President Donald Trump accused Democrats on Monday of scheming to alter witnesses’ transcripts from the impeachment inquiry, but a lawyer for a key witness said his client’s transcript looks fine.
Robert Luskin, who represents Ambassador Gordon Sondland, a key witness and a Trump administration political appointee, said his client’s testimony hadn’t been altered.
“No reason to believe that the transcript was altered, and the clarification was released in the form that it was submitted,” Luskin emailed The Daily Beast on Monday morning.
Lee Wolosky, a lawyer for ex-Senior Director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs Fiona Hill, confirmed his client’s testimony was unaltered.
“We have seen nothing to suggest that Dr. Hill’s transcript was altered (beyond routine correction of errata),” he wrote in an email.
Thousands of pages of testimony have already been released and neither lawmakers nor witnesses have complained about the contents of the depositions.
In addition to accusing Democrats of misdeeds without evidence, Trump said Republicans should release their own versions of the documents as a check.
Sondland testified to the inquiry on Oct. 17, but updated his testimony just last week to say he had suspected the Trump administration withheld military aid from Ukraine to pressure the country into investigating a company linked to former Vice President Joe Biden.
Democrats pointed to Sondland’s admission as evidence of their worst suspicions: that the administration put the president’s political goals over support for a key American partner at war with Russian-backed fighters. Sondland, however, also said in his update that nobody in the Trump administration told him about a quid pro quo scheme, and that he still does not know why Trump temporarily withheld the military aid.
Sondland’s reversal has been pilloried on the right, with some Republicans even accusing him of working with Democrats.
Trump, who a month ago described the ambassador as “a really good man and great American,” has not lashed out publicly at Sondland but planted what seemed to a kiss of death in comments to reporters last week.
“I hardly know the gentleman,” Trump said, when asked about Sondland’s edited testimony.
And Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of Trump’s most staunch congressional allies, suggested in a Fox News interview that Sondland may have conspired with Democrats to add the damaging material to his testimony.
“Why did Sunderland change his testimony?” Graham said, inaccurately referring to Sondland. “Was there a connection between Sunderland and Democratic operatives on the committee? Did he talk to Schiff? Did he talk to Schiff’s staffers?”
Trump’s anger with the inquiry is percolating as Democrats gear up for the first week of public impeachment hearings. On Wednesday, State Department officials George Kent and Ambassador Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, are set to testify before the House Intelligence Committee. Then on Friday, former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch –who represented the U.S. in Kyiv until a scheme helmed by Rudy Giuliani resulted in her removal from that post–will testify. Transcripts from all three witnesses’ closed-door testimonies have been released. They include damaging allegations about Trump’s relationship with Ukraine. But some of the information that could cause the most trouble for the president is second- or third-hand.