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House Intel Releases Transcripts of Testimony from Key Impeachment Witnesses; Yovanovitch Testifies That Giuliani Undercut U.S. Policy. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired November 4, 2019 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[12:30:00] REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): -- the president's comments about the ambassador in the call record. We also released the testimony today of Ambassador McKinley, another career diplomat, and public servant. Someone who is asked by the secretary of state to come back and assist the State Department at a very difficult time for the department. And what is so striking about his testimony is the degree to which he sought to get the State Department to issue support for its own ambassador and how those repeated efforts were rebuffed. But you also see, in reading his transcript, his growing alarm at the degree to which the apparatus of the State Department itself was being used to seek political information for a political purpose by the president of the United States and others. And you see that these are two of the principal reasons that caused this career public servant to decide that he must resign his office as he did.
We will be releasing further transcripts. Tomorrow, we are scheduled to release the transcripts of Ambassador Volker and Ambassador Sondland, and we will continue to release the transcripts in an orderly way. We continue to allow witnesses the opportunity to review their transcripts. We continue to make redactions for private information or personally identifiable information, but we will continue to release the transcripts. And we will soon, although I can't give you the timetable, be moving to open hearings as well. And I'm happy to respond to a couple of questions.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: One of your -- one the witnesses who was supposed to come, Charles Kupperman, filed a lawsuit to essentially force a ruling on whether he testifies. That's going to be delayed until December. It's possible John Bolton may also follow a similar course. Will you delay the proceedings to ensure you get their testimony or are you ready to move forward without hearing from these key witnesses?
SCHIFF: We're not going to delay our work. That would merely allow these witnesses and the White House to succeed with their goal which is to delay, deny, obstruct. The lawsuit that Dr. Kupperman filed, I think is on its face without merit. Someone who gets a congressional subpoena to avoid this don't simply get to sue in court to try to avoid the subpoena. I think it will undoubtedly be the case that that lawsuit will be dismissed for lack of standing or just insurability. But the whole point is to delay. And I would say this to those who would use litigation like the White House or others for purposes of delay to avoid their duty which is to follow the law and follow congressional subpoena, they should follow the example of the courageous people that have come forward. People who worked for Dr. Kupperman, people who worked for John Bolton, people who have in their careers much more at risk have shown the courage to come forward. They have not hidden behind the litigation. They have not hidden behind the White House as the witnesses today have. They've shown enormous courage and patriotism, and I would urge others to follow their example, not follow the corrupt example out of the White House, which is seeking to obstruct this investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some of these individuals say they'd be willing to come if they were allowed to bring agency lawyers. Why not let them to that?
SCHIFF: Well, it is been the consistent House rule that we do not permit agency counselors particularly when we have concerns about those agencies. The State Department, for example, and this you'll also see in the transcripts -- I'm trying to think if it's in the transcripts. Yes, it's in the McKinley transcript. State Department representatives made the claim to their employees that they were being bullied by Congress. And, in fact, State Department employees were concerned about being bullied by their own State Department. And that bullying was being misrepresented to Congress.
These are the same agency personnel that these witnesses wanted to bring in and sit in on these depositions. But this isn't just a decision that the chairs are making in this investigation, it's the decision that Trey Gowdy made as chair, it's the decision that Jim Jordan made in his participation in the Benghazi investigations, it's the decision Mick Mulvaney made when he was conducting investigations. This has been the uniformed policy and practice of the House.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then when it comes to Yovanovitch and McKinley, do you anticipate bringing these individuals back for public hearings?
SCHIFF: At this point, I'm not going to comment on who our witnesses will be in the open hearings, but we will endeavor to make the decision about who the most important witnesses are, and try to provide testimony in an orderly way in which the American people can understand the nature of the allegations and the facts involving, you know, what is at the heart of this investigation, and that is the president's abuse of his office to coerce an ally that is fighting off Russians -- in our national security interests, they are fighting off the Russians in their interests as well to withhold vital military support from that nation, to withhold a vital meeting from the president of that nation as leverage to get that nation to engage in the corrupt act of these investigations the president believed would help his re-election campaign.
