from other top officials, and now his testimony matches up with theirs.
Taylor and Morrison Contradict Sondland
One of the people that contradicted Sondland’s initial testimony was Taylor— the top diplomat to Ukraine who was implicated in the text messages.
In his testimony, Taylor said that Sondland told the same top Zelensky aide “that the security assistance money would not come until President Zelenskyy committed to pursue” the investigation into Biden.
Taylor also notably testified that Sondland later told him “that he now recognized that he had made a mistake by earlier telling the Ukrainian officials to whom he spoke that a White House meeting with President Zelensky was dependent on a public announcement of investigations — in fact, Ambassador Sondland said, ‘everything’ was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance.”
Taylor’s testimony was also later confirmed in another testimony from Tim Morrison, a former White House national security adviser.
Sondland said in his revised statement that Taylor and Morrison’s testimonies prompted him to recall the series of events differently.
See what others are saying: (Axios) (The Washington Post) (Vox)
Sanders and Warren Disagree Over CNN Report That Alleges Sanders Said a Woman Couldn’t Win the Presidency
- A CNN report released on Monday alleges that Bernie Sanders told Elizabeth Warren in 2018 that he did not believe a woman could win the presidency, according to four anonymous sources.
- Sanders has denied the claim, calling it “ludicrous.”
- The Washington Post later reported a source as saying that Sanders did not say he did not believe a woman could be president, but rather said Trump would use “nefarious tactics” against the Democratic nominee.
- Warren stood by the original allegation, saying that Sanders disagreed with her that a woman could win the White House but added she didn’t want to discuss the matter any further, calling him an ally and a friend.
A CNN report released on Monday detailed a December 2018 meeting between presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in which Sanders allegedly said that he did not believe a woman could win the election.
The report said that its details of that encounter were based on accounts from four anonymous people, two that Warren spoke with soon afterward, and two “familiar with the meeting.”
Sanders’ campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, called the assertion a “lie,” and the Vermont senator denied the claim himself in a statement.
“It is ludicrous to believe that at the same meeting where Elizabeth Warren told me she was going to run for president, I would tell her that a woman couldn’t win,” Sanders told CNN.
According to The Washington Post, two people with knowledge of the 2018 meeting told the news outlet that Warren asked Sanders if he thought a woman could win the White House. One of these sources said that Sanders did not say he believed a woman couldn’t win, but rather that Trump would use “nefarious tactics” against the Democratic candidate.
“What I did say that night was that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could,” Sanders said in his statement. “Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course! After all, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 3 million votes in 2016.”
But later on Monday night, Warren stood by the initial allegation in a statement tweeted by her communications director.
“Among the topics that came up was what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate,” Warren said. “I thought a woman could win; [Sanders] disagreed.”
“I have no interest in discussing this private meeting any further because Bernie and I have far more in common than our differences on punditry,” she added.
Regardless of who said what, both Warren and Sanders supporters were quick to jump online with their opinions.
Many Twitter users expressed anger at the Massachusetts senator, accusing her of lying about Sanders’ comments in order to get ahead in the race. #RefundWarren began trending on Monday night, encouraging people to request refunds for donations to her campaign.
Meanwhile, Sanders supporters fell back on instances in the past where he has been explicit about his belief in equal gender opportunities.
On the flip side, others expressed their belief in Warren’s claims, arguing that she had nothing to gain from being untruthful. Many pledged their unwavering support despite the events unfolding.
Also, the idea that Warren trotted this out to damage Sanders seems very unlikely – she knows that women who complain about sexism are seen as whiners, not winners. I mean look *gestures to the internet right now* around!— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) January 14, 2020
Others took to Twitter to neutralize the situation, suggesting that pitting two Democratic candidates against each other does nothing productive for the party.
While Warren called her and Sanders long-time “friends and allies in this fight,” their unspoken civil pact has faced obstacles recently.
On Sunday, Politico reported that Sanders volunteers were issued a script that criticized Warren.
In a campaign appearance on Sunday, Warren said she was “disappointed to hear that Bernie is sending his volunteers out to trash me,” and verbalized her hopes that he redirects his campaign for the sake of not dividing their mutual political party.
Sanders denied ever personally attacking Warren and said that each campaign has hundreds of employees who “sometimes say things that they shouldn’t.”
