Responding to a cache of text messages from State Department officials discussing and lamenting White House influence in aid negotiations released overnight, a CNN panel bluntly dubbed the information contained in them as the "smoking gun of quid pro quo" that should be at the center of the impeachment hearings of President Donald Trump.
Speaking with hosts John Berman and Alisyn Camerota, former Bill Clinton White House Communications Director Joe Lockhart said the documents paint a damning portrait of a White House using the threat of withholding aid in order to get dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden.
Regarding the text messages provided to Congress by former Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker that strongly support accusations that Trump — using his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and the State Department — carried out an illegal campaign to induce Ukraine to investigate his political enemies, host Berman began, "The president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani appears to be at the heart of shaping all of this in these text messages that were released overnight."
"We've also got reporting out from CNN and New York Times and others about what Kurt Volker testified to yesterday behind closed doors," he continued. "Among other things, Volker reportedly said that Giuliani was behind the whole idea of the Ukrainians making a definitive message. And when Giuliani read or was told about the message they were initially going to deliver, Giuliani said 'huh-uh, not enough, not enough.' He indicated to Mr. Volker that it was not sufficient and Ukraine should be asked for public commitments to investigate Burisma in 2016 -- Burisma means Biden."
"You said in the intro, it is the smoking gun on quid pro quo," Lockhart replied. "But I think the important part here is you had various parts of the State Department sitting in one place."
"When you say Rudy, you mean Trump," he continued. "Because Trump is exercising his wishes through Giuliani through a separate, you know --."
"A shadow secretary of state," co-host Camerrota exclaimed. "Isn't that what we see happening here?"
"So, you know, I think Rudy will have some explaining to do and will be grilled at some point up on Capitol Hill," Lockhart continued. "But we shouldn't lose the point that he was exercising the will of the president -- what the president really wanted here."