Posts tagged with "The Washington Post"

If truth be told, a new poll shows Trump’s advanced lying skills are failing him

March 18, 2020

Can Americans recognize a snake oil salesman when they see one? A poll conducted March 13-16 by NPR, PBS News Hour and Marist among 784 U.S. adults has found that far more Americans trust the news media than trust President Donald Trump to tell them the unvarnished  truth about the coronavirus pandemic.

According to a report by The Washington Post, the poll determined that only 37% of Americans have a good deal of trust in the information Trump tells them about coronavirus. By contrast, 60% have little to no trust in what he says.

Meanwhile, the poll also finds that 50% of respondents rely on information they get from the news media about the disease; versus 47%, who lack trust in such sources.

And as Americans continue to wait for the widespread COVID-19 testing that already is available in other countries, 44% of those polled say they approve of Trump’s handling of the crisis, while 49% disapprove of it. Drilling down, 85% of Republicans approve, but only 40% of Independents do.

However, the Post notes, 70% are concerned that coronavirus will spread to their communities—a massive swing from 44% last month, in spite Trump’s efforts to downplay it.

Such findings are supported by a recent Quinnipiac poll, which found that Americans hold Trump’s handling of coronavirus in low regard, while only smallish minorities ascribe to Trump qualities like honesty and leadership.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

After security breach at rally, Biden may request Secret Service protection

March 6, 2020

Jill Biden is not just her husband’s greatest champion; she’s also his strongest defender, as she proved when environmental activists rushed the stage at a rally in Los Angeles on March 3 and she quickly stepped forward to shield the candidate.

While the dangerous situation was dealt with quickly and effectively, former Vice President Joe Biden was alarmed that protesters had slipped through his private security cordon and that his wife had been caught in the middle.

On Wednesday, his campaign  began privately deliberating whether to formally request Secret Service protection for the candidate, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, The Washington Post reported..

Both Biden and fellow candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) have been relying on private security firms to handle their public appearances, which is unusual this late in a presidential campaign cycle—in comparison with 2016, 2012, and 2008—the Post noted.

But their emergence over the past week as the clear front-runners in the Democratic primaries has prompted calls for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the U.S. Secret Service, to authorize full-time protection for both of them.

“Taking into consideration the remaining candidates’ large campaign operations, high polling averages, as well as physical threats to their safety … I urge you to immediately initiate the consultation process to determine whether to provide USSS protection” to Biden and Sanders,” Representative Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, wrote in a letter Wednesday to Acting DHS secretary Chad Wolf.

Representative Cedric Richmond (D-Louisiana), a member of the Homeland Security Committee and co-chair of Biden’s campaign, told reporters that Democratic lawmakers were “worried about” security for the Democrats on the campaign trail even before the incident at Biden’s speech on Super Tuesday.

The Biden campaign has begun deliberating over whether to move forward with a formal request to the Secret Service, according to the person familiar with the situation, who spoke to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity to comment freely about a sensitive security matter. The Sanders campaign did not immediately respond to questions on the subject. The DHS also did not respond to a request for comment.

Both Biden, during his eight years as vice president, and Sanders, during his 2016 contest against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, have received Secret Service protection in the past.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Barr balks, as Trump declares himself America’s ‘chief law enforcement officer’

February 20, 2020

During his Senate impeachment trial, Democrats repeatedly asserted that President Donald Trump was and is “not above the law.” But since his acquittal by the upper chamber two weeks ago, the president has taken a series of steps aimed at showing that he is “large and in charge.”

On Tuesday, February 18, Trump granted clemency to a clutch of political allies, The Washington Post reported—thereby, circumventing the usual Justice Department process.

The pardons and commutations followed Trump’s moves to punish witnesses in his impeachment trial, publicly intervene in a pending legal case to urge leniency for his friend Roger Stoneattack a federal judge officiating on that case, accuse a juror of bias, and threaten to sue his own government for investigating him.

According to the Post, Trump defended his actions, saying he has the right to shape the country’s legal systems as he sees fit. “I’m allowed to be totally involved,” he told reporters as he left Washington on Tuesday for a trip that would touch down in California, Nevada, and Arizona. “I’m actually, I guess, the chief law enforcement officer of the country. But I’ve chosen not to be involved.”

However, the nation’s actual top law enforcement officer, Attorney General Bill Barr, isn’t having any of that—even if he has aligned himself closely with the president and skirted both the legal code and the Constitution to support the POTUS.

