Dispatch November 8, 2019

New Testimony Puts Trump’s Defenders on the Run


The cascade of closed-door testimony transcripts from senior Trump administration officials confirm that President Donald Trump shook down Ukraine’s president. Trump demanded a public announcement of an investigation of his political opponents in exchange for a White House meeting and military assistance that Ukraine desperately needed.

Accordingly, per reporting in The New York Times this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government felt Trump’s pressure. He and his aides were even preparing to cave to Trump’s demands until congressional outcry forced Trump to release the aid.

Gordon Sondland, Kurt Volker, Bill Taylor, George Kent, Fiona Hill, and Alex Vindman all confirmed the quid pro quo.

    • Sondland, a Trump donor turned ambassador to the European Union, testified that things got increasingly “insidious” as Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani demanded Ukraine announce investigations of Trump’s opponents in order to obtain a face-to-face meeting with the president:

      • Sondland submitted an “addendum” to his initial testimony, explicitly laying out how he communicated that military aid was dependent on meeting Trump’s demands for a “public anti-corruption statement”—in other words, announcing Trump’s desired investigations:
    • Volker, who recently resigned his post as Trump’s special envoy to Ukraine, confirmed that Trump’s desired investigations were an obvious effort to get dirt on his political opponents:
    • Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, expanded on his already damning opening statement to describe how Trump and his envoys held military aid hostage in exchange for interference in the 2020 election:
    • According to Kent, deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs at the State Department, Ukrainian officials even cited Trump’s demands for dirt on his political opponents to justify alleged corruption within their own government:
    • Hill, who served as the White House’s top expert on Russia and Eastern Europe, testified that Sondland directly stated the quid pro quo in a meeting with Ukrainian officials, and later clarified to Hill that he was doing it on the president’s behalf:
    • And Vindman, a National Security Council staffer and Ukraine expert who was on Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky, testified that Trump’s “demand”—investigations of his opponents in exchange for a White House meeting—was perfectly clear:
    • Even Giuliani confirmed the coercion, declaring on Twitter that his efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government had nothing to do with U.S. foreign policy goals and everything to do with Trump’s personal political interests.

    The New York Times confirmed that Zelensky was ready to deliver his end of the bargain.

    With no way to defend the president, Trump’s congressional accomplices are doing everything they can to avoid answering questions about his corrupt abuses of power.

    • Several Republican members of Congress, ranging from recently elected Arizona Sen. Martha McSally (R) to longtime Iowa Rep. Steve King (R), have been caught fleeing reporters and activists who ask whether it’s acceptable for a president to demand dirt on a political rival from a foreign government.
      • One member, Alaska Rep. Don Young (R), physically headbutted the camera rather than answer a simple yes-or-no question about the president’s illegal abuse of his power.

    • The worst offender is Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who’s taken a “see no evil” approach: After demanding complete transcripts of the House’s depositions with Trump administration officials, Graham declared that he has no intention of reading them.
      • The new evidence undeniably shows that Trump engaged in a quid pro quo with Ukraine—which Graham himself said he would find “very disturbing” back in October. So rather than acknowledge the evidence, he’s simply ignoring it. 

    Things are only getting worse for Trump and his defenders. Public hearings next week ensure that the American people will soon learn all the details of Trump’s extortion of the Ukrainian government.