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National Govt & Politics
Sondland roils impeachment hearing, says Giuliani sought Ukraine quid pro quo
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Sondland roils impeachment hearing, says Giuliani sought Ukraine quid pro quo

Sondland roils impeachment hearing, says Giuliani sought Ukraine quid pro quo

Sondland roils impeachment hearing, says Giuliani sought Ukraine quid pro quo

Ambassador Gordon Sondland drew stern rebukes from Republican lawmakers on Wednesday as he told impeachment hearings that President Donald Trump's personal lawyer had made clear that in order for the new leader of Ukraine to get a White House meeting with the President, then Ukraine would have to announce investigations sought by Mr. Trump.

"Mr. Giuliani's requests were a quid pro quo," Sondland said, as U.S. Ambassador to the European Union said it became clear to him that the President ultimately had been holding up military aid to Ukraine to leverage those same investigations as well.

"We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani," Sondland added.

While Sondland repeatedly acknowledged that no one - including President Trump - had told him the aid for Ukraine was tied to any investigations wanted by Mr. Trump, the Ambassador said he ultimatley felt that was the bottom line.

"That was my presumption," Sondland said.

Seemingly caught off guard by Sondland's testimony - which more sharply alleged that there was a clear effort to condition aid to Ukraine for a series of investigations than his previous deposition testimony - Republicans ultimately took the gloves off, and took after the President's own ambassador.

"You really have no testimony today that ties President Trump to a scheme to withhold aid from Ukraine in exchange for these investigations," said Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH).

"Other than my own presumption," Sondland interjected, further aggravating Turner, his voice growing more strident by the minute.

"Do you know what hearsay evidence is ambassador?" Turner asked. "Do you know what made up testimony is?"

GOP lawmakers mocked Sondland's earlier statement that he presumed the aid-for-investigations effort was true, when he said he realized 'two plus two equals four.'

"Two presumptions plus two presumptions does not equal even one fact," said Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH).

Earlier, GOP counsel Stephen Castor sought to undercut Sondland's testimony, rattling off a series of items which Sondland did not have to back up his presumption.

"You don't have records, you don't have notes, because you didn't take notes, you don't have a lot of recollections," Castor said. 

"I mean, this is like the trifecta of unreliability, isn't that true?" Castor asked, who did not gain the agreement of Sondland. 

"What I'm trying to do today is use the information I have to be as forthcoming as possible," said Sondland.

Republicans also complained openly to Sondland about why he did not use a quote from the President - which Sondland had used in a text message - denying any kind of quid pro quo.

"Do you know what a quid pro quo is?" asked Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who said Sondland should have made that one of the first items in his lengthy opening statement.

Ironically, at the start of the hearing, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), warned the Oregon hotel developer that he faced a difficult day.

"Ambassador Sondland, you are going to be smeared," Nunes declared.

But the roughest treatment for Sondland actually came from the GOP, and not from Democrats.

Here is the link to my live updates on today's hearing.

