WASHINGTON — With the second week of Trump impeachment hearings starting Tuesday, the issue of real-time witness intimidation from President Donald Trump is on the table. Whether this rises to becoming an impeachable offense remains to be seen.
Hours after Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., raised concerns about a “pattern of witness intimidation” Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Trump posted a tweet slamming a senior adviser to Vice President Mike Pence who will testify Tuesday before the Democratic-run House Intelligence panel hearings.
Eight witnesses are scheduled for the week and at least one more may be in the pipeline, David Holmes, the political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine who overheard a cell phone conversation in a Kiev restaurant between Trump and his European Union ambassador, Gordon Sondland.
Sondland, who parlayed a million dollar donation to Trump’s inauguration committee into an ambassador slot, has emerged as a key ringleader of the “irregular channel” dealing with Ukraine, bypassing establishment career diplomats to execute Trump’s bid to pressure Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden and raise questions about Ukraine’s role in the 2016 U.S. election.
Sondland will testify on Wednesday — and he is important since he is the one with the most direct conversations with Trump.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., and Quigley are two of the 22 members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. They both were present when Sondland testified in a closed session last month. Sondland later amended his testimony to provide a crucial detail: Trump was “likely” to withhold military assistance to Ukraine until those “investigations” were announced.
I asked Krishnamoorthi in a Sunday interview what he observed about Sondland during his deposition.
Krishnamoorthi replied, “A, He definitely had the president’s ear on Ukraine, B., He was interested in helping run it, the policy on Ukraine and C., He was very annoyed that (Trump personal attorney) Rudy Giuliani had anything to do with it.”
QUIGLEY AND WITNESS INTIMIDATION
On Friday, Trump injected himself into the second day of televised impeachment hearings when, as Marie Yovanovitch was testifying – the ex-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Trump removed – he said in a tweet, “Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad.”
“The fact is, if the president disagrees with you or you don`t cheer on the president of the United States, he comes after you and the rule of law is left behind,” Quigley said on “Face the Nation.”
The show marked Quigley’s debut on a network Sunday show.
Hours later, Trump attacked Jennifer Williams, a special advisor to Pence who handles the Ukraine portfolio. He said “Jennifer Williams, whoever that is,” “...should meet with the other Never Trumpers, who I don’t know & mostly never even heard of, & work out a better presidential attack!”
KRISHAMOORTHI AND THE MONTH GAP
When Krishnamoorthi questioned Yovanovitch on Friday, he was able to spotlight that her dumping — and the month it took for her replacement — gave Trump the opportunity to install players willing to do his bidding in pressuring Ukraine.
They are Sondland; Kurt Volker, ex-envoy to Ukraine; and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, nicknamed the “three amigos” – plus Giuliani off in his own lane.
Krishnamoorthi asked, “The one month gap between the time you left and when Ambassador Taylor arrived provided the perfect opportunity for another group of people to basically take over Ukraine policy, isn’t that right?”
On Sunday, Krishnamoorthi said, The gap was “basically a vacuum of any leadership from the State Department in Ukraine and that was when President Trump was able to install the “three amigos” and Giuliani as really the powers that commanded Ukraine foreign policy.”