Nets Celebrate Amb. Sondland as ‘the Most Pivotal Witness Yet’

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Despite how they were dismissive of his truthfulness prior to Wednesday and the fact that he could not directly implicate President Trump in a quid pro quo scheme with Ukraine, ABC, CBS, and NBC heralded the public testimony of E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland as a “bombshell” from “the most pivotal witness yet.”

And they begin tonight with the most pivotal witness yet in the impeachment investigation, who today said there was a quid pro quo, and that many in the Trump administration knew about it,” proclaimed sensationalist ABC anchor David Muir on World News Tonight. But, moments later, he admitted that Sondland never heard the President speak about or instruct him on a quid pro quo.

But that didn’t stop ABC senior congressional correspondent Mary Bruce from touting Sondland’s testimony as “a true Washington blockbuster.” She then boasted that Sondland was “defying” Trump:

BRUCE: Gordon Sondland, President Trump's hand-picked point person in Ukraine, defying the President, telling the nation there was a quid pro quo, on order from the President's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, acting at the direction of the President.

As for when Republicans got the Ambassador to admit he never received instruction from the President, to Bruce it was just a story about how “Republicans pounced.” The hearing exchange is in the ABC transcript below.

 

 

In a statement that could easily be applied to the networks themselves, ABC chief White House correspondent Jon Karl suggested: “The President seized on one small sliver of Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s testimony regarding a September phone call in which he says he asked President Trump what he wanted from Ukraine.”

Over on CBS Evening News, anchor Norah O’Donnell beamed about how “President Trump's hand-picked ambassador to the European Union sent shockwaves across the U.S. Capitol today, changing his story and directly implicating the President in the pressure campaign against Ukraine.”

To help Sondland explain why his sworn testimony has changed so much, CBS chief congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes noted: “He blames that on the fact he's been denied access to key documents and notes by the State Department. Democrats call that obstruction. The State Department, Norah, says it wasn't true.” How can she claim it was a “fact” when it’s been disputed and she didn’t provide an answer?

Later on, O’Donnell turned to Face the Nation moderator Margaret Brennan to talk about how glad Russian President Vladimir Putin was to see America in such a state. Brennan said Putin was happy because America looked corrupt. “The United States right now looks like we are just as susceptible to the kind of corruption we lecture the rest of the world about trying to avoid,” she opined.

CBS correspondent Ben Tracy also made a quip about Trump which could apply to the media. “President Trump watched enough of the Sondland testimony the hear what he wanted to hear,” he said.

“Good evening, everyone. The stakes in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump are higher tonight following the most explosive testimony yet,” NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt proclaimed for his network’s part.

In addition to canned lines about “bombshell” testimony and comments about how “Republicans seized” on Sondland’s admissions from White House correspondent Peter Alexander, NBC political director Chuck Todd lauded Sondland as “an insider flipping on the President.”

“Now, I think Democrats wish Sondland had more receipts, had more evidence, had more stuff to come with it to reinforce how is it that he presumed it was a quid pro quo,” Todd was forced to admit. NBC’s impeachment coverage concluded with Todd eagerly anticipating possible testimony from former National Security Adviser John Bolton against the President.

The transcripts are below, click "expand" to read:

ABC’s World News Tonight
November 20, 2019
6:31:58 p.m. Eastern

DAVID MUIR: And they begin tonight with the most pivotal witness yet in the impeachment investigation, who today said there was a quid pro quo, and that many in the Trump administration knew about it. Republicans tonight firing back.

The ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, a Trump mega-donor, hand-picked by the President, today testifying on live television there was that quid pro quo, pressure on Ukraine to open investigations into the president's political opponents in order to get an official White House visit. Sondland saying he believed that's why the $400 million in U.S. military aid was being withheld, too.

Sondland also saying that he was not part of a rogue operation that, quote, “everyone was in the loop,” including Secretary of State Pompeo, saying he talked to Vice President Pence, as well. And providing an email he sent to the Secretary of State signaling that Ukraine was ready to act on the issues important to President Trump.

Republicans striking back tonight, asking, did the President ever directly tell Sondland why he was withholding the U.S. aid, Sondland answering, no. ABC's Mary Bruce leads us off tonight from the Hill.

[Cuts to video]

MARY BRUCE: Today on Capitol Hill, a true Washington blockbuster.

(…)

BRUCE: Gordon Sondland, President Trump's hand-picked point person in Ukraine, defying the President, telling the nation there was a quid pro quo, on order from the President's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, acting at the direction of the President.

