On Sunday, Chris Wallace, the host of “Fox News Sunday,” pressed Representative Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, on that point, asking him whether Mr. Sondland might “blow a hole” in Republicans’ defense.
“The president’s defense is that those things didn’t happen,” Mr. Scalise insisted, adding, “The real bottom line is he got the money. Ukraine got the money.”
Later, Mr. Trump attacked Mr. Wallace on Twitter.
“@SteveScalise blew the nasty & obnoxious Chris Wallace (will never be his father, Mike!) away on Chris’s lowest rated (unless I’m on) morning show. This kind of dumb and unfair interview would never have happened in the @FoxNews past. Great job Steve!” the president wrote.
Both Mr. Scalise and Mr. Jordan have made such arguments before, but their remarks on Sunday suggest this will be Republicans’ core line of defense this week. What both Mr. Scalise and Mr. Jordan failed to mention, however, is that Mr. Trump released the administration’s hold on the money amid a bipartisan uproar on Capitol Hill and revelations of a whistle-blower’s report that prompted the impeachment inquiry.
Their responses underscore the difficulty party leaders face in fashioning a defense as evidence mounts against Mr. Trump. On Friday, the Democrats’ case was bolstered by another witness, David Holmes, a top official at the United States Embassy in Kiev, who told investigators in a closed-door deposition that he had overheard Mr. Trump on a cellphone call loudly asking Mr. Sondland if Ukraine’s president had agreed to conduct an investigation into one of his leading political rivals.
“So, he’s going to do the investigation?” Mr. Trump asked, according to a copy of Mr. Holmes’s opening statement.
“He’s going to do it,” replied Mr. Sondland, who had just come from a meeting with top Ukrainian officials and the country’s president, according to the statement. He also told Mr. Trump that Mr. Zelensky would do “anything you ask him to.”