When U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland testified to the congressional impeachment inquiry last month, he denied ever having been part of a quid-pro-quo scheme. "Let me state clearly: Inviting a foreign government to undertake investigations for the purpose of influencing an upcoming U.S. election would be wrong," Sondland said. "Withholding foreign aid in order to pressure a foreign government to take such steps would be wrong. I did not and would not ever participate in such undertakings."
Almost immediately, Donald Trump's Republican allies were quick to cite Sondland's testimony as powerful evidence in the White House's favor. Take Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), for example, who appeared on Fox News three weeks ago.
The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee told Fox News Thursday the common theme from U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland's closed-door interview was the absence of evidence of a quid pro quo. [...]"In his opening statement, he does refer to [former New York Mayor Rudy] Giuliani operating sort of sometimes in conjunction with the State Department, sometimes not," [McCaul] said. "I think what is a common theme with the testimony that's been made public is there's no quid pro quo here -- and I think that's very clear from the president's phone conversation."
The Texan wasn't alone.
[Republicans argued] that Sondland's testimony -- despite his expressed concerns with Giuliani's role in Ukraine -- buttressed the president's defense that there was nothing nefarious in the administration's approach to foreign policy there."He says exactly what President Zelensky said, exactly what President Trump said: No quid pro quo whatsoever," Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), the senior Republican on the Oversight Committee, said afterwards, referring to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Even the president himself, citing something he claimed to see on Fox News, published a tweet celebrating Sondland for having "said there was no quid pro quo."
All of which set the stage for this week -- when Sondland amended his testimony and told lawmakers that he did, in fact, participate in a quid pro quo.
In other words, the "evidence" that Trump and his allies were so excited about has been discredited by the same ambassador who presented it in the first place.
Republicans went out on a shaky limb, only to find it snap off in an embarrassing and inconvenient way.
Is it any wonder some of the president's more sycophantic GOP allies have decided that evidence no longer matters?