[12:35:46] We're also, obviously, looking at allegations that there may have been an effort to cover up these activities. And so the witnesses that bear most directly on those issues are the witnesses we'll want to bring in.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John Eisenberg was talking about the transcript of President Trump's July 25 phone call with the president of Ukraine. Is it your understanding that John Eisenberg at the National Security Council moved that transcript over to the super-secret intelligence server on his own or did he do it in coordination with John Bolton, the national security adviser?
SCHIFF: Well, I think you'll see as we release more transcripts that there may have been others involved in those discussions. But one of the reasons we wanted Mr. Eisenberg to come in is to find out what his role was, what the role of others was, and why a transcript that plainly did not belong in a classified system that is meant for some of the most secrets of intelligence activities, that is, covert action activities. Why would a call record that the president would have the country believe was perfect, why would it be hidden in this classified system?
So, clearly, the White House does not want him to testify. They do not want the American people to know why Mr. Eisenberg or others made that decision. And I think we can infer that the reason they don't want the public to hear from Mr. Eisenberg is that it would tend to corroborate allegations against the president. But that's the very reason we want to bring him in, and, of course, we are concerned that he, as a top lawyer in the administration, would engage in the lawless act of refusing to abide by a lawful process.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, everyone.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: You've been listening there to the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and effectively the lead chairman of the Democratic impeachment inquiry, Adam Schiff on Capitol Hill. Two important points, number one, he was criticizing four White House officials who are refusing to show up to testify today to give depositions to the impeachment inquiry. Adam Schiff saying the four of them now will be in defiance of subpoenas. He views it as obstructing Congress. He said they were all, quote, firsthand witnesses to the allegations of serious misconduct.
Then he also was talking about the release today, the Committees' decision to release two of its transcripts from the impeachment inquiry. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, and Ambassador William McKinley who was a senior official at the State Department, a top aide to the secretary of state Mike Pompeo, saying that they were the first of the two Committee transcripts that would be released, two more coming tomorrow. Importantly, the president's special envoy to Ukraine, Mr. Kurt Volker and Ambassador Sondland who is at the center of all this, he's the ambassador to the European Union who the Democrats believe became part of Ukraine because he would do the White House's bidding at a time the other ambassadors would not do that. CNN's Manu Raju is up there on -- live on Capitol Hill, was part of the questioning of Chairman Schiff. Manu, what's your reaction to all this as we here from the chairman and begin to read through these transcripts?
RAJU: Well, we're clearly moving to the next phase of this investigation, the release of these two transcripts this morning giving new -- shining a new light about exactly what we are hearing behind closed doors about the efforts by the president and his top attorney to push for these investigations that could help the president politically.
Now, John, I did try to ask the chairman about the timeframe for all of this. Now, he wouldn't talk about when they plan to move to the public phase of this investigation. But, there are questions about key witnesses who are scheduled to come and testify who have already defied the subpoenas. One, Charles Kupperman who is a former top deputy for John Bolton in the National Security Council. He has already filed a lawsuit saying that he should -- that he's asking for a ruling about whether or not he should appear and testify behind closed doors. That is not going to be decided until the end of the year. So trying to get a sense from the chairman himself about whether or not that's going to impact the timing of the investigation especially since John Bolton, the National Security Council -- former national security adviser, someone who had clear concerns according to the numerous accounts about exactly what was happening, whether they need his testimony in order to move forward.
[12:40:02] Schiff indicating that essentially he's not -- they're not going to fight this out if witnesses choose to go to court, they're not going to force a delay in their proceedings. He had been circling that for some time, but clear here that while they may choose to go to court, they'll just simply going to use that as more evidence in their view as obstruction of Congress. But also, making it clear that we'll probably learn more details about these transcripts and these witnesses who have come behind closed doors, also announcing in addition to the two transcripts that have come out today. Two more going to come out tomorrow, the ambassador of the European Union, Gordon Sondland, his testimony, as well as Kurt Volker, the special envoy for Ukraine. And Sondland's testimony, of course, will be interesting because a number of witnesses have contradicted what Sondland has said.
A question too is whether or not the Democrats demand his clarification of his testimony. But, a lot of actions today in a day in which several witnesses have defied their subpoenas, more likely to defy their subpoenas in the coming days as Democrats prepare for this next phase, the public phase of this investigation here in the coming days and weeks.