Read More
  • Already facing significant opposition back home from within his own party for refusing to support the impeachment of President Donald Trump, freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ) is reportedly ready to switch to the Republican Party with the backing of the President, a politically embarrassing development for Democrats in advance of this week's House impeachment vote. 'Wow, that would be big,' President Trump tweeted over the weekend about news reports on Van Drew's future. 'Always heard Jeff is very smart!' As of Sunday evening, Van Drew had not publicly confirmed his plans, as the reported move enraged Democrats on Capitol Hill and back in the Garden State. 'Betraying our party by siding with Donald Trump is the final straw,' said New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, who made clear his disappointment in Van Drew in a series of weekend tweets, calling the switch 'cynical and desperate.' The five staffers who resigned from Van Drew's office on Sunday included two Deputy Chiefs of Staff, his Communications Director, Legislative Director, and Legislative Assistant. An experienced former state lawmaker in New Jersey who won a GOP House seat in 2018, Van Drew set himself apart from fellow Democrats repeatedly over the past year, opposing Nancy Pelosi's election as Speaker, voting against starting an impeachment inquiry, and opposing a resolution to hold the Attorney General and Secretary of Commerce in Contempt of Congress. 'I'm always true to my word,' Van Drew told reporters in mid November of 2018, as he explained why he would vote against Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. Less than a year later, Van Drew - who served sixteen years in the New Jersey state House and Senate as a Democrat - is evidently ready to switch to the GOP. Democrats said the real story was that Van Drew - because of his opposition to an impeachment investigation - was in danger of being defeated in the 2020 Democratic primary, as they quickly leaked recent polling showing exactly that outcome. The possibility of a party switch left questions for Republicans as well. In a story in the Press of Atlantic City newspaper on Sunday, one GOP candidate who had already announced a bid to run against Van Drew called the lawmaker, an 'absolute weasel,' as even former Vice President Joe Biden piled on. 'The leading Democrat opposed to impeachment is switching parties to protect Trump,' Biden tweeted, using the Van Drew story as part of a fundraising effort. The current Congress has already seen one party switch, in part because of the impeachment inquiry, as Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan switched from the GOP to Independent. President Trump is holding a campaign rally in Amash's district on Wednesday evening, likely just after the House votes on two impeachment charges.
  • A New Jersey town council approved a resolution last week that proclaimed it a “sanctuary township” for law-abiding gun owners. Lawmakers in West Milford passed a non-binding resolution that “opposes further interference with, or abridging of, the rights of lawful gun owners,” NJ.com reported. Pete McGuinness, council president in the rural town of 26,000 people, said the resolution was approved by a 5-0 vote Dec. 4, the website reported. “We’re just letting the community know we are a gun-friendly, Second Amendment-positive township,” McGuinness told NJ.com. The resolution declares West Milford a “Second Amendment/lawful gun owner sanctuary township' and criticizes “red flag laws” that have been adopted by at least 17 states, including New Jersey, rthe website reported. Adoption of the resolution came six days before a shooting in Jersey City that killed four people, including a police officer, NJ.com reported.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Friday that it will hear arguments on an effort by President Donald Trump to prevent Congress and investigators in New York from using subpoenas to access his tax, banking, and other financial records, items which the President has fought to keep from being released. Lower courts had ordered Mazar's, the President's accounting firm, and two major banks, Deutche Bank and Capital One, to turn over financial records - those orders will stay on hold until the cases are resolved before the High Court. Attorneys for the President have lost at every level in state and federal court in all three cases, making the argument that Congress does not need Mr. Trump's financial information for any legitimate legislative purpose, casting it as a fishing expedition. The subpoenas were not to sent to the President - but rather to Mazar's, Deutche Bank, and Capital One - making the case somewhat different than a simple subpoena to Mr. Trump. 'Having considered the weighty interests at stake in this case, we conclude that the subpoena issued by the Committee to Mazars is valid and enforceable,' a three judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals wrote earlier this year in the Mazars case.  'We affirm the district court’s judgment in favor of the Oversight Committee and against the Trump Plaintiffs,' the judges added. With the arguments in March of 2020, that timing would suggest that a final decision could be one of the biggest cases to be decided in the 2019-2020 term - possibly being saved for late June, when the Court ends its work before a summer break. That would put the results squarely into the midst of the 2020 campaign for the White House. As for why the U.S. Supreme Court intervened, a number of legal experts said the Justices could have done that as a favor to President Trump - not necessarily indicating that Mr. Trump is going to prevail. 'These cases involve the President and his tax returns, and they may have felt no choice but to take the cases and decide them on the merits given their political importance,' said Aswin Phatak, a lawyer with the Constitutional Accountability Center.
  • Forecasts are still showing a chance for a wintry mix Sunday night into Monday morning. Meteorologists with the National Weather Service say a light wintry mix will be possible along the I-44 corridor later Sunday night. Temperatures may cool enough to support all snow near the Kansas border.  They don’t expect much accumulation, although some issues could develop along elevated surfaces such as bridges and overpasses.  The FOX23 and KRMG Severe Weather Team will be keeping a close eye on the data.

