Gordon Sondland, the man whom President Donald Trump appointed to be his ambassador to the European Union, told congressional investigators on Thursday that he didn't understand that President Donald Trump might be holding up establishing direct contact with Ukraine's government unless the government agreed to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.
However, given that the president did ask him to run all Ukraine policy through attorney Rudy Giuliani, and given that Giuliani was already publicly boasting about trying to get Ukraine to probe Biden, Sondland's testimony raises the question of what he actually believed the president's intentions were in withholding aid to the country this past summer.
National security policy reporter Marcy Wheeler believes that Sondland is employing a similar defense to the one that helped get Donald Trump Jr. off the hook in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election: Namely, that he is too ignorant to have a full understanding of the law.
"Sondland, adopting the strategy that helped Don Jr avoid an indictment: he was too stupid to know he was breaking the law," Wheeler writes on Twitter, after surveying Sondland's prepared testimony.
Sondland, adopting the strategy that helped Don Jr avoid an indictment: he was too stupid to know he was breaking t… https://t.co/jiGqUmhD1u— Dr. emptywheel (@Dr. emptywheel)1571319532.0
Wheeler also notes that Sondland's testimony seems to directly implicate Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whom Sondland says has regularly sent him complimentary notes about all the work he's been doing and telling him to "keep banging away" at his duties.
Instead, he blames Pompeo. "Keep banging away" is an interesting turn of phrase to describe diplomacy. https://t.co/CpZ79s1PsJ— Dr. emptywheel (@Dr. emptywheel)1571320361.0