A weekly window on the American political scene hosted by the Monitor's politics editors.

'Bombshell' testimony? Or just another Wednesday?

Susan Walsh/AP
U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. The hearing was part of the impeachment inquiry looking into President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents.

Dear reader:

Throughout the Trump era, there have been periodic news events that the D.C. chattering class – often on both sides of the aisle – sees as game-changing. So big, so unusual, so BREAKING NEWS IN ALL CAPS, that everyone agrees it will have a significant impact.

And then, in short order, it becomes clear that it isn’t going to change anything at all.

Why We Wrote This

Ambassador Gordon Sondland testified that there was a quid pro quo between the White House and Ukraine. But to President Trump’s defenders, there’s still no there there.

It’s too early to know if today’s testimony by Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, will turn out to be another one of those days – or will actually become a bona fide turning point.

Appearing before the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Sondland said there was indeed “a quid pro quo” – a White House meeting made conditional on Ukraine’s president launching specific investigations. He said President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani “emphasized that the President wanted a public statement” about investigations into the 2016 election and Burisma, the Ukrainian company where Hunter Biden, Vice President Joe Biden’s son, served on the board. Mr. Sondland also said this was not a secret: “Everyone was in the loop.”

Mr. Sondland said he was never told why U.S. aid to Ukraine had been held up. But he said he “came to the conclusion” that if Ukraine demonstrated “a serious intention” to open those investigations, “the hold on military aid would be lifted.”

To many, Ambassador Sondland’s testimony represented “one of those bombshell days,” as Ken Starr, the independent counsel whose investigation led to the Clinton impeachment, put it on Fox News. “This is the smoking gun,” Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., told Politico

Yet almost immediately, President Trump’s allies began insisting it was all a nothing burger. “What this ‘bombshell’ hearing is amounting to: Another witness who never heard anything from the president,” tweeted Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C. “Sondland SPECULATED why there was a hold on aid,” tweeted Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y. “POTUS told Sondland ‘no quid pro quo’ & the aid was released w/out any new investigations.”

Bottom line: Republican lawmakers are highly unlikely to abandon Mr. Trump unless their voters do. And as FiveThirtyEight pointed out earlier this week, there’s been very little movement in the polling on impeachment. Notably, according to a FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll, nearly two-thirds of Republicans believe Mr. Trump did ask Ukraine to investigate the Bidens – but the vast majority don’t see it as an impeachable offense.

Will today’s testimony move the needle? Perhaps. But it seems unlikely.

Let us know what you’re thinking at csmpolitics@csmonitor.com.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to 'Bombshell' testimony? Or just another Wednesday?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today