Indeed, the president’s post-impeachment behavior—and constant tweets referring to the adjudication of cases—has so alarmed Barr, The Washington Post was first to report, that he told people close to the president that he is willing to quit unless Trump stops publicly commenting on ongoing criminal matters.

It also has appalled several legal experts and former officials, who have said his direct intervention in legal matters risks further politicizing law enforcement at a time of fraying confidence in the Justice Department.

At this point, over 2,000 former Justice Department employees  have signed a public letter this week urging Barr to resign. The head of the Federal Judges Association also has called an emergency meeting to address growing concerns about political interference in the Stone case.

onvicted Stone last year of lying to Congress and obstruction in a case that Trump has repeatedly condemned as unfair, while leaving open the prospect of issuing a pardon for his friend and political ally.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Worried sick: Will you catch something if you fly?

February 6, 2020

Will your chances of coming down with an illness go sky-high, if you book a seat on a commercial flight? It seems as inevitable as cramped overhead space or a battle for the armrest: Someone on your flight will be coughing, sneezing, or sniffling. Or all three.

And during flu season—not to mention at a time when the fast-spreading new coronavirus has halted much of the world’s air traffic to and from China—that can be disconcerting and scary.

It all depends, experts say. The biggest factor: whether your closest plane neighbors are sick, according to a report by The Washington Post.

Specifically, the World Health Organization has said that passengers seated in the same row as well as two rows in front and behind of someone who is sick should be notified of potential exposure to infectious diseases.

But a Boeing-funded study on transmission of respiratory diseases on planes published two years ago in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that the danger zone is more narrow.

“It’s more of a one-row rule,” Vicki Hertzberg, first author on the study and director of the Center for Nursing Data Science at Emory University, told the Post. She said the people immediately in front of a sick passenger, two seats on either side,or in the row in front or behind are the most vulnerable. The study applied to upper respiratory infections that could be spread through large droplet transmission.

“It’s not that you have to worry so much about the guy that’s four rows behind you that’s hacking,” says Hertzberg, a professor in Emory’s School of Nursing. “Maybe it’s just the person that’s immediately behind you or in front of you.”

She told the DC-based news outlet that passengers in the aisle are at a higher risk of infection than those in a window seat because they are more exposed to potentially sick people as they pass by.

“So the strategy I take now for flying is, I take a window seat, and I don’t get up,” she says.

Passengers who end up near someone who is sick may have no good options, since planes so often fly full.

“You go to church and the person next to you is coughing, you move a row back,” David Weber, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and medical director of the Infection Prevention Department, told the newspaper. “Can’t do that on a plane.”

While warning that anyone with a “known active communicable disease” should not fly, the World Health Organization also offers some reassurance to nervous air travelers.

“Research has shown that there is very little risk of any communicable disease being transmitted on-board an aircraft,” the agency says, citing the high-efficiency particulate air filters that planes use on recirculated cabin air. If that ventilation system is not operating on the ground before takeoff, for example, contagious illnesses are more likely to spread.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) compares planes to other areas where people are close together for an extended period of time —although it notes that the air supply in plane cabins “is essentially sterile and particle-free.”

“The overall risk of contracting a disease from an ill person onboard an airplane is similar to that in other confined areas with high occupant density, such as a bus, a subway, or movie theatre for a similar time of exposure … anywhere where a person is in close contact with others,” the group says. “That said, the risk on airplanes is probably lower than in many confined spaces, because modern airplanes have cabin-air-filtration systems equipped with HEPA filters.”

There are factors that can make people more prone to getting sick from flying, experts say. The air on planes is low in humidity, which can irritate mucosal membranes in the nose and mouth and skin, leading passengers to scratch and create tiny tears.

“If your nose has a little tiny microscopic gash in it, a tear, that’s a perfect place for a virus to land on and infect you,” Howard Markel, a professor of the History of Medicine and pediatrician at the University of Michigan, told The Washington Post.

And some viruses, influenza included, survive better in dry air, says Charles Gerba, a professor of Microbiology at the University of Arizona. He has also tested tray tables on planes and found evidence of influenza, norovirus and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. The latches on lavatory doors, he said, were also quite dirty.“The moral of the story is, sit at a window, try to not go to use the toilet and don’t put the tray down,” Gerba told the Post.

He and Weber both say they carry alcohol wipes when they fly to wipe down surfaces like armrests and tray tables. And while medical experts don’t agree on how well face masks work to ward off illness, Weber said he still carries one in case he cannot escape a sick seatmate.

