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I’m in the impeachment inquiry room aka The Chamber aka The Icebox aka The Thunderdome aka the Soviet-Style Stalinist Chamber today. Coming up in minutes: testimony from EU ambassador Gordon Sondland, which should be eventful.
And right off the bat, Sondland to flip (again!)
Sondland has arrived.
Sondland opening testimony is online, where he says he worked with Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine at the express direction of President Trump. “We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we played the hand we were dealt.” politico.com/f/?id=0000016e…
Key passage: "Mr. Giuliani’s requests were a quid pro quo for
arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky. Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine
make a public statement announcing investigations of the 2016 election/DNC server and
...Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the President of the United States, and we knew that these investigations were important to the President."
Sondland on frozen aid to Ukraine: "I later came to believe that the resumption of security aid would not occur until there was a public statement from Ukraine committing to the investigations of the 2016
election and Burisma, as Mr. Giuliani had demanded."
FYI if you want to follow along we have a livestream up and will be reporting updates throughout the day: buzzfeednews.com/article/buzzfe…
Condensed Devin Nunes opening: “Welcome to the circus… asinine accusations… absurdity… impeachment crusade… past the point of no return… smear the president… frenzy…”

And then: “Ambassador Sondland, you are here today to be smeared."
Seems pretty clear that Nunes wrote his opening statement before the details of Sondland’s testimony broke and he didn’t get a chance to update it.
Sondland: "We worked with Mr. Giuliani because the President directed us to do so. We had no desire to set any conditions on the Ukranians."
Sondland said US delegation was enthused about the new government. "Unfortunately, President Trump was skeptical. He expressed concerns that the
Ukrainian government was not serious about reform. He even mentioned that Ukraine tried to
take him down in the last election."
Never ceases to be amazing that Trump escaped the Mueller report and yet may get impeached because he bought into debunked conspiracy theories from reddit.
Sondland emphasizing he was not going rogue. “Again, there was no secret regarding moving forward and the discussion of investigations.”

He outlines “Mr. Giuliani’s efforts” communicating with a corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor “without our knowledge."
Of Rudy’s dealings, Sondland says: “We tried our best to fix the problem, while keeping the State Department and the NSC closely apprised of the challenges we faced."
I like to do that macho journalist thing where I publicly declare that I will go to jail to protect my sources.

So Rudy Giuliani: if you leak to me I will apparently be the one person willing to go to jail for you.
Sondland on the famous July 25 call between presidents Trump and Zelensky: "Looking back, I find it very odd that neither I, nor Ambassador Taylor, nor Ambassador Volker ever received a detailed read-out of that call with the Biden references.”
Sondland explicitly says that yes, there was a quid pro quo. But important to note in this section he’s talking about a quid pro quo for a White House meeting between Trump and Zelensky, which was much desired by Ukraine, not the military aid.
Sondland on the freeze in military aid: "I was never able to obtain a clear answer regarding the specific reason for the hold."
Sondland says he believed it would take Ukraine releasing a public statement announcing investigations into the Biden family/Burisma to get much needed aid. “You know, I really regret that the Ukrainians were placed in that predicament."
Sondland says he believed the Ukrainiain aid was contingent on the country announcing a Biden investigation, and he conveyed this to Ukrainian officials.

However (and expect to hear a lot about this during GOP questioning) he does not say he was told this directly by Trump.
Sondland snippet that shows how things worked: “We heard it from Rudy and we assumed Rudy was getting it from the president.”
Sondland says he called Trump he thinks on September 9th to ask about holdup in Ukraine aid. “It was a very short, abrupt conversation. He was not in a good mood. He just said ‘I want nothing, I want nothing. There is no quid pro quo. Tell Zelensky to do the right thing.’"
Does Sondland recall telling Trump Zelensky loved his ass? “It sounds like something I would say. That’s how President Trump and I communicated, a lot of four-letter words. In this case three-letter."
Also much discussion about what Sondland meant by breaking the “logjam.” Chairman Schiff tries to hone in and say this clearly meant getting the military aid released. Sondland says he meant logjam in terms of relations more generally.
Nunes left the room for a bit and just returned. I would not say he has the face of a man thinking “this is going terrific."
Sondland: “President Trump never told me that the aid was conditioned (on announcing investigations.)”

