Sondland's Stab: 'We followed the President's orders'
According to the US ambassador to the European Union, all efforts to secure investigations on behalf of the president in Ukraine were directly instructed by Trump.
Since the public hearings began in Donald J. Trump's impeachment, the expectation is that witnesses will drop a bomb that will further involve the president in the matter.
This week, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman confirmed that the controversial phone call between Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, crossed the "ought-to-be" line, while Jennifer Williams, Russia affairs advisor to Vice President Mike Pence, confirmed what we know so far.
Similarly, the president's special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt D. Volker, maintained, albeit less forcefully, the line of speech that the president and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani's stratagems "are not things that we should be pursuing as part of our national security strategy in Ukraine."
However, one of the most important characters in this saga finally gave us the surprise we had hoped for.
Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland seemed to wipe out any defense of President Trump's alleged abuse of power.
Both in his opening statement and when answering questions from legislators in the Committee, Sondland emphasized that none of the members of his team, as well as Secretary Perry or Ambassador Volker, wanted to "work with Giuliani," referring to the campaign of the president's personal lawyer for Zelensky's statements favoring Trump's re-election campaign.
"Simply put, we played the hand we were dealt," he read. "We all understood that if we refused to work with Mr. Giuliani, we would lose an important opportunity to cement relations between the United States and Ukraine."
"So we followed the president's orders," he added.
The rejection of Giuliani's role, as well as the "direct" nature of Trump's orders, were the most important part of his testimony.
Sondland also said repeatedly that everyone was "aware" of what the president and his personal attorney were looking for in Ukraine. This includes Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence, which opens the ranks of those involved in the already entangled affair.
While Sondland could not give a direct account of having heard the president make some incriminating statement, his willingness to point accusing fingers and collaborate with the Committee is a powerful gesture in a deeply politicized process.
Likewise, the ambassador's testimony adds up to a long line of people who can confirm from within the abuse of power for which Donald Trump is being investigated.