Ambassador Gordan Sondland, the person whom I keep misreading as the U.S. special envoy to Shondaland, testified in in the House impeachment inquiry today. While there were many headline-making moments, the big takeaways, so far, are 1) Wow, everyone is implicated in this thing; 2) Everyone! 3) Gordan Sondland has never taken a note on anything in his life and he resents any assertion otherwise. Gordon Sondland goes to the grocery store and if he forgets something that he really needs, well Chairman, that's just how the cookie crumbles. Oh! Cookies! That's what it was.
Republican Counsel Castor: "You don't have records. You don't have your notes because you didn’t take notes. You don't have a lot of recollections. This is like the trifecta of unreliability. Isn't that true?— CSPAN (@cspan) November 20, 2019
Ambassador Gordon Sondland: "I think I filled in a lot of blanks." pic.twitter.com/0pQc4zP4nD
Sondland harnessed all of his Big Ned Ryerson energy to calmly and clearly assert that there was an obvious and known quid pro quo at play in the Trump administration's dealings with Ukraine and that, while it was directed through Rudy Giuliani, "everyone was in the loop." Mulvaney, Pence, Pompeo, everyone. The ghost of Richard Nixon was like "lemme in on this action!"; the delivery person who drops off all the cold Filet-o-Fishes whenever a team visits the White House was like "sure, you can bcc me on this." Everyone.
Sondland also testified that in one of his many conversations with Trump, he tried to get clarity on what quids this pro was quoting. He relayed that Trump said "I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelensky to do the right thing. This is the final word from the U.S." which is a little bit of clunky, expository dialogue that seems to have escaped revision.
Trump might as well have continued, "I am not committing an impeachable offense and if this ever comes up in front of Adam Schiff make sure you tell him that there's nothing I hate more than intimidating other people to get what I want and if you don't tell him that I will destroy you and everyone you've ever met. Also, if at the time you say this in front of Adam Schiff, Sean Spicer is still on Dancing with the Stars make sure you look directly at the camera and tell America to vote for him. He has no talent, but if he doesn't do well on this he's going to ask me to pull some strings for him and I've got too many quid pro quos going on as it is. And by too many I mean none. Are you taking notes on this?"
Trump seized on quote and did what any rational, even-tempered, innocent person would do in this scenario: he took notes on his own quoted statement in an a Sharpie the size of George Kent's water bottle and then went outside, fired up a helicopter, and then shouted a statement at reporters. This is, by the way, the psychic opposite of whispering in a well, if you're building a spectrum of quixotic public declarations.
“What do you want from Ukraine?” Trump says Sondland asked him. “I want nothing, I want nothing, I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelensky — President Zelensky — to do the right thing,” Trump says he told Sondland, holding hand-written notes that appear to quote @USAmbEU's testimony. pic.twitter.com/hb0XJCI9hF— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) November 20, 2019
This video is high art. Trump gives a dramatic reading like he's auditioning for the part of "Mobster #2" on an episode of Law & Order. "'WHAT. DO YOU. WANT? FROM ME?' HE ASKS ME." Trump shouts, again over the deafening din of a large flying vehicle and also with a random family in the background. This thing is staged like a Christopher Guest movie. I have never loved a piece of cinema more.
Trump clarifies again that he is reading quotes from Ambassador Sondland and then reading his responses that he just saw on the television on which he was watching the impeachment hearings he said he wasn't going to watch. Trump then reads back Sondland's account of their conversation, four sentences which Trump felt compelled to scribble on an Air Force One notepad like a ransom note for the United States.
This tracks. Whenever I am wanting to remember simple denials of crimes, I write them the size of cue cards on SNL and then bellow them into the open Washington, D.C. air like the Founders intended.
Meanwhile, for some reason Ivanka Trump hovered in the background like a character at the end of an Ocean's 11 movie.
What is this? This is making me so uncomfortable. She looks like The Ghost of Christmas Past a production of A Christmas Carol set at a Homeowners Association Meeting.
Does he know she's there? Does she know she's there? Is anyone else seeing this or has my sleep paralysis demon branched out?
So many questions. But, fortunately, now we have an answer to at least the question of how Trump plans to defend himself against allegations of wrongdoing: he'll just shout "I want nothing" over and over again like someone who has been binge-watching Tidying Up and has finally been broken by the iron will of Marie Kondo. How can a person who wants harass a foreign government? Can't be done! Quid pro quo does not spark joy. Case closed! Tell the ghost of Richard Nixon there's nothing left to see here. Just a bunch of innocent people shouting directly into the blades of a helicopter while an apparition in sunglasses and an expensive coat stares at us with deeply unsettling intensity for far longer than we are comfortable with!
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