Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s Wednesday House testimony was full of revelations. One of them is that President Donald Trump never seemed to ask Ukraine for an actual investigation of Vice President Joe Biden or his son, Hunter.

All he wanted, according to Sondland, was a public announcement of an investigation. He wanted a show.

This striking evidence first surfaced during Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff’s questioning, in which Schiff presses Sondland on what exactly the quid pro quo exchange was between Trump and Zelensky. Sondland says that Zelensky would receive a White House meeting in exchange for the announcement of an investigation into Burisma, the company whose board Hunter Biden served on, as well as alleged Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 election.


Impeachment, explained

Sondland is clear: “He didn’t actually have to do them, as I understood it.” There was never an ask for an actual investigation, just an announcement:

Your guide to the Donald Trump impeachment saga

Understand the impeachment process, from its history to what comes next. Explore the full guide here.

Daniel Goldman, the attorney who did a good chunk of the questioning for the Democratic side, came back to this issue later in the hearing. Here’s the key point:

Sondland’s revelation rips away the last of the pretense that Trump cared about corruption in Ukraine. He wanted a televised announcement of an investigation into Hunter Biden that he could use to cast a pall on the Biden campaign, just as the email morass damaged Hillary Clinton in 2016. All he ever asked for was a sort of political show trial that would allow him to run the same playbook he ran against “Crooked Hillary.”


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