Earlier this week, former Trump National Security Council official Fiona Hill testified to the House impeachment inquiry that her former boss John Bolton voiced his concerns about the Ukraine extortion scandal to U.S. Ambassador Gordon Sondland. Now it appears Sondland is preparing to give testimony that’s incompatible with this version of events.
Gordon Sondland is planning to tell the House impeachment inquiry that John Bolton never voiced any concerns directly to him, according to an AP report last night. Sondland is apparently planning to further assert that Rick Perry can vouch for his version of events. So what’s really going on here?
That depends on whom you want to believe. John Bolton is a villain through and through, but it’s well documented that he sounded the alarm about the Ukraine scandal, going so far as to instruct Hill to take the matter to the National Security Council’s top lawyer. There is no reason to expect that Bolton would embellish his version of events, which would undermine his case. Nor is there any reason to expect that Hill would give dishonest testimony.
That said, it’s not possible that Bolton both did and did not express his concerns directly to Sondland. It is possible that they’re each simply remembering things differently. The thing is, Sondland’s version of events just happens to help him from a legal standpoint. If he can argue that no one in the Trump regime warned him that what he was doing with Ukraine was illegal, he can make the case that he shouldn’t face criminal charges for it. After all, he’s just a hotel magnate who was in over his head. How convenient.
Here’s an interesting thing to note. Last night the Trump White House leaked to the WSJ that it was planning to launch an internal review into Donald Trump’s Ukraine phone call, to determine who was to blame for the phone call’s improprieties (translation: to officially designate a scapegoat). Palmer Report noted that the WSJ article mentioned Sondland three times and Perry once, without name-checking anyone else as a potential scapegoat.
Sure enough, now Sondland is suddenly preparing to testify that no one told him he was doing anything wrong, and that Perry can vouch for this. It’s almost as if the Trump White House leaked the story in order to scare the two men into falling in line, and now they’re doing precisely that.
All that said, it really doesn’t matter precisely what details Gordon Sondland testifies to. If he lies about anything and he gets caught, there will be perjury charges waiting for him once Trump is gone. That’s on him. The real upshot is that the mere fact that Sondland is testifying at all is a win for the House impeachment committee and a loss for Donald Trump.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report