Donald Trump's Ukraine 'Bribery Scam' Was a 'Vintage Mob Operation,' Ex-Federal Prosecutor Says

Joyce White Vance, a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, compared President Donald Trump's alleged behavior towards Ukraine to that of a mob boss, referring to it as a "bribery scam."

Trump, facing impeachment, is accused of trying to pressure Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy into interfering in the 2020 election by opening spurious corruption investigations into his political rivals, namely former Vice President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party.

Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who represents the U.S. to the European Union, testified to the House impeachment inquiry on Wednesday that Trump directed him through the president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to push Ukraine for a quid pro quo on the investigations.

Sondland said Trump wanted Ukraine to announce the investigations publicly—but not necessarily to carry them out—in exchange for a White House meeting with Zelenskiy. Other impeachment witnesses have connected military aid withheld from Ukraine to the alleged quid pro quo.

Attorney Daniel Goldman, a senior advisor and director of investigations to the Democrats on the impeachment inquiry, who previously worked as a federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, questioned Sondland during the intelligence committee hearing.

"As Sondland continued to testify, and you listened to Goldman, a former mob prosecutor in [the Southern District of New York], an organized crime prosecutor, he began to elicit evidence that will build a narrative that, whether or not Republicans are ultimately or publicly persuaded by it, they will know to be the truth," Joyce White Vance said on MSNBC's Morning Joe program on Thursday.

"This was a vintage mob operation with Trump at the top not putting his fingers too directly on things but sending out his lieutenant Rudy Giuliani who Sondland told us they all knew that when they took Rudy Giuliani's orders he was speaking for the president.

"And it's clear now to all of us how this worked and that it really was a bribery scam."

Trump denies any quid pro quo and claims he wanted nothing from the Ukrainians. He also denies any wrongdoing in relation to requesting the investigations, saying he was following up concerns about allegations of corruption.

But Sondland undercut both of these arguments from Trump's defense during his testimony.

"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. "With regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes."

Moreover, when Sondland testified that Trump only wanted Zelenskiy to announce the investigations, not carry them out, he undermined the defense that the president was focused on corruption rather than his own domestic political interests.

Sondland also implicated multiple senior Trump administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in the alleged efforts to secure a quid pro quo with the Ukranian leadership: "They knew what we were doing and why. Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret."

Donald Trump impeachment inquiry Gordon Sondland
US President Donald Trump speaks about the impeachment inquiry during a tour of a computer manufacturing facility in Austin, Texas, on November 20, 2019. MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images