Despite a slew of “bombshell” this and “bombshell” that headlines from the mainstream media Wednesday, all the allegations trotted out during the day’s impeachment hearings appeared to be based on second-hand information or hearsay.
Take the testimony of Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia. She suggested that President Donald Trump tried to propose a quid pro quo by purposefully withholding military aid to Ukraine.
Yet in her opening statement, she admitted that she’d never spoken to the president and that her theories about him purposefully withholding aid were based on things she “heard.”
“In a series of interagency meetings, I heard that the president had directed the Office of Management and Budget to hold the funds because of his concerns about corruption in Ukraine,” she said. “Let me say at the outset that I have never discussed this or any other matter with the president and never heard directly from him about this matter.”
(Source: ABC News)
Those stunning admissions meant that much of what she went on to allege about the president was based on second-hand (if not third-hand or fourth-hand) information. The rest of it was based on presumptions.
Later in her testimony, Cooper suggested that, contrary to what the Trump administration maintains happened, Ukraine had been aware that military aid was being withheld.
“My staff showed me two unclassified emails that they received from the State Department,” she said. “One was received on July 25th, at 2:31 P.M. That email said that the Ukrainian embassy and House Foreign Affairs Committee are asking about security assistance.”
“The second email was received July 25th at 4:25 P.M. That email said the Hill knows about the [Foreign Military Financing] situation to an extent and so does the Ukrainian embassy.”
But what exactly Ukraine knew about the military aid remains unclear. While it knew that the aid hadn’t been released yet, evidence hasn’t yet surfaced to definitely disprove the Trump administration’s position that Ukraine never knew that the aid was being withheld.
Cooper nevertheless drew a “strong inference” otherwise.
“Cooper testified that she had a ‘very strong inference‘ that the Ukrainians knew the funding was on hold after speaking with then-U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker,” The Washington Post reported.
“Volker played a key role in facilitating a meeting between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and text messages the former special envoy previously released implied that such a meeting was predicated on Zelensky’s agreeing to publicly announce a corruption investigation.”
Note how even the Post’s report contained ambiguous language.
While this ambiguous language from Cooper and her defenders doesn’t necessarily negate the allegations that have been levied against the president, they certainly throw a wrench in them, making it so that Trump cannot for the time being be proven guilty of quid pro quo beyond a reasonable doubt.
While Cooper’s testimony may have been damaging to the Democrats’ impeachment drive, however, it seems testimony earlier Wednesday morning from Gordon D. Sondland, the American ambassador to the European Union, may have been even more deleterious to their cause.
While being questioned by Ohio Rep. Mike Turner, Sondland was forced to admit that his beliefs regarding Trump’s behavior — namely that the president did commit a quid pro quo — were based entirely on hearsay.
“After you testified, [House Intelligence Committee] Chairman [Adam] Schiff ran out and gave a press conference and said he gets to impeach the president of the United States because of your testimony, and if you pull up CNN today, right now, their banner says ‘Sondland ties Trump to withholding aid,'” the congressman said.
He then asked, “Is that your testimony today, Ambassador Sondland? That you have evidence that Donald Trump tied the investigations to the aid? Because I don’t think you’re saying that.”
“I’ve said repeatedly, congressman, I was presuming,” the ambassador replied.
“So no one told you?” a fired-up Turner continued. “Not just the president. Giuliani didn’t tell. Mulvaney. Pompeo didn’t tell you. Nobody else on this planet told you that Donald Trump was tying aid to these investigations. Is that correct? Answer the question. … Because if your answer is yes, then the chairman’s wrong, and the headline on CNN is wrong. Yes or no?”
“Yes,” Sondland hesitantly admitted.
“So you really have no testimony today that ties President Trump to a scheme to withhold aid from Ukraine in exchange for these investigations? Other than for my own presumptions, which is nothing. Do you know what hearsay evidence is, ambassador?” Turner responded.
In fairness to the ambassador, he was merely responding to a subpoena to testify before Congress. As for the congressional Democrats who summoned him to Wednesday’s impeachment hearings, it’s unclear whether they understand the concept of hearsay.
Or whether they realize the damage that Sondland and Cooper’s testimony has engendered to their already faltering cause:
Ambassador Sondland’s testimony did more damage to the House Democrats’ allegations than they realize. Once again, they’re relying on presumptions and hearsay. https://t.co/soqQg1qMb2
— Rep. Bob Gibbs (@RepBobGibbs) November 20, 2019
Rep. Mike Tuner just knocked Sondland out! He admitted he has nothing more than hearsay. Time to end this nonsense.
— Rich Zeoli (@Richzeoli) November 20, 2019
Sondland just said that no one told him the aid was tied to anything, he PRESUMED it was.
This inquiry is based on assumptions, speculation and hearsay.
Can’t impeach a President on that!
— Ryan Fournier (@RyanAFournier) November 20, 2019
Under oath, Gordon Sondland stated:
He only “presumed” the aid was held up because Ukraine didn’t release an “anti-corruption statement.”
“I did not know (and still do not know) when, why, or by whom the aid was suspended.”
This is all more hearsay & presumption
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) November 20, 2019
What we’ve heard from Ambassador Sondland today is a lot of hearsay and opinion – he’s “presumed” a lot.
The actual facts in evidence are that there was none of this quid pro quo or conditioning that the Democrats are desperately trying to contrive.
Presumption ≠ Impeachment pic.twitter.com/oZMImQGpGV
— Rep Andy Biggs (@RepAndyBiggsAZ) November 20, 2019
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