“If everyone is coughing and hacking around me, I’ll put it on,” he says.

And HEPA filters or not, Hertzberg, the Emory professor, said one thing to leave off if people are coughing nearby is the overhead air vent. Rather than bathe a passenger with a clean flow of air, she says, it could actually help shoot not-so-clean air right at the person sitting underneath.

“It kind of attracts those droplets and then captures them into that airflow and pushes them down onto you,” she says.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Will adjustable pillows be 2020’s weighted blankets?

January 14, 2020

You can customize your car, your pizza, your sneakers, and now, your pillow. If you get “all bent out of shape” when you lay your head down for a night’s sleep, this might just be the product for you.

While adjustable pillows may not generate the buzz weighted blankets did a couple of years ago, manufacturers are banking on their popularity. “Some 50% of the pillow models released in the last six months have some sort of customizable feature,” Bill Tuck, co-founder of, a sleep resource website, told The Washington Post recently.

While mattresses usually get the blame when you don’t sleep well or when you wake up with a sore back, a pillow is as (or more) important, Philip Schneider, an orthopedic spine surgeon practicing in Chevy Chase, Maryland, told the news outlet. “Without a comfortable, appropriate pillow, you’re likely not to have a good night’s sleep.”

 Those sentiments are echoed by Gil Kentof, a chiropractor in Franklin, Tennessee, who specializes in neck and shoulder pain, the Post says. “The problem is not your head, but your neck, and finding something to fill the gap between your head and shoulders so your head and spine are aligned.” He and Schneider agree that side sleepers are the most likely to benefit from a customizable pillow.

Adjustable pillows typically fall into two types: fill or insert. Those sold by LaylaCoop Home Goods, and Snuggle-Pedic are stuffed with small chunks of shredded memory foam and microfibers. Unzip the cover, remove the fill to suit and store the excess in a zip-lock bag.

Others—such as the ones made by LeesaHelix,and Brookstone (sold through Bed Bath & Beyond)—offer removable inserts.

Either style allows you to increase or decrease the loft (thickness) and/or firmness. Expect to pay between $50 and $125, or about the same as a premium down or memory foam pillow.

A stiff, sore neck sent Julie Ward hunting for a new pillow, the Post recounts. The Nashville-based public relations consultant was convinced that she could find the perfect one at a bargain price from a big-box retailer. Complicating matters: She wanted king-size pillows, which are not only larger, but also thicker.

“I scrutinized all the regular pillows, bought the one that seemed best and brought it home. What seemed perfect in the store would be too thick when I went to bed,” she recalls. “I would return to the store, find another promising pillow, lay it on a flat surface, awkwardly rest my head against it and leave full of optimism.” None worked. After three shopping trips, Ward had nothing to show for her efforts except three new pillows for overnight guests.

At that point, she told the newspaper, she turned to online retailers for customizable options and found a Snuggle-Pedic adjustable model. Ward unzipped the cover and removed some of the stuffing, repeating the process several times until it was her preferred height. “You can’t go wrong with a pillow that is totally adjustable. It’s a foolproof option,” she says.

Think an adjustable pillow will fill your needs? The Washington Post recommends that you consider the following before putting your money down: .

 Take your sleep position into account. According to Schneider, side sleepers need a fuller pillow to prevent the neck from tilting. Stomach sleepers need a thinner pillow, so the head doesn’t hyperextend backward. Back sleepers should opt for a thin to midsize pillow so as not to flex the head forward. Consider body size as well. Those with really big shoulders or chests may have to adjust accordingly to find a pillow that supports the nape of the neck and keeps the head aligned with the body.

Be prepared for a trial run. Multiple factors affect sleep, including temperature, noise, light, what you ate for dinner, and even the day’s news. If you are restless that first night, give your pillow a chance. You may have to play with it a bit. Expect a break-in period of a week or so as your body adjusts.

Ensure it is washable. While it’s important to wash your pillowcase on a regular basis, if you are investing in an adjustable pillow, which is likely to last several years, experts advise that you get one that is machine washable or at minimum has a removable cover that you can wash.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

As drones swarm the night skies over Colorado and Nebraska, authorities ask, ‘Who’s there?’

January 6, 2020

They come out at night: pinpoints of light swarming in the dark skies. They appear to be drones—flying in formation over rural Colorado and Nebraska. For weeks, they have dominated headlines in local newspapers, fueled intense speculation on social media, and unsettled residents; who have besieged law enforcement with calls, The Washington Post reports.

