With US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland set to testify, Democrats are hoping Wednesday's impeachment hearing will deliver more bombshells than a B-52. Insiders say Sondland's testimony is that which the White House fears most, raising concerns that he might choose to plead the Fifth Amendment to protect himself from self-incrimination, the Guardian reports. Questioning is likely to focus on the withholding of US military aide to Ukraine on a phone call Sondland took from Trump while in a restaurant in Kyiv, Ukraine. Aides have said they overhead Trump ask about "investigations"—but Sondland made no mention of the call in closed-door testimony. More:
- It "comes down to one guy." Rep. Mark Meadows is among Republicans who have argued that only a first-person account of Trump abusing his power—which Sondland is seen as most likely to provide—will provide grounds for impeachment, the Washington Post reports. "The impeachment effort comes down to one guy, Ambassador Sondland," says Meadows. "All the other testimony has a Sondland core to it and a Sondland connection."
- Who is Sondland? NBC takes a look at Sondland's background—and why he is so important to the impeachment inquiry. The businessman, who donated $1 million to Trump's inauguration before he was named ambassador to the EU, is one of the "three amigos" who dealt with Ukraine policy, and allegedly pressured officials to investigate the Bidens, after ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was ousted in May.
- "Tough questions." The AP predicts that Sondland will face tough questions from both parties about Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukraine's president, and about testimony from earlier witnesses. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testified Tuesday that Sondland told Ukrainian officials in a July 10 meeting that they would need to "deliver" before President Volodymyr Zelensky could meet Trump. "Ambassador Sondland referred to investigations into the Bidens and Burisma in 2016," Vindman testified.
- "Omnipresent shadow." Kyle Cheney at Politico calls Sondland an "omnipresent shadow" behind the witnesses who have testified so far. The testimony suggested "that Sondland can pull together all of the far-flung elements of Democrats' impeachment investigation and provide clarity—or sink the probe into further confusion—with his testimony on Wednesday," he writes.
- A lot of explaining to do. Sondland will have to answer for inconsistencies that have emerged in his story, the New York Times notes. In closed-door testimony, he said he never thought military aid to Ukraine was linked to the investigations Trump was pushing for, but he later revised his testimony to say he told the Ukrainians that "resumption of the US aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anticorruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks."
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