U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland jolted the impeachment process this week, revising his earlier testimony and telling lawmakers about his role in a quid-pro-quo scheme involving Ukraine.
As we discussed earlier this week, Sondland recalled a conversation from September in which he told Andriy Yermak, a top Zelenskiy adviser, that “the resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks.”
In other words, Sondland told our vulnerable ally that its aid was locked. To unlock it, Ukraine would have to make a public statement about a Biden-related investigation, which Team Trump could then use for domestic political purposes.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he wasn’t interested in reading Sondland’s written submission, but as TPM noted, the senator was willing to go on Fox News last night to raise the prospect of a new conspiracy theory.
When Fox News host Martha MacCallum asked the notorious Trump defender about Schiff saying that the release of testimony transcripts prove that the “most important facts are largely not contested,” Graham said “that statement is full of crap” before stoking a conspiracy accusing Sondland of switching up his testimony because of a “connection” with Democratic operatives.
“Why did [Sondland] change his testimony?” Graham said. “Was there a connection between [Sondland] and Democratic operatives on the committee? Did he talk to Schiff? Did he talk to Schiff’s staffers?”
For some reason, Graham kept referring to Gordon Sondland as “Sunderland,” suggesting the Judiciary Committee chairman hasn’t yet gotten around to learning the relevant players’ names.
Graham went on to suggest he still believes there was “no quid pro quo” – despite all of the painfully obvious evidence to the contrary.
I found all of this noteworthy, not just because I’m amazed by the senator’s willingness to throw away his reputation, but also because Graham raised the prospect of the one conspiracy theory that I assumed we wouldn’t hear.
Sondland is, after all, a Trump-appointed ambassador. He’s also a Republican megadonor who reportedly contributed $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee.
This is the same ambassador whom the Republican president recently described as “a really good man” and a “great American.”
And yet, we’re now supposed to believe that Sondland may be in league with House Democrats? This is the idea Lindsey Graham has come up with as the latest Trump defense?