So far, the aircraft remain a mystery. Officials in multiple counties say they have not been able to determine who is operating them or why. The Federal Aviation Administration is now investigating, an agency spokesman told the Post on Thursday, January 2.

In the absence of information, wild theories abound in the small communities where the drones have been spotted, including government surveillance and alien activity. Others offered less-nefarious explanations, suggesting a private company is using them to map or survey land or, perhaps, practicing for drone shows.

But why wouldn’t such businesses have come forward with an explanation by now?

 “There are many theories about what is going on, but at this point, that’s all they are,” Sheriff Todd Combs of Yuma County, Colorado, wrote in a Facebook post. “I think we are all feeling a little bit vulnerable due to the intrusion of our privacy that we enjoy in our rural community, but I don’t have a solution or know of one right now.”

The drones, which The Denver Post estimates to be six feet in wingspan and flying in formations of 17, showed up in mid-December in northeastern Colorado. They emerge nightly around 7 p.m., flying in squares of about 25 miles and staying about 200 feet in the air, the newspaper reported. By about 10 p.m., they’re gone.

Local authorities say the mysterious visitors do not appear to be malicious and may not be breaking any laws. Combs noted in his post that they are operating in airspace controlled by the federal government and, as far as he could tell, abiding with federal regulations.

Yet the unexplained aircraft, buzzing above homes nightly, have still caused alarm — so much so that officials with multiple sheriff’s departments have cautioned residents against shooting them down.

“I have been made aware of several comments about shooting down a drone,” Morgan County, Colorado, Sheriff Dave Martin said in his own Facebook statement. “I ask that you NOT do this as it is a federal crime.”

Wyatt Harmon and his girlfriend, Chelsea Arnold, chased a cluster of drones after they flew over his property in the Colorado county of Washington. The couple tailed them for 15 miles, exceeding 70 mph, according to NBC’s TODAY show, which featured an interview with the two on December 31.

Harmon said during the interview that the aircraft could descend and take off “very fast.” He added,, “It’s kind of just scary. It’s more unnerving than anything.”

According to The Washington Post, now groups devoted to tracking the drones are  popping up on Facebook.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Different strokes: Robots are ‘forging’ our ‘handwritten’ cards

December 24, 2019

Roger and Vonita Byous were surprised when an anniversary card from their son arrived in the mail. They were even more surprised by the unrecognizable handwriting inside, The Washington Post reported on December 21.

“I just started wondering, ‘Whaaat?’ ” Roger, 73, told the newspaper. “It didn’t look quite right, but we couldn’t figure out why.”

The Somerset, Kentucky, couple later learned, their son hadn’t picked up the pen that scripted his heartfelt congratulations on 48 years of wedded bliss. A robot had.

“It wasn’t exactly a personal touch,” Roger explained to the Post, but “we’re glad he remembered us.”

As fewer children master cursive and more of us rely on computers to do our writing, technology is being deployed to try to replicate a human touch. Indeed, a growing number of consumers have turned to pen-wielding robots to try to mimic the loops and patterns of the human hand.

These robot-scribed cards and letters are testing the proposition that machines can generate the intimacy of a handwritten note. Some services include smudges and ink blots in their mailings. Others program the robots to be imprecise — varying the pressure on the pens, for example, or inconsistently sizing characters and spacing — to make the writing appear believably human.

At Handwrytten, a five-year-old Phoenix-based service, robots are outfitted with Pilot G2 pens in blue ink because, Founder David Wachs tells the Post, it’s “more realistic-looking” than black. The pens also offer an advantage over even the most sophisticated printouts: The telltale imprint they leave on paper.

But the results can be clumsy, even unsettling. Critics bristle at the idea of outsourcing personal correspondence, saying it renders it meaningless. And they see it as one more example of how technology is being used to fake authenticity, even if it does not rise to the level of “deep fakes” or other digital manipulation.

When the Byouses finally asked their son, Shanan, about the mysterious cursive on their card, he told them he used the Handwrytten app because it was cheaper — and easier — than going to the store, picking out a card and paying for postage. Plus, he said, he liked that he could schedule it ahead of time.

“To me, it’s the same, whether a robot writes it or I do,” said Shanan, 47, who works for an IT company in Atlanta. “What matters is that I was thinking of them.”

