MSNBC hosts Brian Williams and Nicolle Wallace, on Wednesday, proclaimed Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s testimony was a “blow torch” to Donald Trump’s defense.
After the first part of the hearing was over, Williams came on the air to call it a “blow torch” and “stunning testimony.” His co-host Wallace added that Sondland was “taking a blow torch to every defense Donald Trump has offered....today changed everything”:
WILLIAMS: Well, you heard the man, the chairman says a five or ten minute break, giving us a chance to introduce our friends and have our first discussion. As part of our live coverage of the blow torch testimony this morning from Gordon Sondland, an owner of a chain of hotels from the Pacific Northwest. Wrote a $1 million check to the inauguration and turns out to be the guy who has offered the most stunning testimony.
WALLACE: He has been compared to everything this morning, Brian, from John Dean to as you said, taking a blow torch to every defense Donald Trump has offered. We don’t say this very often anymore because it’s rarely true. But I think today changed everything. I think Gordon Sondland’s testimony today changed everything.
MSNBC contributor Jason Johnson, later on in the segment, claimed the administration operated like the “mob” and concluded “I think this is a really rough day for the Republicans.”
The following transcript includes the relevant portions of the first part of MSNBC’s November 20 live coverage of Sondland’s testimony:
Live Coverage of Impeachment Hearings
November 20, 2019
11:02 a.m. Eastern
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Well, you heard the man, the chairman says a five or ten minute break, giving us a chance to introduce our friends and have our first discussion. As part of our live coverage of the blow torch testimony this morning from Gordon Sondland, an owner of a chain of hotels from the Pacific Northwest. Wrote a $1 million check to the inauguration and turns out to be the guy who has offered the most stunning testimony.
NICOLLE WALLACE: He has been compared to everything this morning, Brian, from John Dean to as you said, taking a blow torch to every defense Donald Trump has offered. We don’t say this very often anymore because it’s rarely true. But I think today changed everything. I think Gordon Sondland’s testimony today changed everything. And there was a little bit of foreshadowing. He has an attorney who a lot of people believe was the difference between Karl Rove coming out of the Valerie Plame special counsel investigation run by Pat Fitzgerald. Safe, legally speaking. He, his client submitted three new pages of testimony before his transcript was released, amending his decision to be more in line with the testimony of others. But the bombshell is that there was no irregular policy channel. There was the channel. It was run by Donald J. Trump, the President. Mike Pence, the Vice President. Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State. And that channel directed an extortion of the government, the country of Ukraine in exchange for dirt on Joe Biden. Full stop.
WILLIAMS: What do the Republicans do on this committee?
WALLACE: I mean – you know – what do they do? Maybe they pray for the 7th District of New York to indict Rudy Giuliani and try to blame it on him? I think they can’t be unmoved. Here’s the other bombshell today. He essentially calls into question John Bolton’s role. John Bolton’s had this very angelic, has left an impression of being on the side of angels. But if the operation – if there was one channel and it was run by the President, the Vice President and Mike Pompeo – John Bolton knew about it. John Bolton seemed to have made efforts to cover himself by sending his deputies Fiona Hill, Tim Morrison and others to the White House counsel’s office to create some sort of record of his alarm.
But Sondland calls into question – by citing this very jovial atmosphere where pictures were taken and there some of them on social media after a meeting that’s been described by Hill and others as sort of blowing up. That Bolton sent everyone out of the room when investigations came out. He might have done that. I have no reason to doubt that. But he also went to the South Lawn of the White House and took pictures with everybody. So he couldn’t have been that offended or if he was it needs to be explained by Bolton himself. It just calls into question and changes the calculation. Bolton so far, has been this reluctant witness but someone who is thought of as having not any exposure. Sondland now sticks him in the middle of what was clearly an effort, a conspiracy. I don’t know if that’s the right legal word, but a – you know it wasn’t an off-book operation. The operation, the policy from the President, the Vice President the American Secretary of State and I guess it’s an open question whether the National Security Adviser was in on it, was to extort Ukraine for dirt on Biden.
JASON JOHNSON: Basically Sondland said “I’m not going to jail for any of you.” I mean that’s clear. “I’m not going to jail for any of you.” And I think what, what’s key is – and this is the thing we talk about where the impeachment hearings make sense to regular people. He ratted out everybody, right? And we know the biggest rat of all – like the Pixar movie – is Rudy. Just sort of manipulating everybody from behind the scenes. But that’s something that regular people can understand. I think part of what’s been difficult about some of this is, if you don’t know Morrison, if you don’t know Taylor he basically said “Everybody was involved in this and we all went along with it.” And this narrative that we’ve had – prior to now – of brave individuals like [Alexander] Vindman who stand up against this. He’s painted sort of a different picture. “Well yeah there’s some brave folks but most of us just went along with it. And now that we’re caught we’re gonna rat everybody out.”
And I think that is a very difficult thing for Republicans to try and explain because when you’ve got individuals basically saying “we are being manipulated by the President’s personal lawyer. We all knew it. We all went along with it. How are we going to turn around and try and say that this is a huge conspiracy by Rudy himself? He wouldn’t have thought about this on his own.” So I think this is a really rough day for the Republicans.
WILLIAMS: Jason is so right though. So much of life and so much of this story starts in the movies. It is a reference you hear and see on a daily basis. Pick your film. A lot of them happen to be mob movies. A lot of them happen to be Scorcese-ian in nature. But you’re absolutely right.
JOHNSON: Well yeah. The whole mob set-up. We’ve said that a lot about this sort of administration. Especially with Giuliani sort of being the point person.