For two years, pundits and press have told us today was the day that Trump’s presidency began to unravel. It has become such a constant statement that few actually believe it anymore. The press and pundits have been crying wolf on this for two years. Objectively, the President is still around and the odds are he will be on the ballot in 2020. But…and this is a big but…if the presidency is set to unravel the first actual signs of danger came yesterday. The most important and dramatic danger got overshadowed by the other.
The actual big danger for the Trump presidency came with a small statement by one of the most powerful people in Washington, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. When asked about the President’s conversation with McConnell wherein, according to the President, McConnell described Trump’s call with Ukraine’s President as “perfect,” McConnell threw the President under the bus.
McConnell is a purposeful person. He could have declined to comment. He could have phrased it differently. But he went straight for saying he did not talk to the President and only politely declined to call the President a liar.
That’s actually really bad. It puts McConnell on the opposite side of the President, unwilling to back up the President.
That, friends, was the major smoke in the forest. But it did not stop there. Highly regarded Ambassador Bill Taylor also testified to the House and his written testimony got released. Bill Taylor is not a partisan apparatchik as much as he may now be portrayed.
Taylor is a veteran of the Vietnam War and served in the 101st Airborne Division. He served as an advisor to the U.S. Ambassador to NATO, William Howard Taft IV, during the first Bush administration and, notably, during the Gulf War. The second Bush appointed him Ambassador to Ukraine and Donald Trump’s Administration asked him to go back as the U.S. chargé d’affaires to Ukraine.
According to Taylor’s testimony, which would be hearsay in court, but we are not in court and Taylor has no reason to lie, he learned from National Security Council aide Tim Morrison that Sondland had told Morrison the aid to Ukraine would be held up until Ukraine’s President publicly declared Joe Biden was being investigated.
True, legal sleuths will say that Taylor’s testimony is third hand, but the House can subpoena Tim Morrison. Morrison’s testimony could be taken as a statement against interest against Sondland. Sondland, notably, admitted he met with Taylor, but he could not recall their conversation. He never denied the conversation.
Notably, Taylor says Sondland reiterated to him directly that aid was held up pending investigations. According to Taylor’s written testimony, “Ambassador Sondland also told me that he now recognized that he had made a mistake by earlier telling the Ukrainian officials to whom he spoke that a White House meeting with President Zelenskyy was dependent on a public announcement of investigations — in fact, Ambassador Sondland said, ‘everything’ was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance.”
Republicans will try to again suggest it was all about 2016 and not Biden. Taylor cannot directly say otherwise, but he fingered Morrison, who will now be called, and Sondland who will undoubtedly be called back.
There is smoke now. McConnell’s distance from the President and Bill Taylor’s statement are signals that something is seriously off. The names of people to talk to continues to grow as well.