Ambassador Sondland – Appeasing the boss

I listened to Ambassador Gordon Sondland and found him very straight forward, honest and sincere.  He confirmed his cell phone call to  Trump on July 26, 2019, while having lunch in a restaurant in Ukraine.  His testimony highlighted he understood how Trump operated – as the call was very short and to the point.  It was an all good news for Trump as he let Trump know that the Ukraine President would do anything Trump asked.   But there was more to Soldland’s “special assignments” with the Stockholm brawl.   This probably flew under the radar, except for those in the hip-hop world.   See CNN link.

Sondland was the founder and CEO of Provenance Hotel chains, which owns 19 hotels across the US.  He was many ways, like Trump, because his company  created distinct and classy hotels,  13 of which  received reader-choice awards from Conde Nast.  He is a very generous man,  Sondland made contributions to the Oregon community, including a $1 million endowment to the Portland Art Museum, where he served as its chairman from 2009 to 2011, to allow free admission for children. He had limited governmental work before Donald Trump nominated him as Ambassador to the EU.  He was nominated by Trump and confirmed as Ambassador in  July 2018.  See links below.

Since Ukraine is not part of the EU normally Ambassador Sondland would not be involved in US foreign relations with this country.  “President Trump has not only honored me with the job of being the US ambassador to the EU, but he’s also given me other special assignments, including Ukraine,” he told a Ukraine media outlet in July (see CNN link).

The impeachment inquiry heard testimony from Ambassador Sondland and David Holmes.  David Holmes is serving as Counselor for Political Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine.  He testified at the House Intel Committee on November 21.   Holmes testimony pretty much confirmed what others were saying – that Trump was looking for political dirt on the Biden’s and the 2016 election.

Adam Schiff was laser focused on the Ukraine scandal and Holmes testimony was critical, as he overheard Trump on Sondland’s cell phone.    Sondland contributed one million dollars to Trump’s Inauguration – not to his campaign.    Smart business man to wait until there is a victor before making a contribution.

Trump doesn’t give a shit about the Ukraine, just winning the election

Trump figured Ambassador Sondland to the EU would be his “go to” man.  (The Atlantic Monthy agrees with me and the link is shown at the bottom).    However, Sondland loyalty did not extend to ignoring a subpoena or pleading the Fifth in front of the committee.   Ambassador  Sondland called Trump on July 26, a day after Trump’s call to Zelensky.  As reported by CBS News (link is provided at bottom with transcript of the David Holmes  testimony):

Holmes said he was sitting near Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, at a restaurant in Kiev and could hear him speaking to Mr. Trump, who said, “So, he’s gonna do the investigation?” referring to Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky. Holmes testified that Sondland replied, “He’s gonna do it” and added that Zelensky would do “anything you ask him to.”

Holmes testified that the call was also unusual because such a call with the president would generally take place in a more secure setting, not on a cell phone. He noted that at least two of the three mobile networks in Ukraine are owned by Russian companies, and the U.S. generally assumes mobile communications in Ukraine are being monitored.

This followed by a comment by Sondland that Trump doesn’t give a shit about Ukraine, just winning the election.

Stockholm Street Brawl: the bizarre  saga of Mr. Rakim Mayers enters the impeachment inquiry

But the overheard conversation  delved into some really critical international crisis,  the infamous  Stockholm street brawl.  (Yes, I am being facetious!).

The quick summary:  A rapper from the US by the name of A$AP Rocky (Rakim Mayers) and 3 of his group  got into an altercation as they were walking on the street in Sweden on June 30,  2019.  Mayers’s group is on a hot streak and were in the middle of a European concert tour.    Mayers was arrested by authorities, totally messing up his European tour.    Mayers’ lawyer said he  acted only in self defense.  (see link).  Almost immediately,  this street brawl went viral, with hashtag #JusticeforRocky with various clips of the fight on network station TMZ.  In court,  Mayers was accused of assault against  Jafari  Mustafa who was beaten, kicked, and cut with broken bottles and taken to the hospital.   Mayers plead innocent and lost in  court  The court ruled, based on the injuries that this wasn’t self defense.    Mayers got off very lightly with a fine of $1,270, served no additional  jail time and could go home.

And you have to be thinking, how could this Stockholm street brawl possibly get to the level of the President of the US and Ambassador to the EU, when he was on a special assignment to the Ukraine (helping Trump dig up dirt on the Bidens).  And then into testimony in the House Impeachment inquiry.

From June 30 to late July, 2019,    things really snowballed.   Trump on July 19 said First Lady Melania Trump first brought Rocky’s detention to his attention. At the time, he said: “Many, many members of the African-American community have called me, friends of mine, and said, ‘Could you help?’ So I personally don’t know A$AP Rocky, but I can tell you he has a lot of support from the African-American community in this country. And when I say African-American, I can really say from everybody in this country, because we are all one.”  Kanya West and Kim Kardashian husband  got involved.   Mayers family contacted Al Sharpton, obviously to turn up the heat.  Congressman Adriano Espillant was a Democrat from Mayers district, so he contacted the State Department, which in turn contacted the Embassy in Sweden.   This is pretty routine if an American is in jail for some time in a foreign country,  particularly if it is a hostile country,  just to get the basic facts.  But, my God this is Stockholm, where the justice system is just fine.   Contrary to reports, Mayers was doing just fine in jail.

Being this story was all over the Internet and TMZ, the entertainment network,  Trump sent his Presidential Envoy for Hostage Negotiations, Robert O’Brien to Stockholm.  There wasn’t really much to do, as the  On top of that, Sweden was warned that there would be serious consequences if Mayers was not released.

— Sondland:  Play the race card

Now back to what happened on July 26 as David Holmes recounted his lunch with Sondland.   David Holmes testified at the impeachment inquiry that Sondland told Trump that Rocky “should have plead guilty.”  Sondland then told Trump that Sweden “should have released him on your word” and advised him to “let [Rocky] get sentenced, play the racism card, give him a ticker-tape when he comes home.”

Note this is Amb. Sondland talking.   We don’t know what Trump said.  It is Sondland first stroking Trump’s ego by telling him that Sweden should have upended their legal system for Trump, letting the 6 million dollar man go (it would be also illegal).  Then he tells Trump, he could still come out the hero against the obvious Swedish racism, winning votes at home after the trial.  Six million dollars Mayers, with a $1200 fine and no jail time for being found guilty of assault, doesn’t get a ticker tape parade.

I think what Trump saw in Gordon Sondland someone who understood marketing.  Everything done to make the President Trump look good.  What happen to Mayers wasn’t important, it was the perception of power and  Trump could bully world leaders. In this case, to free Mayers would require the Prime Minister of Sweden to violate their laws of non-interference.

Links:

Wikipedia Gordon Sondland

CNN: Gordon Sondland, hotelier turned diplomat, wasn’t always a Trump supporter

Wikipedia:  ASAP Rocky

Atlantic Monthly: As the Rich Get Richer, the Ambassadors Get Worse

Atlantic Monthly Gordon Sondland’s Damning—But Delayed—Testimony

Swedish PM warns Trump rapper ASAP Rocky won’t get special treatment

CNN: Trump blasts Sweden PM over ASAP Rocky

Daily Show (pretty funny) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjVUgIaSQdE

 

 

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