Washington Insider

  • Already facing significant opposition back home from within his own party for refusing to support the impeachment of President Donald Trump, freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ) is reportedly ready to switch to the Republican Party with the backing of the President, a politically embarrassing development for Democrats in advance of this week's House impeachment vote. 'Wow, that would be big,' President Trump tweeted over the weekend about news reports on Van Drew's future. 'Always heard Jeff is very smart!' As of Sunday evening, Van Drew had not publicly confirmed his plans, as the reported move enraged Democrats on Capitol Hill and back in the Garden State. 'Betraying our party by siding with Donald Trump is the final straw,' said New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, who made clear his disappointment in Van Drew in a series of weekend tweets, calling the switch 'cynical and desperate.' The five staffers who resigned from Van Drew's office on Sunday included two Deputy Chiefs of Staff, his Communications Director, Legislative Director, and Legislative Assistant. An experienced former state lawmaker in New Jersey who won a GOP House seat in 2018, Van Drew set himself apart from fellow Democrats repeatedly over the past year, opposing Nancy Pelosi's election as Speaker, voting against starting an impeachment inquiry, and opposing a resolution to hold the Attorney General and Secretary of Commerce in Contempt of Congress. 'I'm always true to my word,' Van Drew told reporters in mid November of 2018, as he explained why he would vote against Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. Less than a year later, Van Drew - who served sixteen years in the New Jersey state House and Senate as a Democrat - is evidently ready to switch to the GOP. Democrats said the real story was that Van Drew - because of his opposition to an impeachment investigation - was in danger of being defeated in the 2020 Democratic primary, as they quickly leaked recent polling showing exactly that outcome. The possibility of a party switch left questions for Republicans as well. In a story in the Press of Atlantic City newspaper on Sunday, one GOP candidate who had already announced a bid to run against Van Drew called the lawmaker, an 'absolute weasel,' as even former Vice President Joe Biden piled on. 'The leading Democrat opposed to impeachment is switching parties to protect Trump,' Biden tweeted, using the Van Drew story as part of a fundraising effort. The current Congress has already seen one party switch, in part because of the impeachment inquiry, as Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan switched from the GOP to Independent. President Trump is holding a campaign rally in Amash's district on Wednesday evening, likely just after the House votes on two impeachment charges.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Friday that it will hear arguments on an effort by President Donald Trump to prevent Congress and investigators in New York from using subpoenas to access his tax, banking, and other financial records, items which the President has fought to keep from being released. Lower courts had ordered Mazar's, the President's accounting firm, and two major banks, Deutche Bank and Capital One, to turn over financial records - those orders will stay on hold until the cases are resolved before the High Court. Attorneys for the President have lost at every level in state and federal court in all three cases, making the argument that Congress does not need Mr. Trump's financial information for any legitimate legislative purpose, casting it as a fishing expedition. The subpoenas were not to sent to the President - but rather to Mazar's, Deutche Bank, and Capital One - making the case somewhat different than a simple subpoena to Mr. Trump. 'Having considered the weighty interests at stake in this case, we conclude that the subpoena issued by the Committee to Mazars is valid and enforceable,' a three judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals wrote earlier this year in the Mazars case.  'We affirm the district court’s judgment in favor of the Oversight Committee and against the Trump Plaintiffs,' the judges added. With the arguments in March of 2020, that timing would suggest that a final decision could be one of the biggest cases to be decided in the 2019-2020 term - possibly being saved for late June, when the Court ends its work before a summer break. That would put the results squarely into the midst of the 2020 campaign for the White House. As for why the U.S. Supreme Court intervened, a number of legal experts said the Justices could have done that as a favor to President Trump - not necessarily indicating that Mr. Trump is going to prevail. 'These cases involve the President and his tax returns, and they may have felt no choice but to take the cases and decide them on the merits given their political importance,' said Aswin Phatak, a lawyer with the Constitutional Accountability Center.
