CNN contributors are positively panting over Ukraine Ambassador Gordon Sondland's testimony. "Democrats are definitely going to impeach now!" says John King. As if that were ever in doubt.
Here's the news: Sondland testified that there was in fact a quid pro quo, but not the one Adam Schiff and the Dems wanted. Sondland claimed that in exchange for a White House visit, Ukrainian President Zelensky understood that he would need to make an announcement that he would begin to investigate the corrupt energy company Burisma.
Got it? Trump wanted Zelensky to hold fast to campaign promises to fight corruption in notoriously shady Ukraine. This is not the
quid pro quo bribery Schiff wanted, which is $391 million in US aid for pursuing Burisma, and by extension, Hunter Biden, and by further extension Joe Biden. No, that would be the same arrangement that Quid Pro Joe made when he famously withheld $1 billion worth of blankets and MREs from former President Petro Poroshenko.
It's laughable. But the explosion from the mainstream media is the same noise you hear when a hapless sports team gets its first win in an otherwise miserable season. The impeachment hearings thus far have been predicated on hearsay, an anonymous accuser, and above all, desperation to lay a glove, even symbolically, on Donald "Orange Man Bad" Trump.
To be clear, Sondland's testimony matters inasmuch as it gives Dems the appearance of momentum. This will accelerate the inevitable. They might take a vote in early December instead of mid-December.
Sondland is interested in coming out of this in one piece. He owns a chain of hotels in Oregon which are being spammed with 0-star reviews and picketed by ever since the impeachment hearings began (a call for a boycott of the hotel chain by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) didn't help matters). So Sondland is trying to thread a needle: give the Dems enough to get them off the back of his livelihood, while not going down in history as the man who cemented the impeachment of his boss.
The facts remain: Ukraine got the aid. There was no Zelensky announcement. There is no investigation into Burisma. As Jim Jordan pointed out in the afternoon session, "It's not two plus two, it's 0-for-three."
What's more, everyone--left and right alike--is talking about the Bidens and Burisma. The Democratic Party threw Joe Biden under the bus, to be sure. They didn't account on him getting stuck to the bumper and drug through the mud for miles and miles of testimony.
The impeachment hearings drag on. Painfully long questioning sessions peppered with painfully long breaks (which, as ranking member Devin Nunes pointed out today, the Democrats are using to hold impromptu press conferences). It's a dreary process already, and it shouldn't be made worse by the lead Republican attorney, Steve Castor.
Jim Jordan is a killer. Nunes is pretty good, though he suffers from a monotonous delivery (and awful choice of counsel). Elise Stefanik and John Ratcliffe have had many excellent moments. Everyone else is dead weight. But inexplicably, GOP counsel Castor, who has more floor time than anyone save Nunes, is a stuttering, softball pitching wimp. He's the wrong man for the job.
The Democrats' counsel, Daniel Goldman, is a former MSNBC contributor (of course). He's polished, direct, and at times, relentless. Which is hard to do when you have no cards to play other than inference, innuendo, and hearsay.
Castor specializes in rhetorical questions, shuffling paper, and pauses full of so much dead air that I've wondered on several occasions if I mistakenly hit the mute button on the remote control. He's nice to witnesses trying to impeach the president who represents his party.
I'd say Nunes should replace him with another attorney, but it wouldn't matter as far as the outcome in the House. But having strong Republicans in the impeachment hearings will help to galvanize GOP senators. That's what matters.
Subscribe to our evening newsletter to stay informed during these challenging times!!