KING: Manu Raju live on the Hill, appreciate your hustle amid all the breaking news up there.
Among our reporters looking through this transcript is CNN's Evan Perez who joins us now with some highlights. Evan, what's the most important thing that we're learning about Ambassador Yovanovitch's testimony?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we're seeing her reaction as she describes it in her testimony her reaction to her being mentioned, essentially, on the president's phone call with the Ukrainian ambassador. Here's what she says in part in response to some of the questions on this. She says that she was shocked and that she was apprehensive when she learned that the president had privately brought her up and told the president of Ukraine, Mr. Zelensky, that she was about to go through some things. Here's what she said in part.
She says, "I was shocked. I was shocked and I was apprehensive about what exactly that meant." Now, we know the president was listening to some of the criticism of Ambassador Yovanovitch, was certainly hearing from Rudy Giuliani, his personal attorney, as well as some others that she was not popular over in Kyiv. And that was one of the reasons that was driving this effort to try to get rid of her and, of course, that was a successful effort in the end. You can see that she is describing a little bit of her reaction when she first learned some of this which is a release of that July transcript between the president and the president of Ukraine.
We also are seeing from her transcript that, you know, she's pushing back on some of the questions from Republicans. Republicans are trying to get at whether or not she was a supporter of a particular candidate in the Ukrainian election. And she said she didn't really have a dog in that fight but she knew that there were certain people who felt that the former President Poroshenko was someone who the United States knew and was already dealing with. Obviously, President Zelensky is the person who won the election and that has changed everything as far as the relationship with Ukraine.
We're still going through these transcripts, John, to see what more she says, but that's some of the initial thoughts that she gives from this interview with the impeachment inquiry.
KING: And from that you can understand why the Democrats believe she likely will be one of their public witnesses, trying to make a case of corruption and abuse of power. Evan Perez, I appreciate reporting on the breaking news. Come back to us if you find more in the transcript.
We're going to take a break as our reporters continue to go through these transcripts released by the Democrats in the impeachment inquiry.
Up next, highlights from that of a senior aide to Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, Mike McKinley.
[12:48:11] KING: More now on today's big breaking news.
This hour, the House Democrats releasing the first two witness interview transcripts from the impeachment inquiry up on Capitol Hill. The former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, and a former top aide to the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Ambassador Michael McKinley.
Let's go back to CNN's Manu Raju live for us on Capitol Hill. Ambassador McKinley making several key points in his testimony. Again, Manu, the Democrats believed show how irregular the foreign policy operation was when it came to Ukraine.
RAJU: Yes. And he raises some serious allegations about what he views as the politicization of the State Department, something he said was engaging in something that he had never seen in his career. Raising those concerns about the role that Rudy Giuliani played in pursuing those investigations that could help the president politically as it came to Ukraine. Also raising concerns about not -- efforts by Mike Pompeo not to stand up for these career Foreign Service officials including the ousted Ukrainian ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. He says in his testimony that he went to Mike Pompeo and urged the secretary of state to put out a show of support for Yovanovitch who had been targeted by Rudy Giuliani and his allies. Pompeo did not do that. That's one reason for his resignation.
The other reason for his resignation from the State Department, John, is that he said that the State Department's officials were essentially being used for domestic political reasons. He said that it became clear that the State Department officials, if not the State Department itself, were being drawn into the domestic political arena in some way. And he raises concerns about how ambassadors, U.S. ambassadors, were also drawn into the political arena, something he said that should absolutely not have been done. He says what appears to be the utilization of ambassadors overseas to advance domestic political objectives.
[12:50:00] So this part of the testimony trying to make clear, as you said, how irregular this effort was by Rudy Giuliani imperils foreign policy, something that led to the ouster of a respected diplomat, Marie Yovanovitch, and the failure of the president's top aides like Mike Pompeo not to do anything about this peril effort. And that led to his resignation because of this effort by the State Department officials at the direction at the highest rungs of the government to try to help the president politically in the view of this career official.
KING: Manu Raju, again, appreciate he hustle on this busy day up on Capitol Hill.
