Thursday’s witnesses thoroughly undermined EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland and former Special Envoy for the Ukraine Kurt Volker’s repeated insistence that they didn’t realize investigating Burisma was code for investigating the Bidens.
Throughout his opening statement, David Holmes, a U.S. diplomat in Kyiv, consistently referred to the probe as the “Burisma/Biden investigations,” showing the intrinsic link.
Democratic staff attorney Daniel Goldman followed that thread, asking both Holmes and former NSC senior director Fiona Hill about the obviousness of the connection.
Goldman mentioned Volker and Sondland by name, asking if it was similarly difficult for Holmes and Hill to realize that when “President Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, or anybody else” was pushing for investigations into Burisma, they were actually pushing for investigations into the Bidens.
“It was very apparent to me that that’s what Rudy Giuliani intended to convey, that Burisma was linked to the Bidens,” Hill said. “He said this publicly, repeatedly.”
Holmes also confirmed that he understood Burisma to be code for the Bidens, answering affirmatively to Goldman’s postulation that “anyone involved in the Ukraine matters in the spring and summer would understand that as well.”
Holmes/Hill say that investigations into Burisma really meaning investigations into the Bidens (a link which Sondland and Volker say they were ignorant of) was obvious pic.twitter.com/vwFcz8SlB4
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) November 21, 2019
Volker had changed his previous testimony during his hearing Tuesday to reflect the new information he said he’d learned about the Burisma-Biden equivalence.
“In hindsight, I now understand that others saw the idea of investigating possible corruption involving the Ukrainian company, ‘Burisma,’ as equivalent to investigating former Vice President Biden. I saw them as very different. The former being appropriate and unremarkable, the latter being unacceptable,” he said in his opening statement. “In retrospect, I should have seen that connection differently, and had I done so, I would have raised my own objections.”
Volker’s insistence on his ignorance strains credulity, given his heavy involvement as one of the “three amigos” spearheading U.S.-Ukraine relations.
By way of a defense, he claimed that when Rudy Giuliani instructed him to add references to investigations into Burisma to a draft statement for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to read publicly, Trump’s lawyer never mentioned the Bidens. Volker also frequently emphasized his absence from the July 25 Trump-Zelensky call during which Trump mentions the Bidens by name.
Sondland, too, maintains that he didn’t realize the link until the call memo of Trump’s July 25 conversation with Zelensky was released in September.
He testified that he didn’t see Giuliani’s many television appearances or tweets unsubtly connecting Burisma to the Bidens.
“I wasn’t paying attention to what Mr. Giuliani was saying on TV,” Sondland said. “We were talking to him directly.”
Sondland’s squishiness on the issue led to the tensest moment in his testimony, when Rep. Sean Maloney (D-NY) pressed him aggressively to admit the obvious fact that a sham investigation into the Bidens would benefit Trump most.
When Sondland finally did, the hearing room broke into applause.