That concern, shared by multiple lawmakers on the Intelligence Committee, makes it unlikely Democrats will secure additional high-level testimony to add to the already voluminous case they’ve built. All the senior administration officials identified by Sondland have spurned subpoenas and requests for documents and testimony, following Trump’s mandate that there will be no cooperation with the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry.
“It’s a theoretical question. If we could get them, we would get them. If they were willing to come, they’d have been here,” said Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), another member of the Intelligence Committee. “We’re not waiting. I mean, that’s their strategy — run out the clock.”
In another sense, Sondland may have helped hasten Trump’s looming impeachment by handing Democrats their most damning firsthand evidence that the president, through Giuliani, orchestrated a corrupt quid pro quo — refusing to offer a White House meeting to Ukraine’s president until he launched a probe into the Bidens. And Sondland, time and again, pointed to internal documents he said would back up his claims but that the administration has refused to let him share with Congress, an action that in turn could feed an obstruction of Congress charge when Democrats draft articles of impeachment.
In one of the few emails he provided, Sondland showed lawmakers he copied Mulvaney, Perry, Pompeo and several of their top aides about Ukraine’s initial agreement to launch Trump’s favored investigations. Sondland used the email to underscore that he was not a rogue operator but was widely understood to be acting with Trump and Giuliani’s blessing.
“Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret,” Sondland declared in one of the highlights of the day’s session.
Pence’s office released a statement denying Sondland’s claim that he told the vice president during a Sept. 1 conversation in Warsaw, Poland, that he “had concerns that the delay in aid had become tied to the issue of investigations” of the Bidens and the 2016 election. Pence was scheduled to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that day.
Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, issued a statement saying Pence “never had a conversation with Gordon Sondland about investigating the Bidens, Burisma, or the conditional release of financial aid to Ukraine based upon potential investigations.”
And an Energy Department spokesperson asserted Sondland’s testimony “misrepresented both Secretary Perry’s interaction with Rudy Giuliani and direction the secretary received from President Trump.” Pompeo brushed off a question about Sondland during a news conference in Brussels, saying “I didn’t see a single thing today. I was working.”
One complicating factor for Democrats is the imminent court decision in a lawsuit to force former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify to the House Judiciary Committee about allegations Trump obstructed former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. The Judiciary panel is investigating whether to bring articles of impeachment on those charges as well, but McGahn’s case has also become a flashpoint in efforts by the Intelligence Committee to force other Ukraine witnesses to appear.
In particular, lawmakers have asked former national security adviser John Bolton and his top aide Charles Kupperman to abide by the ruling in the McGahn case and testify voluntarily, though it’s unclear whether they would agree to do so.
The judge in that case, Ketanji Brown Jackson, has said she intends to issue a ruling by Monday.