Both the script and he-said-she-said drama unfolded right before the seventh Democratic debate, in which six candidates will be participating—including both Warren and Sanders. The debate will be held in Iowa, which is also where the first-in-the-nation caucuses will take place in about three weeks.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (BBC) (Axios)
Sarah Sanders Apologizes To Joe Biden After Debate Tweet About Stuttering
- At a Democratic presidential debate on Thursday, Joe Biden noted that he personally keeps in touch with children who have speech impediments, speaking with a stutter as he referenced one.
- Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted in response, mocking his delivery.
- Sanders faced a wave of backlash in response to her tweet.
- She apologized after Biden himself, who has personally struggled with a stutter for most of his life, condemned her directly.
Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders apologized on Thursday after posting a tweet that seemed to mock people with speech impediments.
Sanders’ post, which has since been deleted, was in response to comments Joe Biden made on Thursday at the sixth Democratic presidential debate, held on the campus of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
At one point, Biden was speaking to the efforts he makes to be accessible to the public. He referenced the “call list” he and his wife have of people with whom they regularly stay in touch. Among these, he said, is a “little kid who says ‘I can’t talk, what do I do?’” Biden stuttered over the “I” and the “what” for emphasis.
“I have scores of these young women and men who I keep in contact with,” he added.
Biden has been open in the past about the stutter he has struggled with for most of his life, most prominently in an interview published last month in The Atlantic. In that piece, he opened up about the ways in which his speech impediment has brought him strife, from being bullied as a child to tripping him up during political speeches.
Shortly after Biden’s comments at the debate, Sanders took to Twitter to address them.
“I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I hhhave absolutely no idea what Biden is talking about,” she wrote, adding the hashtag #Demdebate.
Sanders’ remark was met with a wave of backlash from people across the Internet.
How dare you. And you call yourself a “Christian”? Can you imagine how you would feel if one of your children were a stutterer? But that would require being an empathetic person, of which, clearly, you are not. Not to mention cruel. #SarahSanders— Kathy (@kcday21) December 20, 2019
Sanders attempted to recover from her initial comment in a follow-up tweet that has also been deleted.
“To be clear was not trying to make fun of anyone with a speech impediment,” she wrote. “Simply pointing out I can’t follow much of anything Biden is talking about.”
It wasn’t until Biden responded to her directly in a tweet of his own, pointing to his own struggles, that Sanders apologized.
“I’ve worked my whole life to overcome a stutter,” he wrote. “And it’s my great honor to mentor kids who have experienced the same. It’s called empathy. Look it up.”
“I actually didn’t know that about you and that is commendable,” Sanders replied. “I apologize and should have made my point respectfully.”
Biden used the exchange with Sanders to encourage donations to his presidential campaign.
“If you believe we need to bring empathy back to the White House chip in $5,” he wrote, adding a link to a donation page.
See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (Vox) (New York Times)
Trump Rebukes Impeachment Vote at Michigan Rally: “It Doesn’t Really Feel Like We’re Being Impeached.”
- As the House of Representatives impeached President Donald Trump in Washington, Trump held a Michigan rally where he spent time criticizing the impeachment process.
- After two protesters were escorted out of the rally for causing a distraction, Trump suggested that the security guard should have been more forceful about their removal.
- In another statement, Trump insinuated that John Dingell, a Michigan representative who died earlier this year, was “looking up” from Hell.
Trump: “It doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached.”
While President Donald Trump was being impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday evening, he blasted the entire process at a rally in Michigan.
“It doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached,” he said at the rally. “The country is doing better than ever before, we did nothing wrong, and we have tremendous support in the Republican Party like we’ve never had before.”
Despite being impeached while speaking in front of his supporters, Trump delayed going onstage for about an hour to watch the tail end of the debate.
During the two hour rally, Trump criticized Democrats, saying they were trying to nullify the votes of millions of Americans. He also suggested former President Barack Obama deserved to be impeached more than he did.
At one point, the crowd began to chant “Lock her up!” in reference to both former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
However, while representatives cast their votes on the House floor, Trump told his supporters a story about stealth bombers being invisible.
“I said, ‘Fellas, how good is this plane?’” he said, mimicking a conversation between military officials. “They said, ‘Sir, it’s great.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Because the enemy can’t see it.’ That helps: stealth. It’s actually called super-stealth. So I said, ‘So they can’t see so you shoot at them but they can’t—’ He said, ‘They have no idea, sir.’ I said, ‘That sounds good to me.’ Nobody does it and nobody can do it, and we have the whole thing. We’ve ordered a lot of those planes.”