Just as well: Two weeks after their anniversary, another robot-written card arrived. This one wished his mother a happy birthday.

Today, Wachs has 80 robots, and demand is so brisk that he builds two to three more each week in order to keep pace with 100,000 pieces of correspondence that go out monthly.

The holidays are particularly busy, with December accounting for about 15% of the year’s sales, The Washington Post reports. Wachs buys pens in packs of 1,452 and Forever stamps in spools of 10,000. Annual revenue, in the millions, is on track to triple this year.

In-house graphic designers create the company’s cards. As for the writing itself, Handwrytten offers about 20 fonts with names like Executive Adam (all-caps and angular) and Loopy Ruthie (cursive and rounded). Customers also can have their own handwriting replicated, for $1,000, by submitting multiple samples that include six versions of the alphabet and nearly a dozen nonsensical sentences like, “Did the keynote pharaoh drop a shoe in Cuba?”

The company is among a growing number of card-writing services, each with its own spin, the Post reports. Felt in Telluride, Colorado, gives customers the option to write cards themselves using a finger or stylus on their phone screens.

New York-based Postable allows users to schedule a year’s worth of birthday and anniversary cards. Other services take a decidedly old-school approach by hiring actual humans to write thousands of notes a week.

“As the world becomes more automated, our products become that much more effective,” said Anatoliy Birger, director of sales for Letter Friend, which also operates out of the Greater New York city area and  typically charges $4 to $5 per human-written card. “We are filling a real need.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

McConnell tells Hannity he’ll let Trump’s lawyers call the shots in impeachment trial

December 16, 2019

President Donald Trump won’t get a “fair or “impartial” trial in the Senate, after impeachment passes the House this coming week. He’ll get the trial that his lawyers and White House advisers tell Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) say he wants and needs–unburdening him of the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice before the 2020 campaign gains steam.

When the trial commences in the Republican-controlled Senate, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will presidebut the GOP will be able to control much of the length and substance of the process, The Washington Post has reported.

And appearing on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show on December 12, McConnell made no bones about saying he’ll endeavor to give the White House whatever kind of trial it wants.

Indeed, according to a report by the Post, McConnell made a point of saying that he would be coordinating with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone every step of the way.

“Everything I do during this, I’m coordinating with the White House counsel,” McConnell said. “There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this to the extent that we can.”

He added later that “exactly how we go forward I’m going to coordinate with the president’s lawyers, so there won’t be any difference between us on how to do this.”

And then he said that “I’m going to take my cues from the president’s lawyers.”

McConnell also, notably, said there is “no chance” Trump will be removed from office. This, he indicated, is why he’s not treating the trial with much regard.

The repetition of the first talking point made pretty clear that McConnell very much intended to say all of this. But it’s worth taking stock of how remarkable a statement it is, The Washington Post opined —noting that “giving the White House any say over how the trial would be handled would be something, but McConnell says he’ll coordinate everything ( and how discordant it is relative to many of his fellow GOP senators).”

The newspaper went on to point out, “Those senators have, in many cases, declined to comment on impeachment and the Ukraine scandal because they will serve as jurors in the Senate trial. For some, it was certainly a cop-out to avoid having to comment on the substance of the Ukraine scandal, which, however you slice it, doesn’t look good for Trump. But now that McConnell is effectively saying he’ll let the defendant’s lawyers dictate how the trial will be handled, those professions of respect for the process ring pretty hollow.”

“I’m a juror, and I’m comfortable not speaking,” Senator James Risch (R-Idaho) told The Washington Post in late October. Pressed again, he said, “I said I’m comfortable not speaking.”

“I don’t need a strategy for impeachment, because I may be a juror someday,” Senator Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) commented to the news outlet

“I’d be a juror, so I have no comment,” Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) added.

Earlier on Thursday, McConnell met with Cipollone and the administration’s Legislative Affairs Director Eric Ueland. And McConnell said in his Thursday news conference he had not yet sat down with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-New York) to negotiate on the process.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Trump campaign refuses to issue press credentials to Bloomberg News reporters

December 4, 2019

Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign has announced that it no longer will approve credentials for Bloomberg News reporters after the financial media company said it wouldn’t cover Democratic presidential candidatesonly reporting on  Republican and Independent candidates—while its owner and founder, Mike Bloomberg, is out on the trail seeking the party’s nomination.

It’s anybody’s guess what effect the newly restrictive Trump campaign policy might have without a similar decision by the White House, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Bloomberg News occupies one of a handful of permanent seats in the White House press corps travel pool, which means a Bloomberg News reporter currently is with the president wherever he travels, including campaign events.

