Today we saw House Democrats go hard after Kurt Volker during his televised impeachment testimony, because they believed he may have been misleading during his original closed-door testimony. Volker cleaned things up today pretty well, but it was clear that he was rattled by how hard he was getting hit for not having told the full story to begin with. This brings us to Gordon Sondland, who is set to testify tomorrow morning, and who basically lied through his teeth during his closed-door testimony.
Gordon Sondland has since revised his testimony and come clean about the fact that he was running a quid pro quo on Ukraine at Donald Trump’s instruction. But after Sondland revised his testimony, David Holmes gave closed-door testimony which reveals that Sondland still hadn’t come close to coming fully clean. This means Sondland has a huge problem today, with only a few options. None of his options are great, and some of them are far worse than others.
Sondland’s safest bet, and only real hope of a clean outcome, would be to simply tell the whole truth today. House Democrats already have him nailed for perjury if they want to go that route, so he can’t really hurt himself any further by admitting he lied. By fully fessing up today, he might manage to convince the House not to make the perjury referral against him once Trump is gone. Then again, the House could still make the referral, and force Sondland to cut a plea deal with the post-Trump DOJ.
Sondland can try simply lying today in the hope of not further incriminating himself, but that would get ugly for him fast, considering he’s already formally changed his testimony once. If Sondland goes this route, he’s almost guaranteed to go to prison, because he’d definitely get referred for perjury, and there’s no way Trump would pardon a pawn like him.
On the Rachel Maddow show tonight, veteran prosecutor Chuck Rosenberg addressed the speculation that Gordon Sondland could decide to plead the Fifth during his public testimony tomorrow. That would make him and Donald Trump look incredibly guilty. Even though invoking the Fifth Amendment is not an indicator of guilt in a court of law, it very much is a confession in the court of public opinion. Sondland would still be referred for perjury, and it would increase the odds that he ends up being charged for the underlying Ukraine extortion crime once Trump is gone.
Our view is that it would be very stupid for Gordon Sondland to plead the Fifth tomorrow. Of course Sondland has done one stupid thing after another since he joined the Trump regime. But before that he was a successful hotel industry businessman, so he can’t be a complete idiot in every way, can he? We’ll see if he does something smart or something dumb tomorrow.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report