With the abundance of testimony presented during the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, House Democrats have been trying to demonstrate there was a “quid pro quo” between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky: military aid to Ukraine in exchange for an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. Trump supporters have been using some of Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s testimony to defend the president, including a conservation in which Trump told Sondland he didn’t want a “quid pro quo.” But Jerry Lambe, on Law & Crime, notes that according to reports from Just Security on November 29 and the Washington Post on November 27, there is no evidence to prove that a September 9 Trump/Sondland phone conversation ever took place.
Questioned by members of the House Intelligence Committee, Sondland (U.S. ambassador to the European Union) testified that he spoke to Trump on September 9, 2019. According to Sondland, “it was a very short, abrupt conversation. He was not in a good mood. And he just said, ‘I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelensky to do the right thing.’”
— Carl Quintanilla (@carlquintanilla) November 20, 2019
Trump, on the White House lawn, quoted Sondland’s testimony — insisting that it exonerated him and telling reporters, “that means it’s all over.” But attorney Susan Simpson, analyzing impeachment testimony in Just Security, stressed that the only record of a Trump/Sondland phone conservation is for September 7, not September 9.
Simpson explained, “the ‘no quid pro quo’ call did not take place on September 9, as Sondland claimed at one point in his testimony; instead, it took place on September 7. This is shown from the testimony of Tim Morrison, senior director for European affairs for the National Security Council, and Charge D’Affaires Bill Taylor — both of whom were briefed on the call by Sondland shortly after it occurred.”
Lambe, in Law & Crime, notes that Sondland “only disclosed” the September 7 call in an amended statement after Morrison’s and Taylor’s testimonies — and that Trump “did say he wanted ‘no quid pro quo,’ but he also demanded that Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky personally announce the launching of Trump’s politically advantageous investigations in a publicly televised press conference.”
Trump’s request for that announcement, Simpson writes, is “critically important, not because the precise date of the call is significant in and of itself, but because of what it shows about the true content of that call: the substance of the conversation that Morrison and Taylor described in their testimony, and that Sondland omitted from his.”
Moreover, Simpson writes, “Morrison went to the NSC lawyers to report Sondland’s claim that President Trump was involved in making an explicit quid pro quo demand to Ukraine.”