Let's bring the conversation in the room. Again, the president says his call with Ukraine was perfect. He wants everyone to focus just on that call which was not perfect if you just looked at that call. But when you get the before and after, and you hear from somebody like Ambassador McKinley who works at the State Department for a long time about this was not the way we do business. And we kept asking the secretary of state to stand by the ambassador and he wouldn't do anything. There is a piece here from his testimony where he asked about Rudy Giuliani. I don't think his name ever crossed my lips, McKinley said. Yes, Rudy Giuliani's efforts, I was reading, absolutely. I was reading in the media and it was very evident. Did you have any discussions with anyone at the State Department about Mr. Giuliani? I don't think that name ever crossed my lips and no one spoke to me about Rudy Giuliani.
Who is the secretary of state? I mean, what is happening on Mike Pompeo's watch if this is the case that he's either not telling his employees this is the way the president wants it, do it, or standing up for his employees who believe they're being rolled?
MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. And you can imagine this going through the minds of a lot of people at the State Department from the highest-ranking such as McKinley all the way down to the rank and file Foreign Service officers, reading about what Rudy Giuliani is allegedly doing and saying, wait a minute, aren't we the ones in-charge of American foreign policy, what's this guy doing? And then as you said, not getting any direction from on high, not getting any defense from their leadership to say it's OK, you know, we'll protect you if you're doing your jobs. They're not hearing any of this in this sort of weird bubble where they pretend that it's not happening at all. And that's a very difficult position to be in if you are, you know, a career professional who just wants to do the job of advancing the president's foreign policy.
KING: Or what you think is the president's foreign policy at least what -- and what most people believe would be Secretary Pompeo's foreign policy which was to stand to Russia, to help Ukraine get stood up, get its military aid, get a meeting with the president of the United States to send a signal to the Russians, we take this seriously, stop your aggression. Instead, according to the testimony, none of that happens because the president says not until I get my investigation.
JULIE PACE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I mean, you just -- in the initial readings of this you just really do get a sense of Foreign Service officers, career professionals just paralyzed by the fact that the job they're supposed to be doing is being done over here and having a real lack of clarity. I mean, you have to remember, Foreign Service officers, people who serve in government as career officials are used to the idea of a new administration coming in and there being a change in direction. That actually is not something that would throw them off. But the idea that the job that they're doing is actually being done by somebody else outside of government is very unique.
There's also another really fascinating little tidbit from Yovanovitch's testimony where she's talking about a discussion she's having with Gordon Sondland, we'll see his testimony tomorrow, where he says to her, you need to go big or you need to go home. You need to tweet something positive about the president. That's the direction that she is getting, the United States ambassador of Ukraine is being told to tweet positive things about President Trump. KING: Foreign policy by tweet. That was a new revelation. Interesting to see the context of that. And that's what we're going to do when we came back. A quick break and then more on Yovanovitch's testimony. Again, the transcripts released today, two, the first two transcripts released by the House impeachment inquiry. We'll be right back.
[12:58:44] KING: More now from the impeachment inquiry testimony of the former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. Evan Perez is back with us. And among the questions was her knowledge of Giuliani and his, what some called a rogue operation.
PEREZ: Right, John. And what we're learning from the deposition is that she learns about Giuliani's efforts to undercut essentially what is the official policy, she learns of this from Ukrainian officials. She says that back in 2018 is when she began to learn from Ukrainian officials that Rudy Giuliani was going behind her back, and she describes it as a sense of shock. And I'll quote you part of it where she says that she never -- they never had any conversations certainly about the Hunter Biden or the Bidens per se inside the embassy, but she says that essentially she was naive. She thought that there were people in Washington who would certainly at least come to her and ask her questions about whether or not some of what Giuliani was saying was true. Nobody did that, John.
KING: Nobody did that. So that another piece to the building blocks here. Yovanovitch saying one thing and pointing out the irregularities in her view of Rudy Giuliani's work.
Evan Perez, appreciate your hustle throughout the hour, I appreciate the patience of everybody at the table, too as we went through a dramatic hour of breaking news.
See you back here this time tomorrow. More depositions. Don't go anywhere as we continue to read through them.
Brianna Keilar picks up on our coverage starting right now. Have a good afternoon.