If the Trump administration really has nothing to hide and President Donald Trump’s much scrutinized July phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky really was “perfect,” then why do they keep contorting themselves to keep information from getting out? This Tuesday, it came out that the State Department had ordered E.U. Ambassador Gordan Sondland not to testify before Congress, which he’d been slated to do voluntarily. He had been set to cover the issue of Trump’s behavior towards Ukraine, which he engaged with behind the scenes as exemplified in texts that former U.S. Special Envoy Kurt Volker revealed in which Sondland defends the president.
Sondland’s attorney Robert Luskin shared:
‘As the sitting U.S. Ambassador to the EU and employee of the State Department, Ambassador Sondland is required to follow the Department’s direction. [He] is profoundly disappointed that he will not be able to testify today… Ambassador Sondland believes strongly that he acted at all times in the best interests of the United States, and he stands ready to answer the Committee’s questions fully and truthfully.’
It sounds like Sondland is antsy to get the situation behind him.
In texts, he at one infamous point insisted to top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine Bill Taylor that the president definitely was not after a quid pro quo in his dealings with the country — and that they should continue their conversation about the topic offline, as if he was trying to sound like he was hiding something.
As MSNBC host Chris Hayes aptly put it:
‘I’m still laughing at the sheer guilty desperation of Sondland’s texts. Basically, I want to be very clear we are not doing crimes here. Call me to discuss further.’
At issue was the then-paused military aid to Ukraine. Although it had already been approved and the administration had signed off on the idea that the country had its affairs in order enough to receive it, the president abruptly postponed the aid as he sought an investigation of the Bidens from Ukraine. Although we’ve already got the call record in which he presses Zelensky on the issue, Trump has openly admitted to seeking this investigation, and he even did so again in recent commentary to reporters offered on the South Lawn outside the White House.
The Trump team (including Sondland) went all out in trying to get the Biden investigation and presumed subsequent dirt. They communicated the message that a D.C. summit with Ukrainian leadership would have to follow that Biden investigation getting started, and they even drafted a public statement for Ukrainian leaders to issue in announcing that sought investigation, a point which parties involved did not reach before the scandal burst out into the open.
Now, Trump is facing an impeachment inquiry from House Democrats over the issue, which the Tuesday appearance by Sondland had been set to be a part of. They’ve already heard from Volker as part of this inquiry, and they have issued subpoenas to interests ranging from the Trump administration themselves to the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who also — for some reason — helped with trying to get Ukrainians to produce the Biden dirt.