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The Republicans’ impeachment lawyer made 2 huge mistakes in questioning Gordon Sondland

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Ambassador Gordon Sondland delivered complex and convoluted impeachment testimony on Wednesday about his involvement in President Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal. He gave detailed evidence recounting the president and the rest of the administration’s involvement in his effort to get Ukraine to launch investigations of Trump’s political opponents — including by leveraging a potential White House meeting and a hold on military aid.

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But he also, to the Republicans’ delight, left some ambiguity about how much Trump had been involved in the effort to leverage the aid, saying that he had “presumed” Ukraine’s announcement of the investigations would release the hold. And he noted that, in one phone call the president — as the scheme was slowly being uncovered — Trump angrily denied there was a quid pro quo.

Republican counsel Stephen Castor, serving for the minority party on the House Intelligence Committee, tried to exploit this apparent distance between Sondland’s push and the president as a defense against impeachment. But at two points in his questioning, he made a key cross-examination error: he asked questions he didn’t know the answer to.

The answers he got were not good for Trump’s case.

First, he tried to suggest that Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer who worked with Sondland and others in the State Department on the Ukraine pressure campaign, may not have actually been representing the president’s interests. If this were true, it might have placed greater distance between Trump and the apparent bribery scheme.

“You testified that Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president, correct?” Castor asked.

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“That’s our understanding,” Sondland replied.

“But how did you know that?” pressed Castor. “Who told you?”

“Well,” began Sondland, “when the president says, ‘Talk to my personal attorney,’ and then Mr. Giuliani — as his personal attorney — makes certain requests or demands, we assume it’s coming from the president.”

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Then, when Sondland was discussing his conversation with Trump, he recounted the president saying: “‘I want nothing! I want no quid pro quo! I just want Zelensky to do the right thing, to do what he ran on,’ or words to that effect.”

“And you believed, the president, correct?” Castor asked.

Then Sondland, who wasn’t hesitant to speculate or draw conclusions when it suited him, replied: “You know what? I’m not going to characterize whether I believed or didn’t believe. I was just trying to characterize what he said on the phone.”

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The most plausible inference from that claim is that Sondland wasn’t buying Trump’s spin.


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2020 Election

Trump advisors futilely trying to get him to stop ranting about statues as his re-election prospects collapse: report

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According to a report focusing on Donald Trump's rally at Mt. Rushmore on the evening before the 4th of July, advisors to the president ate attempting to get him to start focusing on bread and butter issues that will get him re-elected instead of harping on statues being pulled down by protesters across the country.

As the Daily Beast report illustrates, their efforts appear to be futile based upon his Friday night speech.

With the president trying to fire up the crowd by insisting, “Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders. They think the American people are weak, and soft, and submissive,” the Beast reported that Trump, "decided to focus heavily Friday evening on protesters and Black Lives Matter activists who want various American monuments, including those honoring Confederate, white-supremacist, and slave-owning figures of history, torn down and destroyed for good. "

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Trump’s a traitor — and the Russian bounty scandal is the final straw

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The first story of the rest of Donald Trump's life was published last Friday in the New York Times, revealing that the Russian intelligence agency known as the GRU has been paying bonuses to Taliban fighters to kill Americans, and that this intelligence had been reported to Trump and had been known at least since March. The story was subsequently confirmed by the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the AP.

This article first appeared in Salon.

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2020 Election

GOP scrambling to pay for Jacksonville convention after Trump yanked it from North Carolina: report

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According to a report from the New York Times, Republican officials are having difficulties getting donors to pay for the Republican National Convention to be held in Jacksonville, Florida after Donald Trump yanked the gathering out of Charlotte, North Carolina in a fit of pique over COVID-19 health restrictions.

At issue, the report notes, is that millions of dollars were spent in North Carolina where a smaller event will now be held, and now the party is, in essence, forced to pay for a second convention.

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