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Lawmakers spar over upcoming Sondland testimony
President Trump's allies and critics on Sunday took differing views of the implications of U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland's testimony in the House's impeachment inquiry, with Democrats saying Sondland's upcoming appearance will show that Trump solicited a bribe and Republicans disputing his statements about a quid pro quo.
Sondland is scheduled to testify in front of the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday.
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that Sondland's public testimony will demonstrate that Trump solicited a bribe.
"Sadly, my friend [Rep.] Chris Stewart [R-Utah] is going to get his wish this week when we get testimony from Ambassador Sondland, who at the president's instruction told the Ukrainians either go to a microphone and announce an investigation of the Bidens or there will not be military assistance," Maloney said.
Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), meanwhile, was asked by Fox News's Chris Wallace whether it would "blow a hole in your case" if Sondland testifies there was no quid pro quo conditioning military aid on an investigation.
"I don't think it blows a hole in the case. ... There is ample evidence that there was a corrupt deal being cooked up," Himes responded.
Asked by Wallace if Sondland could be considered a credible witness after already changing his testimony once, Himes said, "That's a good question," adding, "It was not lost on Ambassador Sondland what happened to the president's close associate Roger Stone for lying to Congress. My guess is Ambassador Sondland is going to do his level best to tell the truth."
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told CNN's Jake Tapper that Sondland "clearly didn't tell the truth in his initial testimony. I don't know why he decided to ultimately come clean."
"But he did so, and I think over the weekend Sondland has to decide whether his primary loyalty is to America or to the president of the United States," Murphy added.
Sondland's testimony is highly anticipated, both because of what has been released from his own closed-door deposition and based on other witnesses' statements about his role in Trump's dealings with Ukraine.
Sondland revised his closed-door testimony before it was released by the committee to say the president's dealings with Ukraine likely amounted to a quid pro quo. He has also been at the center of testimony from other officials, who said he had pushed - on behalf of Trump himself - for Ukraine's president to launch two investigations that could help Trump politically.
William Taylor, the chargé d'affaires for Ukraine, testified on Wednesday that one of his staffers had overheard Trump asking Sondland about the "investigations" in a July phone call, a new piece of evidence Democrats immediately seized on.
But Republicans largely dismissed the possibility that Sondland's testimony could benefit the Democratic case.
Stewart told Stephanopoulos that the evidence against Trump "was crumbling" after the first week of testimony.
"I think the longer these [hearings go] on, I think the less the American people are going to support impeachment because I think that the evidence just doesn't support it," Stewart said.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), meanwhile, continued to insist that the fact that the military aid was eventually released without an investigation being announced was proof there was no quid pro quo, regardless of what Sondland testified.
Jordan told CBS's Margaret Brennan that the EU ambassador "said there was never any quid pro quo in the text message responding to others on that text chain," although Sondland has since said the message in question was dictated by Trump.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), meanwhile, disputed the claim Sondland reportedly made to State Department official David Holmes that Trump cared only about Ukraine in relation to investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
"[President Volodymyr] Zelensky got elected on a platform of rooting out corruption, which we're glad about, but nobody really knew if he was going to follow through, and because of Ukraine's history of corruption, the law required that before any taxpayer money go to Ukraine, the president had to ensure they're rooting out corruption," he told Wallace on Sunday.