Asked why he told multiple people that an announcement was necessary to release the aid, he said that was his assumption of what Trump wanted. “2+2=4"
Sondland says by September 8th he was “absolutely convinced” the Ukrainiain aid was contingent on them publicly announcing an investigation into the Bidens.

This came after he had multiple conversations with Trump, but he says his view did not come from Trump directly.
Sondland says he does not remember who told him this, but that the announcement of the Biden investigation had to be made by President Zelensky himself, not the prosecutor.

And we’re on break.
Back to back Sondland statements that eich side will seize on.

For GOP: "I don’t recall Trump talking to me about any security assistance ever.”

Then for Dems: “By September 8th it was abundantly clear to everyone that there was a link (between aid and Biden investigations)”
Sondland unsure if Trump personally told him prez Zelensky must announce investigations. “I don’t recall who told me — whether it was Volker, whether it was Giuliani, or whether it was President Trump — it’s gotta be Zelensky it can’t be the prosecutor. But that’s what I relayed”
And we’re back with Devin Nunes saying he wants to “get back to the facts of the matter."
Wow, Nunes dives right in with saying Democrats worked with Ukrainiains to try to swing the 2016 election.

This is, again, an unfounded conspiracy theory.
Despite all the obviously damaging stuff Sondland has said today, I thought there was still material for Nunes to work with.

And yet, here he is ignoring all the new info and just playing the hits. Black ledger, secret whistleblower, 2016...
GOP lawyer Castor now hammering home the key defense points. Sondland never personally heard Trump outline preconditions for either aid or a White House meeting? Sondland says no, he did not.
Notably, Castor questions Sondland’s assumption that Rudy Giuliani spoke for the president. “How did you know that? Who told you?”
Castor: You had no evidence that Trump wouldn't release the Ukraine aid until they announced an investigation, correct?

Sondland: “Other than that the aid wasn’t being released."
Sondland on military aid freeze: “Every time I asked about the hold I was never given a straight answer about why it was put in place to begin with.”
Sondland refutes that he was part of “irregular” diplomatic channel. Says he was reporting to the President, the Secretary of State, Seecretary of Energy, National Security Advisor and Trump’s chief of staff. “I don’t know how they could consider us to be the irregular channel.”
Sondland is not going to be anyone’s fall guy.
Castor flat-out attacks Sondland’s credibility: “You don’t have records, you don’t have notes because you don’t take notes, you don’t have recollections. This is a trifecta of unreliability.”
As Schiff takes over, Devin Nunes heads out of the room again.
9am: Mr. Sondland, Democrats are going to smear you.

Noon: Mr. Sondland, you have no credibility you no note having amnesiac.
I guess in fairness to Nunes he only said “you are here today to be smeared” and didn’t say which side would be doing it.
Devin Nunes is walking back after being gone 15 minutes. Follow GOP member Lee Zeldin, who had been in the audience watching, left with him.
Nunes and Jim Jordan huddling. Jordan seems to be pointing to a piece of paper laying out what he’s going to ask.
Dem lawyer: You told the Ukrainiains twice that they needed to announce the investigations on CNN in order to get aid released, right?

Sondland: I didn’t say CNN. They told me they already had a CNN interview scheduled and would use that to make the announcement.
Nunes is back and taking a more slow roll tactic. Says to get to the bottom of this one should go to the people in charge, and Sondland is not in charge of foreign aid.
Castor grilling Sondland about why he didn’t mention the September phone call with Trump in his opening statement? Why leave out something “exculpatory” to Trump from opener?

Sondland says he had leave out all kinds of things to limit length. “It was not purposeful, trust me.”
GOP lawyer Castor: You said everyone was in the loop but not everyone was in the loop with your theory that aid hinged on an investigations announcement, right?

Sondland: “The secretary (of State Mike Pompeo) was."
Sondland says Secretary of State Pompeo was kept in the loop on negotiating the statement Ukrainiain president Zelensky would make on CNN, and that it involved announcing investigations into Burisma and 2016 interference.

“We passed that along to him and kept him informed.”
And this is drawn out by Republican questioning!
We are taking a 30 minute recess.
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