Biblical and Constitutional Politics
Senator Johnson Destroys Dem Impeachment Arguments and Buttresses Repub Arguments
By Gary F. Zeolla
Most Americans are getting their viewpoint of the impeachment proceedings from the mainstream media (MSM). Sadly, what that means is they are forming their views based on very limited and bias reporting. That is why I am working on a book to be titled, Dems Cannot Beat Trump, So They Impeach Trump: From 2016 to 2020, Dems have Been Trying to Remove President Trump from Office and Failing.
My research for this book includes recording and watching every minute of the public hearings before the House Intelligence Committee (HIC) and before the House Judiciary Committee (HJC), every relevant press conference, and any hearings that will be held in the forthcoming Senate trial. That constitutes hundreds of hours of TV viewing and note taking.
I also have downloaded every transcript for all of the private depositions that occurred before the HIC that were released, along with every relevant document that has been released, many of which many Americans are not even aware of. I will be overviewing each of these documents in my book. Together, there are thousands of pages of documents.
I have also been watching a wide variety of TV news reports, listening to a wide variety of radio news reports and podcasts, and reading a wide variety of news websites. This again is hundreds of hours of watching, listening, and reading.
These sources include left-leaning sources like CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, right-leaning sources like Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, and Breitbart, and moderate sources like Reuters.
As I am consuming all of this information, I am taking notes, then writing out overviews and presenting conservative commentary on everything that is happening.
Needless to say, this vast amount of research is time-consuming, and I am sure beyond the time constraints of most Americans. My hope is that once my book is published, Americans who read it will be able to take a breath and go back and become informed on what really happened. In that way, they can make informed choices in the 2020 presidential election, along with in the elections for their US House Representative and US Senator.
Even after the 2020 elections, this information will be important, as the stage is set for many further impeachments to happen, as will be discussed in my book. Fully understanding what happened this time will enable readers of my book to be prepared for the next time an impeachment happens and for understanding the goings on in Washington D.C. in general.
Note: In my forthcoming book and in this article, by “Dems” is meant elected and non-elected Democrat officials in Washington D.C. Specifically, the Democrat members of the US House of Representatives and the Democrat Senators in the Senate, along with their staff and other support personal, and all of the other non-elected Democrat bureaucrats in the nation’s capital. It must be noted, the term “Dems” does not refer to the average registered Democrat US voter.
Similarly, by “Repubs” is mean the same, except to substitute “Republican” for “Democrat” in the preceding paragraph.
Purpose of this Article
As a result of conducting all of this research, I am way behind in viewing the hearings in the HIC, so on Saturday December 14, 2019, I just got around to viewing what I consider to be a vital part of the hearing with European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland that occurred on November 20, 2019.
Then I got so caught up following the final impeachment proceedings in the House the following week, along with following the continuing fallout from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) report on Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) abuse, which I will also be covering in my book, that it took me a week to write and post this article. Just to give the reader an idea of the madness of trying to cover all that is happening for my book.
That said; what makes this part of this hearing so vital is I never heard it reported about in any of the news outlets I have been monitoring, not even in conservative sources, yet it destroyed important Democrat arguments against President Trump while buttressing Republican arguments in the President’s defense.
This article will overview and comment on this vital point of this hearing. It will then be included in my forthcoming book. In this article, I will assume the reader has a basic knowledge of what has been happening, though in the book I will be explaining all that I mention here in detail prior to this point in the book. If you don’t understand something I refer to, then that will be that much more reason why you will need to read my book when it is published.
Before getting to the hearing, it will be necessary to review the timeline of what has happened, as it where this testimony fits into this timeline that makes it so vital.
President Trump first initiated a hold on military aid to Ukraine on July 18, 2019, one week before the July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. The aid was officially stopped on the day of that call, a few hours after the call. The whistleblower (WB) complaint was made known to the HIC by the OIG on September 9. The hold on the aid was fully released on September 11. Thus, the aid was delayed for 55 days, counting from July 18 to September 11.
Now, a standard Repub argument has been that the aid was released without Ukraine having done anything. They did not announce any investigations into Ukrainian interference in the 2016 elections or into Burisma and the Bidens. As such, there could not have been a quid pro quo or a bribe by President Trump of President Zelensky, as President Zelensky did nothing to get the aid released.
Dems counter by saying the aid was only released by President Trump in response to the WB complaint being released to the HIC, at which time the White House became aware of it. Thus, they say Trump tried to bribe Zelensky but got caught and gave up on the bribe, and “attempted bribery” is still a crime.