  • The U.S. House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines on Friday morning in support of two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, sending the issue to the House floor for a historic vote next week. After Democrats had recessed the hearing late on Thursday night, lawmakers reconvened for two quick votes on impeachment articles dealing with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. “Mr. Chairman, there are 23 ayes and 17 noes,” the committee clerk said twice, as Democrats moved in rapid fire fashion to report the impeachment articles to the full House. Republicans denounced the outcome. You don't get to remove a President because you don't like him,” said Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA).    “They did not produce a scintilla of evidence to support a charge of impeachment.” “This is really a travesty for America and it’s really tearing America apart,” said Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ), who called the effort a 'railroad job.' “It was a witch hunt,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX). The President used his office for his private benefit. He jeopardized our national security, and elections. He covered it up. Democrats said the case for action was simple. “The President used his office for his private benefit. He jeopardized our national security, and elections. He covered it up,” said Rep. Val Demings (D-FL). “Today is a solemn and said day,” said House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY).  “The House will act expeditiously.” The committee vote sends the issue to the full House, where a vote is expected next week. If the House votes to impeach, the Senate would be required to hold a historic impeachment trial, which is expected to start in January. President Trump would be the third President subjected to such a trial under the Constitution, joining Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. As for the President, his Press Secretary joined GOP lawmakers in ridiculing the impeachment effort. “This desperate charade of an impeachment inquiry in the House Judiciary Committee has reached its shameful end,” Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a written statement. “The President looks forward to receiving in the Senate the fair treatment and due process which continues to be disgracefully denied to him by the House,” she added. A Senate impeachment trial is expected to start in January.
  • After over 14 hours of debate, Democrats surprised Republicans by holding off a final vote in the House Judiciary Committee until Friday morning on two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, as Democrats charged the President was clearly trying to get Ukraine to announce investigations which would benefit Mr. Trump's 2020 re-election bid. 'President Trump used his office to serve himself,' said Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), as Democrats said the evidence was clear that President Trump was trying to get foreign help for 2020. 'The President is an imminent threat,' said Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX). 'We have to take action, we must impeach the President.'  'One of my colleagues said that we are lowering the bar on impeachment,' said Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA). 'I believe we are lowering the bar on the Presidency.' Republicans denounced the impeachment effort as a political vendetta by a party which was still upset about losing the 2016 election. 'This impeachment is going to fail, and the Democrats are justly going to pay a heavy political price for it,' said Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA). 'This is a day that will live in infamy for the Judiciary Committee,' said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX). 'It's a focus group impeachment,' said Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), as Republicans decried the lack of detail in the articles of impeachment. The delay in the committee vote until Friday left Republicans spitting mad, as GOP lawmakers were caught completely off guard. “Stalinesque,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX). Republicans had prolonged debate until after 11 pm - and the immediate thought on Capitol Hill was that Democrats did not want to be accused of voting on impeachment 'in the middle of the night' - so they delayed action until Friday. The panel will meet at 10 am ET.
  • Already over two months behind schedule, key lawmakers in Congress said Thursday they had reached a tentative agreement which would hopefully bring $1.3 trillion in funding bills to a vote next week in the House and Senate, avoiding a government shutdown deadline of December 20. 'There's a meeting of the minds,' said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, as lawmakers scrambled to wrap up a dozen unfinished funding bills for the federal government - work which should have been finished by October 1. With no details readily available - and House leaders talking about holding a vote by Tuesday on a single giant bill, or maybe a pair of funding plans - the familiar year-end rush caused furrowed brows for some in the Congress. 'Two minibuses = an omnibus,' tweeted Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), using the familiar name for large funding measures, in which up to a dozen spending bills are jammed into one catch-all funding plan. Congress is supposed to be finished with the 12 different funding bills for the federal government by September 30 of each year - as the new fiscal year begins October 1. But over the past 45 years, it has become standard procedure for lawmakers in both parties to use temporary funding measures - known as 'continuing resolutions' - to fund operations of the government while final spending deals are worked out by the House and Senate. Only four times since a big change in Congressional budget rules in 1974 has the Congress finished the funding work on time - in 1976, 1988, 1994, and 1996.