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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 11/21/19

Julia'n Castro: Gordon Sondland's Testimony Is "Nail in the Coffin" of Trump's Defense

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ame>During Wednesday's impeachment hearing, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland told lawmakers that he was ordered by Trump to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Sondland also acknowledged there was a quid pro quo tying U.S. military aid to investigations, and said that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence were aware of the Ukraine pressure campaign.

Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro joins us to discuss these latest developments in the impeachment inquiry, which he describes as "blockbuster testimony" that could serve as "a nail in the coffin" of Trump's defense. Castro was excluded from the Democratic presidential debate Wednesday because his campaign did not meet polling thresholds recently established by the Democratic National Committee.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: "We followed the president's orders." Those were the words of U.S. Ambassador Gordon Sondland Wednesday as he told lawmakers that he helped pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Sondland acknowledged there was a quid pro quo tying U.S. military aid to Ukraine with Ukraine's announcement of a probe into the Bidens. Sondland also said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence were aware of the campaign. Sondland testified the officials knew that President Trump conditioned the release of nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid and an Oval Office meeting with the Ukrainian president on a statement about the Bidens.

AMY GOODMAN: This is part of Ambassador Sondland's opening testimony Wednesday.

GORDON SONDLAND: First, Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker and I worked with Mr. Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the president of the United States. We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we were playing the hand we were dealt. We all understood that if we refused to work with Mr. Giuliani, we would lose a very important opportunity to cement relations between the United States and Ukraine. So we followed the president's orders.

Second, although we disagreed with the need to involve Mr. Giuliani, at the time, we did not believe that his role was improper. ...

Third, let me say, precisely because we did not think that we were engaging in improper behavior, we made every effort to ensure that the relevant decision makers at the National Security Council and the State Department knew the important details of our efforts. The suggestion that we were engaged in some irregular or rogue diplomacy is absolutely false. I have now identified certain State Department emails and messages that provide contemporaneous support for my view. These emails show that the leadership of the State Department, the National Security Council and the White House were all informed about the Ukraine efforts from May 23rd, 2019, until the security aid was released on September 11th, 2019. I will quote from some of those messages with you shortly.

Fourth, as I testified previously, as I testified previously, Mr. Giuliani's requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky. Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing the investigations of the 2016 election, DNC server and Burisma. Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president of the United States, and we knew these investigations were important to the president.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday. Former National Security Council official Fiona Hill and U.S. diplomat David Holmes testify today beginning at 9 a.m.

AMY GOODMAN: And Democracy Now! will live-stream at But right now we turn to Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro, who served as housing secretary under President Obama. In a moment, we're going to ask him about last night's presidential debate, the first he wasn't participating in.

But first we go to the impeachment inquiry, which you've also been talking about and tweeting about, Secretary Castro. Can you talk about the significance of yesterday's testimony, what was considered to be the most important? The front-page headline of The New York Times, across all five columns: "We Followed the President's Orders."

JULIÃ N CASTRO: It was blockbuster testimony, was, I believe, a nail in the coffin of Donald Trump and the case that he has tried to make. I mean, how many times have we heard the president say over and over again that there was no quid pro quo? And here we have Ambassador Sondland, that everybody acknowledges had the most direct contact with the president, knew what was going on, was part of also email chains, saying very specifically, very directly, that there was a quid pro quo and that the president was holding up military aid until President Zelensky of Ukraine would announce an investigation of Burisma. So, you know, it really couldn't be more clear that the president has violated his oath of office. He's abused his power. And, you know, this was just some of the testimony. There was plenty of other testimony to back that case up. And, of course, Fiona Hill is going to testify today. So it's very damning to the president.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And do you believe, Secretary Castro I mean, now many people believe that, of course, Trump was guilty of this, but do you think everyone is persuaded that this is an impeachable offense and that he is, in any sense, likely to be impeached?

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