Soon after Friday’s impeachment inquiry hearing by the House Intelligence Committee, Fox’s purported “news”-side anchors Chris Wallace and Martha MacCallum put forward a theory that the right-wing smear campaign to remove former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch could not logically have advanced a corrupt interest by the Trump administration.
After all, the replacement ambassador was William Taylor, who spoke as a key witness at the hearing this past Wednesday. (Of course, Taylor’s testimony was highly damaging to the Trump administration, laying out abuses of power in withholding military aid to Ukraine.)
But in light of the full facts of the case, this still doesn’t work as President Donald Trump’s defenders might want.
On Fox News Reporting, Wallace said, “The argument that they wanted to get her out of the way so they could conduct their policy, I don’t think is especially persuasive -- maybe one of the weak points in the Democratic argument -- because who did they replace her with?”
MacCallum agreed, saying, “They didn’t work very hard, it appears, if that was their goal -- to find someone who was a stronger proponent for the policies of the Trump administration -- which just makes the whole thing look a little bit clumsy, if that was their aim.”
There are, in fact, two separate counter-arguments to these claims. First of all, as The Daily Beast just reported Thursday night, Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and company indeed had other people in mind to become the new ambassador: either former Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), or South Florida businessman Raul Mas Canosa. (While he was still in Congress, Sessions had also been involved in the smear campaign to remove Yovanovitch.)
And while they ended up with the seemingly unflappable Taylor as the new acting ambassador, it’s also clear that Taylor was not treated as actually having real authority in Ukraine relations -- or in the push for Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky to announce an investigation of the Bidens in exchange for military aid. That key role instead went to Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union (and a high-dollar Trump donor), with whom Taylor exchanged text messages and a crucial phone call about Taylor’s objections to the scheme.
Sondland has changed his own testimony in the inquiry, having initially said there was no quid pro quo arrangement. Instead, Sondland has conceded in a written statement: “I now recall speaking individually with [Zelensky aide Andriy] Yermak, where I said that resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks.”
Moreover, Sondland’s reported cell phone calls with Trump about Ukraine pursuing investigations into the Bidens — revealed by Taylor in Wednesday’s hearing, as he had learned of them from his staff — would have constituted serious violations of security protocols. In addition, The Associated Press has reported on a second source for Sondland’s phone call — further illustrating that this specific ambassador, a friend of the Trump administration, was the real moving force on Ukraine policy. Indeed even now more is coming out about Sondland's phone call with Trump: