Friday’s testimony from Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, was quite brutal for the White House, leaving little doubt that Donald Trump and his associates hatched a scheme that prioritized the president’s interests over the United States’. Her appearance came on the heels of equally damaging testimony from Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state.
But observers who turned their attention away from the impeachment inquiry after Yovanovitch left the hearing room to a standing ovation missed a 72-hour period that likely brought a feeling of dread to many in the White House. Late Friday, for example, David Holmes further tied Trump to the Ukraine scheme.
David Holmes, a career foreign service officer, told impeachment investigators Friday that he overheard a phone call between President Donald Trump and E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland in which the president asked Sondland if Ukraine would investigate the Bidens, a source with direct knowledge of his closed-door testimony said. […]
“I heard President Trump then clarify that Ambassador Sondland was in Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland replied, yes, he was in Ukraine, and went on to state that President Zelenskiy ‘loves your ass.’ I then heard President Trump ask, ‘So, he’s gonna do the investigation?’” Holmes recounted, according to the statement. “Ambassador Sondland replied, that ‘he’s gonna do it,’ adding that President Zelenskiy will do, ‘anything you ask him to.’”
In case this isn’t obvious, Holmes appears to have, among other things, directly implicated the president in the scheme for which Trump is likely to be impeached.
Making matters worse was testimony from Mark Sandy, the deputy associate director for national security programs at the White House budget office.
A longtime budget official testified Saturday that the White House decision to freeze military aid to Ukraine in mid-July was highly irregular and that senior political appointees in the Office of Management and Budget were unable to provide an explanation for the delay.
The testimony from Mark Sandy, the first employee of OMB to testify in the House impeachment probe, appeared to confirm Democrats’ assertion that the decision to withhold nearly $400 million in congressionally approved funds for Ukraine, including millions in lethal aid, was a political one.
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney has said decisions like these occur “all the time.” It now appears that claim wasn’t true.
Sandy, you’ll recall, was removed from the Trump administration’s process for funds dispersal while the White House’s scheme was being implemented. The power was put in the hands of Michael Duffey, a political appointee at OMB, who recently served as the executive director of the Wisconsin Republican Party.
Making matters worse still was what we learned about the testimony from Tim Morrison.
A former White House national security official told House investigators that Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the European Union, was acting at President Trump’s behest and spoke to a top Ukrainian official about exchanging military aid for political investigations – two elements at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.
Tim Morrison, the top Russia and Europe adviser on the National Security Council, testified that between July 16 and Sept. 11, he understood that Sondland had spoken to Trump about half a dozen times, according to a transcript of his sworn Oct. 31 deposition released by House committees Saturday. Trump has said he does not know Sondland well and has tried to distance himself from the E.U. ambassador, whom Trump put in charge of Ukraine policy along with two others, even though Ukraine is not part of the European Union.
And let’s not forget the newly released transcript of testimony from Jennifer Williams, a national security aide to Vice President Mike Pence.
Ms. Williams, who listened to the call between Messrs. Trump and Zelensky on July 25, told House impeachment investigators that she found Mr. Trump’s request for investigations “unusual and inappropriate.”
She said the request made her wonder about the reason for the hold on the security assistance. Ms. Williams testified that she never received an official explanation for the hold.
This, right on cue, was enough to generate another angry Trump tweet, accusing Pence’s aide of being a “Never Trumper.” The vice president’s office, in an embarrassing display, soon after described Williams as “a State Department employee.” That’s technically true, though Pence and his team chose her to help advise the vice president on matters of national security. Team Pence apparently doesn’t see the need to stand in support of its own colleague, who dared to say what was plainly true.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), one of the White House’s most shameless cheerleaders, told reporters yesterday, “I think, frankly, things are going well for the president.” Maybe the far-right congressman was referring to some other president?