Democratic presidential candidates largely silent on Sondland testimony

Gordon Sondland
Gordon Sondland, the U.S ambassador to the European Union, testifies Wednesday in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump.
(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s appearance at the impeachment inquiry of President Trump transfixed the political world on Wednesday, but the reaction from Democrats seeking to unseat Trump was noticeably muted.

Only a handful of Democratic presidential candidates weighed in on Sondland’s bombshell testimony, in which the ambassador to the European Union said Trump and his inner circle were involved in pressuring Ukrainian’s president to announce an investigation into Trump’s political rivals , including former Vice President Joe Biden, in exchange for a White House visit and military security aid to Ukraine — a trade that Sondland described as a “quid pro quo.”

California Sen. Kamala Harris tweeted in the hearing’s first hour: “Trump’s hand-picked ambassador just told the world what we know to be true: this president extorted a foreign government for his own political interests. Impeachment is the only option.”

A campaign aide said Harris watched some of the proceedings on television Wednesday morning and was kept appraised of updates by staff throughout the day.


Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar chimed in on Twitter several hours later.

“Truth: Ambassador Sondland testified today that he and other advisors to President Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate Democrats ‘because the president directed us to do so’ and there was clear ‘quid pro quo,’” she wrote.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock went for the visual gag, tweeting a mock cover of Trump’s book “The Art of the Deal,” calling it the “Quid Pro Quo Edition.”


For the most part, though, Democratic candidates’ Twitter feeds were largely silent on the impeachment earthquake that was rocking Washington. Even Tom Steyer, who has built his campaign on his early call for impeachment, made no mention of the Sondland testimony on Twitter.

To be fair, 10 of the contenders may have had something else on their mind: the Democratic debate set to take place Wednesday evening in Atlanta. And more broadly, candidates have not dedicated much time on the campaign trail to talking about impeachment.

The November Democratic presidential primary debate is Wednesday in Atlanta. What time is it, who is onstage and what can we expect from Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and the candidates flanking them?

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who supports impeachment, has expressed concerns in the past that the proceedings could allow Trump to claim vindication, if GOP senators side with him and vote against removal.


On Wednesday, right in the middle of the Sondland hearing, he indulged the possibility that Trump may not end up on the ticket in November.

“We are the strongest campaign to defeat Trump. Or Pence. Or whoever the Republicans put up,” Sanders wrote.