InfoMullet: Against Their Interests

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TLDRUpFront: As Ambassador Sondland prepares to testify reports indicate he may provide insights that the President’s personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani was not operating independently, but in parallel with and coordination among US  Ambassadors.  Also and increasing number of career civil servants are defying the White House ban to come forward and provide testimony and documents relating to the WhistleBlower scandal.


FullContext in the Back: 

Ambassador Gordon Sondland is expected to testify this afternoon in a closed-door House Intelligence Committee hearing. He’s the fourth of fifth official to testify this week, despite the White House blockade on cooperation and State Department directive not to support the inquiries.

There had been some debate on this feed about what he might testify. His Ambassadorship appears to have been bought by a donation, and there was some concern he might simply cover for Trump.

But the New York Times is reporting the substance of his testimony will be that his impression was that the President directed him to work with Giuliani on Ukraine. And second, that there was clearly a condition on support for Ukraine by President Trump, namely that President Zelensky would have to officially announce investigations into Burisma and 2016 election interference, and that to Sondland these conditions were to create a domestic political benefit for Trump.

This goes to the heart of the quid pro quo context which, although not a requirement for impeachment, certainly raises the bar of evidence if it can be shown and demonstrated. Sondland is also the Ambassador behind many text messages at the center of the scandal, including one that caught many of our eyes as being an unusually worded few sentence phrases proclaiming that there is no quid pro quo. Sondland is expected to testify that President Trump directed him to write those words and send them to Ambassador Bill Taylor.

Of course, depositions are different than reporting on what will be said in the deposition, so hopefully there will be a prepared statement or other materials released by the committee we can use as a more substantive record.

Also, an interesting article from Politico on how, despite the White House refusal to cooperate – many career officers and even political appointees are cooperating on their own. This puts them at risk of being fired.  If this were a criminal investigation (which it isn’t) such jeopardy could improve the credence given to evidence they are providing because it is considered to go against their interests to provide it.

Being ‘against their interests’ means that their testimony is so obviously harmful to their own interests that it is unlikely for them to say it were it not true.  In this case the President of the United States has ordered Federal agencies and civil servants not to cooperate. Defying this order, let alone testifying against the President and senior administration officials, could lead to disciplinary actions, sanctions and career ramifications for any who do testify. And for the drum-circle beating a rhythm of “hearsay is inadmissible”, one of the typical exceptions against hearsay is when it’s a “declaration against interests.”  This is better explained by Legal Eagle in a video I’ll link below.

Of course this isn’t a criminal trial, or even a grand jury. Impeachment proceedings, whether an investigation in the House or a trial in the Senate are always inherently political. But it is interesting when all the chatter is how ‘unfair’ this is that it actually meets very close to Federal evidence rules of how a grand jury inquiry might be performed.


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