Trump Has 'No Defense' After Sondland Testimony, Watergate Prosecutor Says: 'What's He Going to Say, the Devil Made Me Do it?'

Ambassador Gordon Sondland's testimony in the House impeachment inquiry has left President Donald Trump with no defense, a Watergate prosecutor said, and marks a "tipping point" in the ongoing process.

"Yesterday was the tipping point completely," Nick Akerman, a lawyer who served as an assistant special prosecutor during the Watergate scandal that brought down former President Richard Nixon, told Newsweek.

"There's no defense to any of it now, there's nothing. What's he going to say, the Devil made me do it? That's what they're left with. There's no good defense. There's no good reason why he did this. It's purely for personal campaign purposes."

Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, delivered public testimony on Wednesday that undercut some of Trump's key lines of defense against the efforts to impeach him over his alleged conduct towards Ukraine.

The diplomat, a hotel magnate and a large donor to Trump's 2016 campaign before his appointment to his current role, testified that the president directed a push to agree a quid pro quo with the Ukrainian government on the opening of two controversial investigations.

Trump is suspected of withholding nearly $400 million in military aid from Ukraine and dangling a White House visit in order to pressure Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy into opening the spurious corruption investigations.

Those two investigations would have been into the Democratic Party and former Vice President Joe Biden, his political rivals, leading to the allegation that Trump was abusing the power of his office to get a foreign government to interfere in the 2020 election to his personal advantage.

President Trump denies any quid pro quo and says he wanted nothing from Ukraine. Trump also says he was legitimately pursuing concerns about corruption and it is his right to do so as president. He denies any wrongdoing.

But Sondland told the House intelligence committee, which is hearing witness testimony under the impeachment inquiry: "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?' With regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes."

Moreover, Sondland undermined Trump's defense that he was motivated by chasing down allegations of corruption. Sondland told the committee that, by his understanding, Zelenskiy was only expected to announce publicly the investigations: "He didn't actually have to do them."

During his testimony, Sondland also implicated a number of senior Trump administration officials in the alleged misconduct, including Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Both rejected Sondland's testimony and denied wrongdoing.

"What we're really talking about here is two things: bribery and extortion. That's what the facts amount to," Akerman told Newsweek. "Bribery is important because bribery is listed in the U.S. Constitution as an impeachable offense in addition to high crimes and misdemeanors."

Looking back to Watergate, Akerman said Trump is in a weaker position politically than Nixon because he does not have the same strength of support from Republican lawmakers.

"None of these Republicans are wedded to Donald Trump. This is not like Richard Nixon who had been around from 1948 to 1974 in politics," Akerman said.

"There were people who were willing to take a bullet for him, would stand in front of a truck and be run over. You could see from Sondland, he's not going to give up his life for Donald Trump. There were people that would do that for Richard Nixon."

"This is pretty concrete," Akerman continued. "Republicans are going to be really put in a box here...Anybody looking at the objective evidence is going to have to say this guy's guilty of bribery and extortion, there's no question about it that what he did was off the rails and if you're ever going to impeach a president on anything, this is about as bad as it gets."

Gordon Sondland Donald Trump impeachment inquiry Watergate
Gordon Sondland, the U.S ambassador to the European Union, testifies before the House Intelligence Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill November 20, 2019 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony during the fourth day of open hearings in the impeachment inquiry against U.S. President Donald Trump, whom House Democrats say held back U.S. military aid for Ukraine while demanding it investigate his political rivals. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images