President Donald Trump and his associates have recently tried a new defense for the Ukraine scandal, claiming that there couldn’t have been a quid pro quo because the Ukrainians were supposedly unaware of the military aid freeze the Trump apparently ordered to force them to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.
On Wednesday’s edition of CNN’s “The Situation Room,” Washington Post journalist David Swerdlick and his co-panelists smacked down that narrative.
“The New York Times reports that the Ukrainians learned in early August that aid was frozen and they were told to reach out to the acting White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney,” said anchor Wolf Blitzer.
“Right. That can easily be established by the documents out there,” said Swerdlick. “It’s ridiculous that the administration and their backers are trying to feed people this line. President Selensky reads the Washington Post, The New York Times. He knew that Congress approved the $391 billion. He knew that the president signed it. So then they’re sitting around wondering where’s the money? We need it. We’re fighting the Russians.”
“Certainly by the summer, the Ukrainians are aware of stories showing Rudy Giuliani trying to push this storyline of what he wants investigated by the Ukrainians,” agreed senior justice correspondent Evan Perez. “It’s all abundantly clear to everyone how the two things are connected, right? It’s not a huge guess by any means.”
“Can we just say, you don’t even need a quid pro quo,” added columnist Gloria Borger. “This is a phrase that the president has adopted. He’s saying it over and over and over again like he said witch hunt and all the rest during the Mueller investigation or collusion and whatever. You don’t need — the Constitution doesn’t say quid pro quo. It says this could be — Congress has to decide — an abuse of power, period, because the act, I’d like you to do me a favor, comma though, that’s the ask. That’s all you need. You don’t need Zelensky on the other end to say, oh, okay, I’ll do you that favor. We don’t care about Zelensky. We care about what the president did.”
WATCH: Pete Buttigieg surges to first place in ‘gold standard’ poll of Iowa caucuses
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg surged in a poll of Iowa released Saturday night.
The poll, by Des Moines Register, CNN and Mediacom, showed major movement in the race.
"Since September, Buttigieg has risen 16 percentage points among Iowa’s likely Democratic caucusgoers, with 25% now saying he is their first choice for president. For the first time in the Register’s Iowa Poll, he bests rivals Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who are now clustered in competition for second place and about 10 percentage points behind the South Bend, Indiana, mayor," the newspaper reported.
Holmes’ testimony shows Trump lied about his relationship with embattled Ambassador Sondland: ex-FBI agent
On CNN Saturday, former FBI special agent Asha Rangappa noted that State Department aide David Holmes' testimony does not just make a liar of EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland for claiming he wasn't aware of any plot to extort Ukraine with military aid, it also makes a liar out of President Donald Trump for suggesting he had barely even interacted with Sondland in the first place.
"What does all of this mean when we look ahead to the space that Sondland, Ambassador Sondland is in, and what he's going to say on Wednesday?" asked anchor Christi Paul.
"Yeah, so Holmes is really important because he has firsthand knowledge of this call," said Rangappa. "He was sitting there and he heard — he overheard this conversation. I just want to emphasize that, because one of the big objections that the Republicans have had is that everything has been hearsay. So we are getting closer to getting firsthand corroboration and information."
Sondland is in ‘a world of trouble’ after Holmes revelations: Ex-White House adviser
On CNN Saturday, David Guy, the former special impeachment adviser to President Bill Clinton, told anchor Christi Paul that President Donald Trump's angry tweet against Marie Yovanovitch, and State Department aide David Holmes' new testimony that he overheard President Donald Trump talking to EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland about military aide, are huge problems for both the president and Sondland.
"I'm wondering, did you see that tweet as she was testifying, the tweet from the president, as President Trump kind of sabotaging himself?" asked Paul.