Doubt Cast on Gordon Sondland’s Testimony About Call with Trump
Gordon Sondland has testified twice under oath that President Donald Trump emphatically told him there was “no quid pro quo” tying aid for Ukraine to investigations of Democrats.
Trump and Republicans say the Sept. 9 phone call proves that Trump is innocent of engineering an improper trade-off at the heart of the impeachment inquiry. Democrats say Trump was simply relaying the false claim that he wanted acolytes to repeat since he already knew an investigation was underway.
But did the call with Trump happen at all?
Phone records and other witness accounts now cast serious doubt on Sondland’s sworn claims, The Washington Post reports. Among the key discrepancies:
There is no White House record of the call.
The call would have taken place no later than 5 a.m. in Washington, D.C. That’s very early even for the famously sleepless Trump, whose first sign of life that day was a tweet sent out more than an hour later.
Trump has never spoken about any of his own recollections of the call. Rather, he has only cited Sondland’s account.
The supposed call has been one of the pivotal moments in the Ukraine scandal since the intelligence whistleblower complaint exposed the effort to pressure Ukraine to open Trump-friendly probes into Democrats and a conspiracy theory about the 2016 election.
Kurt Volker, Trump’s special envoy to Ukraine, released text messages that detailed a conversation on Sept. 9 between Ambassador Bill Taylor and Sondland.
Taylor texted Sondland telling him he thought it was “crazy” to withhold aid for partisan political reasons. Sondland waited a suspiciously long five hours before responding with what by then was emerging as the Trump party line that there was actually “no quid pro quo.”
Sondland claimed that he responded only after talking to Trump.
But Walker’s text was sent after midnight Eastern time and Sondland sent the reply text to Taylor at 5:14 a.m. So if Sondland did talk to Trump it would have been in the middle of the night or before dawn.
That’s unlikely, especially since his aides have said Sondland never called Trump before 7:30 a.m. Plus, there is no record of Sondland being patched through to Trump from the White House switchboard, which was the envoy’s normal practice because he did not have Trump’s direct cellphone number.
Sondland’s lawyer refused to comment on the doubts and insisted he told the truth in both his nationally televised testimony to Congress and the earlier closed-door appearance.
Republicans needled Sondland about what they saw as his effort to downplay the supposed Sept. 9 call in his public testimony. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, suggested Sondland omitted the account of the call from his opening statement because it would have been favorable to Trump.
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