Now, in my book, I detail that Trump’s aids, including Gordon Sondland, had been encouraging him to release the aid prior to September 9, and that is the reason the aid was released, not the WB complaint. In his hearing, prior to this point, Sondland has mentioned his encouragement of the President to release the aid.
Consequently, the question is, was the reason the aid was released due to the WB complaint? Or was it due to these encouragements by Trump aids? If it is the former, then the President could be said to have attempted bribery. But if it is the latter, and if that means the aid would have been released without the WB complaint and without Ukraine doing anything to get the aid released, then there was no quid pro quo, no bribery, no abuse of power, and thus no reason for impeachment.
Hearing Before HJC
With that background, on to this vital section of the Sondland hearing. Note that in my overviews of these hearings, I am in no way presenting a word for word transcript of the hearings. That would require several books. Instead, I am paraphrasing and summarizing the most important points of each speaker. Only when I use quotes am I presenting a direct quote of a statement.
I am including my comments within the summaries. I am trying make it clear when I am commenting and not paraphrasing a speaker by using a phrase with a first-person pronoun to indicate my comments, such as “I think” or “in my opinion” or the phrase “To comment.”
That said; this section of the Sondland hearing was being conducted by Repub lawyer Steve Caster. Let me stop and say that could be why this section of the hearing has not been widely reported. Caster’s questioning was meticulous and methodical, but quite boring. It was not near as flashy as say the questioning by Jim Jordan or John Ratcliff, who were quite fiery in their remarks.
In any case, Caster referenced a letter by Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin about a call Johnson had with the President on August 31. In the letter, Johnson says he asked the President “‘Is there some kind of arrangement for action for Ukraine to take and the hold would be lifted?’ The President without hesitation immediately said ‘No.’” To comment, the “hold” here is a reference to the hold on military aid to Ukraine.
To continue with Caster’s quoting of the letter, Johnson said the President continued by first using an expletive, that Caster did not quote. The President then said, “No way! I would never do that. Who told you that?” Johnson commented that the President was “adamant, vehement, and angry.”
To comment, this is huge. Remember the timeline. This conversation is nine days before the WB complaint was revealed, yet Trump is already “adamant” and “vehement” that there is no condition Ukraine must meet for the aid to be released. He even gets angry at the very suggestion of such.
Caster now asks Sondland if he was involved in that call, and he said he wasn’t. But Sondland added that he believed Johnson. Caster then asked Sondland, “You don’t think we’re missing any material conversations with the President, do you?” Sondland replied, “No.” Caster then asked the same about Rudy Giuliani, and Sondland replied the same.
To comment, the point here is, even without the many witnesses Dems say they need to testify that the President has blocked, Sondland believes we have full information on the substance of conversations with Trump and his personal lawyer about Ukraine. That belies the Dems’ claim that Trump’s refusal to let those witnesses testify is because he is hiding something.
But along these lines, Caster then asked, “Are there other fact witnesses that would help?” Sondland replies “Maybe Brian McCormack, Chief of Staff for [Rick] Perry.” To comment, later, a couple of other names will be mentioned. But here, even though Sondland says these witnesses might help, he already said we have the substance of what Trump and Rudy were saying at this time.
Caster now goes back to the Johnson call. He reviews the timeline of the hold on the aid being lifted on September 11, but the Johnson call occurring on August 31. He then continues with Johnson’s quoting of the President. The President says, “We are reviewing it now, and you’ll probably like our conclusion.”
Caster asks Sondland, “Is the President signaling he was going to release the aid?” Sondland replies, “Sounds like it.” Sondland continues by saying the OMB [Office of Management and Budget] and others involved with Ukraine believed the hold would be lifted.
To comment, by “reviewing” the President is referring to what Repubs have been saying all along, that the reason for the 55 day delay in the aid was to give time for the OMB and others to review if Ukraine and especially its new President Zelensky were serious about rooting out corruption in Ukraine. That is what Zelensky claimed and had promised during his election campaign. Zelensky indicated he was now doing such in the July 25 phone call, when he said:
“to tell you the truth, we are trying to work hard because we wanted to drain the swamp here in our country. We brought in many many new people. Not the old politicians, not the typical politicians, because we want to have a new format and a new type of government.”
The phrase “drain the swamp” is of course Trump’s phrase from his 2016 campaign about rooting out corruption here in the USA in Washington D.C. Zelensky knowing that Trump used that phrase is now using it for rooting out corruption in his government in Ukraine and its capital of Kiev. The use of that phrase contradicts Dems repeated claims that corruption in general was not mentioned in the call. Yes, it was, right here by Zelensky. That is why Trump does not mention corruption in general in the call, as Zelensky already did.