(…)

BRUCE: Republicans pounced.

REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH): So, no one told you. Not just the President. Giuliani tell you, Mulvaney didn’t tell you, nobody –Pompeo didn’t tell you. Nobody else on this planet told you that Donald Trump was tying aid to these investigations, is that correct?

AMBASSADOR GORDON SONDLAND: I think I already testified --

TURNER: No, answer the question. No one on this planet told you that President Trump was tying aid to investigations. Yes or no.

SONDLAND: Yes.

TURNER: So, you really have no testimony today that ties President Trump to a scheme to withhold aid from Ukraine in exchange for these investigations?

SONDLAND: Other than my own presumptions.

 

TURNER: Which is nothing.

(…)

JON KARL: The President seized on one small sliver of Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s testimony regarding a September phone call in which he says he asked President Trump what he wanted from Ukraine.

(…)

 

CBS Evening News
November 20, 2019
6:31:46 p.m. Eastern

NORAH O’DONNELL: Good evening, and thank you for joining us. President Trump's hand-picked ambassador to the European Union sent shockwaves across the U.S. Capitol today, changing his story and directly implicating the President in the pressure campaign against Ukraine.

Gordon Sondland told Congress there was a quid pro quo, an attempt to trade military funding for an investigation of Mr. Trump's rivals, and it was done at the direction of the President. Sondland insisted everyone was in the loop, including the Vice President and the Secretary of State, and he dramatically shifted the time line, saying the attempts to push Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son began as early as last May.

(…)

NANCY CORDES: That gave Republicans an opening.

REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH): You really have no testimony today that ties President Trump to a scheme to withhold aid from Ukraine in exchange for these investigations?

AMBASSADOR GORDON SONDLAND: Other than my own presumption.

TURNER: Which is nothing.

(…)

CORDES: Sondland's story changed markedly over time. He blames that on the fact he's been denied access to key documents and notes by the State Department. Democrats call that obstruction. The State Department, Norah, says it wasn't true.

(…)

BEN TRACY: President Trump watched enough of the Sondland testimony the hear what he wanted to hear.

(…)

O’DONNELL: Today, we saw Russian President Vladimir Putin say that he's glad the political battles have taken the focus off Russia. What is the effect, the larger context?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Talk about someone liking what they see, Vladimir Putin has to. Because, the United States right now looks like we are just as susceptible to the kind of corruption we lecture the rest of the world about trying to avoid. He also hears the President of the United States repeating Russian propaganda about the 2016 election. And he’s got to love that now Ukraine has become politically toxic not just for President trump but potentially Vice President Joe Biden, as well.

(…)

 

NBC Nightly News
November 20, 2019
7:01:54 p.m. Eastern

LESTER HOLT: Good evening, everyone. The stakes in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump are higher tonight following the most explosive testimony yet. E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland a major Trump campaign backer publically testifying there was a quid pro quo, a pressure campaign on Ukraine to extract politically loaded investigations directed, he says, by President Trump himself. With Rudy Giuliani as point man and Sondland saying it wasn't a case of rogue diplomacy rather he said, quote, “everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.” Peter Alexander has details.

[Cuts to video]

PETER ALEXANDER: Tonight, bombshell testimony from Gordon Sondland, the Trump donor turned diplomat turning against the President's key line of defense in the impeachment inquiry, that there was no quid pro quo. Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, saying there was.

(…)

ALEXANDER: And Republicans seized on Sondland’s testimony that there is no direct link to President Trump:

(….)

HOLT: Chuck Todd is here. Put Sondland’s testimony in perspective for us.

CHUCK TODD: Well, it’s an insider flipping on the President. This is somebody who worked with the President on this issue and says, “Yes, Democrats are right. It's a quid pro quo, hard stop.” There’s your headline. That's a big deal. Now, I think Democrats wish Sondland had more receipts, had more evidence, had more stuff to come with it to reinforce how is it that he presumed it was a quid pro quo, but that's a big deal.

Now, I think, Democrats have to decide: Is this enough or do they need to pursue; do they need one more star witness? That one more star witness I think Gorgon Sondland signaled today could very well be John Bolton, the former national security adviser. The reason for that one more star witness, he would be the one that maybe could actually penetrate the Republican bubble on Capitol Hill that may say, “whoa, maybe we shouldn't stand by the president on all of this.”

(…)

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