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Sprinkle: A trail of hearsay and assumption as witnesses testify in impeachment fiasco

Like many others, I have been following closely the impeachment proceedings, listening to what was being said and watching body language carefully. Before preparing this column, however, I went to C-SPAN to replay and confirm some of the testimonies. Here are my takeaways.

Nov. 13 – William Taylor, acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine; George Kent, deputy assistant Secretary of State. When Reps. Jim Jordan, Elise Stefanik, and John Ratcliffe bore down on both Kent and Taylor, Taylor said he came to his “clear conclusion” based on “what I heard,” then finally admitted, “I do not have any firsthand knowledge.” The same was true of Kent, who under questioning by Rep. Michael Turner, admitted he had no contact with the president.

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Nov. 14 – Marie Yovanovitch, former Ukraine ambassador. During Yovanovitch’s testimony, Rep. Chris Stewart asked her, “Do you have any information regarding any criminal activity that the president of the United States has been involved with at all?” Response? “No.”

Nov. 19, a.m. – Alexander Vindman, director European affairs at NSC, and Jennifer Williams, special advisor to Vice President Mike Pence. Both were listening on the July 25 call between the president and Volodymyr Zelensky. Revealed under Jordan’s questioning, Morrision (Vindman’s supervisor) testified in his closed-door deposition, “I had some concern about Lt. Col. Vindman’s judgment,” and further, “Fiona [Hill] and others had concerns about Alex’s judgment.” Asked about his concerns regarding Vindman’s leaking of information, Morrison responded, “Yes.” Both Vindman, who “assumed” the word “favor” meant “demand,” and Williams said they felt the call had been inappropriate, but neither would say it rose to the level of bribery.

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Nov. 19, p.m. – Kurt Volker, State Department’s former special envoy to Ukraine; Tim Morrison, former NSC official. Stefanik asked Morrison, who was on the July 25 call, if there had been any mention of withholding aid to Ukraine. Morrison responded, “No.” Stefanik then went down the line with both Morrison and Volker: Any evidence of quid pro quo? Bribery? Extortion? To all of those questions, both answered, “No.”

Nov. 20 – Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defense, Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia; David Hale, under-secretary of state for political affairs. Under questioning, Cooper’s testimony was filled with “recollections,” “understandings,” and “what was reported to me.” Jordan asked Hale if he was aware of any pause in aid in exchange for any kind of investigation by Ukraine. Response? “No.”

Nov. 21 – Fiona Hill, former White House adviser on Russia; David Holmes, U.S. Department of State official. Hill left the White House on July 19, before the July 25 call. Holmes testified that on September 9, he was sitting in a restaurant at lunchtime with Gordon Sondland, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, when Sondland called the president, and Holmes “overheard” the president’s side of the conversation concerning Ukraine, but heard nothing else as Sondland continued his conversation with the President.

All of these “witnesses” have three things in common: (1) They were career government employees who differed with the president’s approach to foreign policy; (2) They agreed that Ukraine received the aid and no investigation was begun; and (3) They had no firsthand knowledge indicating the president was guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

But on Nov. 20, “blockbuster” testimony of Sondland. In his opening statement, he said, “Was there a ‘quid pro quo?’ …with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.” Yet under questioning by Ratcliffe and Jordan, Sondland testified he called the President on September 9 and ask him, “What do you want from Ukraine? He [Trump] responded, ‘I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. I want Zelensky to do the right thing. I want him to do what he ran on.’” FINALLY! We have some firsthand testimony. And under questioning by Turner, Sondland admitted that no one told him, and he had no evidence, the President was tying Ukrainian aid to investigations.

Breaking news on Dec. 2: Zelensky stated yet again: “I never talked to the president from the position of a quid pro quo.”

Time and taxpayer money spent, nothing accomplished by Congress beyond the impeachment fiasco, and here’s what we’ve learned: The only person in D.C. who is busy working for the American people is the target of the Democratic Impeachment Party.

M.K. Sprinkle writes from Hampstead. Her column appears every other Saturday.

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