But to our point here, the “review” Trump is referring to was conducted to be sure Zelensky was in fact working to drain the swamp in Ukraine before releasing the aid. This is in accordance with US law that says money should not be given to foreign governments if that aid will be wasted due to corruption. The point is, Johnson has verified the reason for the hold on aid was this review, not because Trump was trying to “pressure” Zelensky to conduct investigations into his “political rival” as Dems claim.
The next point is Trump saying, “you'll probably like our conclusion.” Sondland indicates this is a reference to the aid being released. What this means is (and again, this huge), Trump already was planning on releasing the hold on the aid nine days before the WB complaint was revealed. As such, in no way was the reason the aid was released on September 11 because of the revelation of the WB complaint on September 9. Remember, this call was on August 31, nine days before that, and plans were already in motion to release the aid.
All of this together crushes the Dem arguments that the aid was held up to help Trump politically and that it was only because of the WB complaint that it was released. In truth, just as Repubs have been arguing all along, the hold was to give time to investigate if Ukraine was in fact working to root out corruption, and once that concern had been satisfied, the aid was released. All perfectly acceptable and legal, in fact required by law, without a hint of a quid pro quo or bribery on part of President Trump against President Zelensky.
To continue with the hearing, Caster then asked Sondland if he was aware that the President was concerned about foreign aid generally. Sondland replied, “I am aware of that.” Caster then asked Sondland if he was aware that the President had put holds on aid to other counties. Sondland said he was. Caster also said the President was interested in understanding the contributions of our allies, and Sondland concurred. Caster then asked, “How do you know that wasn’t the reason for the hold?” Sondland replied, “I don’t.” Caster then asked, “You speculated there was a condition?” Sondland replied, “I presumed it.”
This final exchange then ties into a latter part of the hearing that conservative media, but not liberal media, has reported widely. Namely, that when Sondland said there was a quid pro quo, that assessment was his “assumption,” but it was not based on any actual statement by the President. I will be addressing that part of this hearing in detail in my book. But here, I will look further into this testimony about Senator Johnson’s letter.
As mentioned, I have downloaded every transcript that has been released for the private depositions before the HIC committee. After hearing this part of the public hearing, I pulled up the pdf file for the Sondland deposition of October 17 to find out if more about this situation was discussed in that deposition. I did a search on “Johnson.” The name occurs 26 times. Following are the most relevant references, with comments by yours truly. It should be noted, the quality of these pdfs is not that great, so when copying and pasting from them, the characters and even lines can get rather confused. But I have corrected it as best as I was able.
On April 24th, 2019, Volodymyr Zelensky was elected President of Ukraine, beating incumbent President Petro Poroshenko with nearly 73 percent of the vote. This was a momentous event in Ukraine, political history, and for the overall U.S.-Ukraine relationship.
On May 20th, 2019, given the significance of this election, I attended the inauguration of President Zelensky as part of the U.S. delegation led by U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, along with Senator Ron Johnson, Special Envoy Volker, and Mr. Alex Vindman from the NSC. During this visit, we developed positive views of the new Ukraine President and his desire to promote a stronger relationship between Kyiv [Kiev] and Washington, to make reforms necessary to attract Western economic investment, and to address Ukraine’s well-known and longstanding corruption issues. …
To comment, this passage is from Sondland’s opening statement. In it, he is talking about the election of Zelensky and the US delegation to his inauguration. Note that Senator Johnson was part of that delegation. That means, Johnson was part of the US efforts to reboot our relationship with Ukraine from the start of Zelensky’s presidency.
Note also, the US spelling and pronunciation of the Ukraine capital is Kiev (pronounced key-ev), but the ambassadors in these hearings consistently used the Ukrainian spelling and pronunciation of Kyiv (pronounced keev).
This two-part article is concluded at: Senator Johnson Destroys Dem Impeachment Arguments and Buttresses Repub Arguments - Part Two.
See end of Part Two.
Senator Johnson Destroys Dem Impeachment Arguments and Buttresses Repub Arguments. Copyright © 2019 by Gary F. Zeolla (www.Zeolla.org).
Tearing the USA Apart
From Kavanaugh, to Incivility, to Caravans, to Violence, to the 2018 Midterm Elections, and Beyond
The United States of American is being torn about by political differences more than any time since the 1960s and maybe since the Civil War of the 1860s. This division was amplified by political events in the summer to fall of 2018. This time period could prove to be seminal in the history of the United States. This tearing apart came to the forefront and was amplified during the confirmation proceedings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh. This book overviews the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation proceedings in detail. It then overviews these additional major events that occurred up to the end of November 2018.
The above article was posted on this website December 21, 2019.
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