Trump Says Security Should Be Rougher With Protesters
Just prior to Trump’s impeachment, two protesters in the arena unfurled a banner that read, “Don the Con. You’re Fired.”
Trump’s speech is interrupted by protesters who unfurl a banner reading, “DON THE CON. YOU’RE FIRED.” pic.twitter.com/lVpcT5NdK2— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 19, 2019
Within seconds, the arena erupted into a series of boos, and one supporter tried to cover up the banner with Trump campaign signs.
Those protesters were then escorted out of the rally by guards, but one of the protesters stuck up her middle fingers to the crowd before leaving. As she began shouting obscenities, the crowd chanted “USA! USA!” in return.
“There’s a slob,” Trump said while suggesting the event would not make mainstream headlines. “There’s a real slob. But wait, wait a minute. She’ll get hell when she gets back home with mom.”
Continuing to speak on the subject of the protesters, Trump then said the security guard should have used more force.
“I’ll tell you the other thing, I don’t know who the security company is, but the police came up, but they want to be so politically correct, so they don’t grab her wrist lightly and get her out,” he said in front of a crowd of laughing supporters. “They say, ‘Oh, would you please come? Would you please come with me? Sir? Ma’am? Would you—’ And then she gives the guy the finger and you know, ‘Oh, oh.’ You gotta get a little bit stronger than that, folks.”
Trump disses a woman protester: “There is a slob, there is a real slob … She will get hell when she comes back home with mom.”— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 19, 2019
Trump then laments that security didn’t rough her up as she was getting kicked out. pic.twitter.com/sIFZfg18LQ
Trump Insinuates Dead Representative is Looking up from Hell
One of the key takeaways from the rally occurred when Trump began attacking Democratic Representative Debbie Dingell for voting “yes” to impeachment; however, Trump didn’t so much directly attack Debbie Dingell as he did her dead husband, former Representative John Dingell.
John Dingell represented Michigan from 1955 to 2015 and was the long-serving member of Congress in American history. In February, he died at the age of 92.
Using John Dingell as cannon fodder, Trump mocked Debbie Dingell by recounting a conversation he had with her after her husband’s funeral. Trump then insinuated John Dingell was looking up from Hell.
“‘Do this, do that, do that. Rotunda everything,’” he said, pretending to be Debbie Dingell. “I gave him everything—that’s okay. I don’t want anything for it. I don’t need anything for anything. She calls me up: ‘It’s the nicest thing that’s ever happened, thank you so much. John would be so thrilled. He’s looking down; he’d be so thrilled. Thank you so much, sir.’ I said, ‘That’s okay, don’t worry about it.’ Maybe he’s looking up, I don’t know. I don’t know.”
Shortly after his comment, Debbie Dingell responded to Trump on Twitter.
“Mr. President, let’s set politics aside,” she said. “My husband earned all his accolades after a lifetime of service. I’m preparing for the first holiday season without the man I love. You brought me down in a way you can never imagine and your hurtful words just made my healing much harder.”
Later, another Michigan representative, Republican Fred Upton criticized the president after voting “no” to his impeachment.
“I’ve always looked up to John Dingell – my good friend and a great Michigan legend,” Upton said. “There was no need to ‘dis’ him in a crass political way. Most unfortunate and an apology is due.”
Thursday, on CNN, Debbie Dingell where she said that she never made any of those requests to Trump. She also said Trump was not involved in her husband’s funeral arrangements, also pointing out that her husband didn’t lie in state in the Rotunda. She then said it was Trump who called her to tell her he would be lowering the flags.
Trump’s Twitter Response to Impeachment
On his own Twitter account, Trump has been unsurprisingly active, but following the impeachment votes Wednesday night, he did not make any direct statements on the platform until Thursday morning.
Instead, he opted for retweeting a flurry of tweets from conservative lawmakers and supporters.
“100% Republican Vote,” he said on Twitter Thursday. “That’s what people are talking about. The Republicans are united like never before!”
Later in the morning, Trump took a jab at Pelosi, calling the impeachment vote a hoax because of her refusal to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate. For her part, Pelosi has said she wants to hold the articles until she is sure the Senate will hold a fair trial.
“Pelosi feels her phony impeachment HOAX is so pathetic she is afraid to present it to the Senate, which can set a date and put this whole SCAM into default if they refuse to show up!” Trump wrote. “The Do Nothings are so bad for our Country!”
Currently, Trump has also pinned a tweet with a picture of him reading, “In reality, they’re not after me. They’re after you. I’m just in the way.”