A White House spokesman declined to comment, but the POTUS weighed in on Twitter on Monday evening.

“Mini Mike Bloomberg has instructed his third rate news organization not to investigate him or any Democrat, but to go after President Trump, only,” @realDonaldTrump tweeted, adding it was “not O.K.!”

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale commented that continuing to investigate President Trump, whom all of the Democratic presidential contenders are attempting to unseat, was an unfair reporting practice.

“The decision by Bloomberg News to formalize preferential reporting policies is troubling and wrong,” Parscale said in a statement obtained by the Journal. The campaign will engage with Bloomberg News reporters only on a “case-by-case basis,” he said.

“Since they have declared their bias openly, the Trump campaign will no longer credential representatives of Bloomberg News for rallies or other campaign events,” Parscale added.

John Micklethwait, editor in chief of Bloomberg News, said Parscale’s accusations “couldn’t be further from the truth.”

“We have covered Donald Trump fairly and in an unbiased way since he became a candidate in 2015 and will continue to do so despite the restrictions imposed by the Trump campaign,” he said in a statement.

According to The Wall Street Journal, “It is unusual for major-party presidential candidates to ban news outlets from events, but not for Trump. During his 2016 campaign he barred several media outlets, including The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and BuzzFeed News, from his campaign events for certain periods.”

Research contact:@WSJ

Sondland: ‘Everyone was in the loop’ and ‘followed Trump’s orders,’ pressed for a ‘quid pro quo’

November 21, 2019

The team on the ground in Ukraine was following President Donald Trump’s orders, Ambassador Gordon Sondland said in no uncertain terms in his dramatic testimony in the impeachment inquiry on November 20. And those orders included working with the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to extract a quid pro quo from the new Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Specifically, the United States would provide a meeting with Trump in the White House and close to $400 million in military aid in exchange for a public announcement by Zelensky on CNN that Ukraine would investigate the 2016 election, the energy company Burisma; and 2020 Democratic candidate Joe Biden, along with his son Hunter.

Indeed, Ambassador Gordon said in his opening statement, obtained by The New York Times, that the first thing his interlocutors should know is that, “Secretary [of Energy Rick] Perry, Ambassador [Kurt] Volker, and I worked with Mr. Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the President of the United States.”

“We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani, “Sondland noted. “Simply put, we played the hand we were dealt. We all understood that, if we refused to work with Mr. Giuliani, we would lose an important opportunity to cement relations between the United States and Ukraine. So we followed the President’s orders.”

“I know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a ‘quid pro quo?’ ” Sondland said in sworn testimony. “With regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”

Trump’s U.S. ambassador to the European Union—described by The Washington Post as “a longtime Republican donor who gave $1 million to the presidential inaugural committee and was confirmed by the Republican Senate”—gave the House Intelligence Committee an account of the president’s culpability in leveraging the power of the Oval Office for his own political gain.

According to the Post’s report, Democrats said Sondland’s testimony pulled back the curtain on the extent of the Ukraine pressure campaign—implicating not just the president but Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

“We now can see the veneer has been torn away,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-California) told reporters during a break in the testimony, arguing that the situation as described by Sondland “goes right to the heart of the issue of bribery, as well as other potential high crimes or misdemeanors.”

“I think a very important moment in the history of this inquiry,” he added.

Sondland said “there was no secret” about the work within a much larger circle of Trump’s Cabinet. Everyone was in the loop,” Sondland said

Digging a deeper hole for the secretary of state to climb out of, Sondland said that Pompeo was involved at several points, including the key point of withholding security assistance—and that he “was aware that a commitment to investigations was among the issues we were pursuing.”

The ambassador said that he was never privy to the White House meetings where the aid was frozen—but that he became convinced it was being held up as leverage and thought that was inappropriate, the Post said.

“In the absence of any credible explanation for the hold, I came to the conclusion that the aid, like the White House visit, was jeopardized,” Sondland said. “My belief was that if Ukraine did something to demonstrate a serious intention” to launch the investigations Trump wanted, “then the hold on military aid would be lifted.”

Following the testimony, in brief remarks to reporters outside the White House, Trump distanced himself from Sondland, saying, “This is not a man I know well.” He noted that Sondland testified that the president had denied to him there was a quid pro quo.

“That means it’s all over,” Trump said.

Research contact: @washingtonpost