This Wednesday, House impeachment investigators continued their string of public hearings with an appearance by E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who’s been in President Donald Trump’s orbit for some time and even donated $1 million to the committee handling Trump’s inauguration. Sondland testified that he spoke about the Trump team’s secret push to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens with Vice President Mike Pence himself at one point during a September 1 meeting while Pence, Sondland, and other Trump officials were in Warsaw. Pence’s office has abruptly issued a panicked response, insisting that the claimed communication never happened.
Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short — who used to serve as the White House’s legislative affairs director — insisted:
‘The Vice President never had a conversation with Gordon Sondland about investigating the Bidens, Burisma, or the conditional release of financial aid to Ukraine based upon potential investigations… Multiple witnesses have testified under oath that Vice President Pence never raised Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden, Crowdstrike, Burisma, or investigations in any conversation with Ukrainians or President Zelensky before, during, or after the September 1 meeting in Poland.’
It sounds like someone is pretty panicked about the possibility of getting looped into the ongoing Ukraine scandal even further. Sondland, for his part, seems set on the assertion that Pence shouldn’t be considered some island of innocence within the Trump administration — in the ambassador’s description, “everyone was in the loop.”
He had evidence to support the broad range of that assertion. For example, he brought emails showing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responding approvingly to him bringing up the plan to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
Pence’s team has already responded angrily to a previous witness’s testimony, too. After Pence aide Jennifer Williams testified that she’d also been among those to be concerned by what they heard on an infamous, highly scrutinized phone conversation between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, top Pence adviser retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg hurriedly noted that Williams had never raised those concerns with him or the vice president.
‘[A]s Williams testified, she never reported any personal or professional concerns to me, her direct supervisor, regarding the call. In fact, she never reported any personal or professional concerns to any other member of the Vice President’s staff, including our Chief of Staff and the Vice President.’
Trump, for his part, keeps freaking out too. After shouting at reporters outside the White House that because at one point, he told Sondland that he was innocent he therefore must be innocent, he posted on Twitter:
‘Impeachment Witch Hunt is now OVER!.. This Witch Hunt must end NOW. So bad for our Country!’
Not quite. After Sondland, Democrats have more public witness testimony planned for coming days including an appearance by the State Department official who revealed a phone conversation in which Trump asked Sondland if Ukraine would be pursuing “the investigations.” Besides broad abuse of power, the revealed scandal includes issues like bribery, extortion, and maybe even federal campaign finance law violations.