Witnesses are providing more detail about what we already know.

By The Editorial Board, WSJ, Nov. 20, 2019 7:09 pm ET
Gordon Sondland speaks during a House Intelligence Committee impeachment inquiry hearing in Washington, D.C., Nov. 20. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg News
The House impeachment hearings roll on, but the most important news is how little new we are learning about President Trump and Ukraine. The witnesses from the diplomatic and national-security bureaucracy are filling in some details—many of which are unflattering about how policy is made in this Administration—but none change the fundamental narrative or suggest crimes or other impeachable offenses.


That includes Wednesday’s testimony by Gordon Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union who described what he saw and heard from May through September. His account essentially confirms that Mr. Trump had a negative view of Ukraine, was reluctant to keep supplying U.S. aid, and asked Mr. Sondland and others to work with Rudy Giuliani to press Ukraine’s new President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce that he was opening an anti-corruption probe.
"The suggestion that we were engaged in some irregular or rogue diplomacy is absolutely false," Mr. Sondland said.
In other words, the President was directing policy, as he has the right to do, and nearly everyone in security positions seemed to know about it. As we’ve known since Mr. Trump released the transcript of his July 25 phone call with Mr. Zelensky, this may have been the least secret foreign-policy fiasco in memory. We’re almost embarrassed as journalists that we didn’t know about it.
The impeachment press is hyperventilating that Mr. Sondland finally nailed down the elusive quid pro quo with Ukraine, but that is far from clear. "Was there a ‘quid pro quo?’" Mr. Sondland said in his opening statement. "With regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting [between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky], the answer is yes."
But note that Mr. Sondland says nothing about aid to Ukraine being part of the quid, and under questioning later he said he merely "presumed" there were preconditions for a Trump-Zelensky meeting. He never heard that directly from Mr. Trump, and on one call with Mr. Sondland the President flatly rejected the idea. We also know that on three separate occasions, including the July 25 phone call, Mr. Trump invited Mr. Zelensky to the White House without preconditions.
Mr. Sondland also said, under questioning by Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman, that he wasn’t even sure if Mr. Giuliani cared about the result of any Ukraine investigation—only that Mr. Zelensky publicly declare that one had been opened. "I never heard, Mr. Goldman, anyone say that the investigations had to start or be completed," Mr. Sondland said. "The only thing I heard from Mr. Giuliani or otherwise was that they had to be announced in some form."
This isn’t a quid pro quo that comes close to meeting the definition of bribery. It’s another case of Mr. Trump’s volatile policy-making based on personal impulse or prejudice, but it’s not an impeachable offense.
On that score, readers who have lives to lead can save time by reading Senator Ron Johnson’s account. The Wisconsin Republican has taken a personal interest in Ukraine since he joined the Senate in 2011, and in a Nov. 18 letter to House Intelligence Members he explains what he saw and heard at the White House and on visits to Ukraine.
Mr. Johnson relates how he returned from Mr. Zelensky’s inaugural to brief Mr. Trump and discovered how hostile the President was to Ukraine. Mr. Johnson supported military aid and thought Mr. Zelensky, as a newly elected President, could do much to reduce corruption. The Senator spent the next months working with others, inside and outside the Administration, to change the President’s mind.
Eventually he prevailed, and the aid was released on Sept. 11. Mr. Johnson says Mr. Trump called him on Aug. 31 and told him, "Ron, I understand your position. We’re reviewing it now, and you’ll probably like my final decision." This matters because Democrats claim Mr. Trump released the aid only because they were on the impeachment trail.
"To my knowledge, most members of the administration and Congress dealing with the issues involving Ukraine disagreed with President Trump’s attitude and approach toward Ukraine," Mr. Johnson writes. "Many who had the opportunity and ability to influence the president attempted to change his mind. I see nothing wrong with U.S. officials working with Ukrainian officials to demonstrate Ukraine’s commitment to reform in order to change President Trump’s attitude and gain his support."
But Mr. Johnson adds that officials cannot substitute their policy for the President’s and that impeachment is doing "a great deal of damage to our democracy"—not least by making presidential phone calls with foreign leaders open to public disclosure.
This is a political grownup talking. Like so many others since this idiosyncratic President was elected, Mr. Johnson has tried to steer Mr. Trump from his worst policy instincts. Thank goodness they have, and certainly this Trumpian behavior is ripe for debate and voter judgment in 2020.
Democrats might have advanced that cause with hearings and a censure resolution. Instead, they have unleashed the dogs of impeachment without impeachable offenses.