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GOP Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, hammered America’s ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, during Wednesday’s testimony, seizing on Sondland’s admission that he never heard the president or anyone else in the White House explicitly link Ukrainian aid with the opening of an investigation into 2020 Democratic candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., applauded his colleague on producing “the real bombshell” of Sondland’s long-anticipated testimony and marked the moment as “game over,” for the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry. That inquiry is focusing on an alleged quid pro quo between President Trump and Ukraine linking military aid and White House access to Ukraine probes beneficial to Trump.
During a fiery exchange, Turner focused on the Republican Party’s main defense of Trump, asking Sondland: “Is that your testimony today, Mr. Sondland? That you have evidence that Donald Trump tied the investigation to the aid? Because I don’t think you’re saying that.”
Sondland admitted that he was “presuming” the stalled military aid was linked to Trump allegedly asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the Bidens’ financial interests in Ukraine.
“So no one told you,” Turner pressed on. “Not just the president. Giuliani didn’t tell you, Mulvaney didn’t tell you. Nobody. Pompeo didn’t tell you. Nobody else on this planet told you that Donald Trump was tying aid to these investigations. Is that correct?”
The congressman cut Sondland off, restating his point: “No one on this planet told you that Donald Trump was tying this aid to the investigations, because if your answer is yes, then the chairman is wrong and the headline on CNN is wrong. No one on this planet told you that President Trump was tying aid to investigations. Yes or no?”
“Yes,” Sondland replied.
“So, you really have no testimony today that ties President Trump to a scheme to withhold aid from Ukraine in exchange for these investigations?” Turner asked.
“Other than my own presumption,” Sondland said.
Throughout Wednesday’s testimony, Sondland insisted that although he never explicitly heard the president or anyone in the administration demand investigations in exchange for aid, he never got a clear answer on why the aid was held up. He said the absence of a clear explanation led him to believe that the aid and the investigations were being linked.
Turner dismissed Sondland’s “presumption” as “nothing” and called his testimony “made up.”
“You know what hearsay evidence is, ambassador?” Turner said. “Hearsay is when I testify what someone else told me. Do you know what made-up testimony is? Made-up testimony is when I just presume it. I mean you’re just assuming all of these things and then you’re giving them the evidence that they’re running out and doing press conferences and CNN’s headline is saying that you’re saying the president of the United States should be impeached because he tied aid to investigations — and you don’t know that. Correct?”
“I never said the president of the United States should be impeached,” Sondland responded.
Still, Sondland’s earlier testimony to the committee linked the potential Ukraine investigations and a White House meeting and call between Trump and Zelensky. He said Giuliani played an integral, if not unconventional, role in those arrangements — and he said he explicitly expressed his fears about an inappropriate quid pro quo.
“I know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a ‘quid pro quo?” Sondland said. “As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”