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Full Transcripts Of Testimony From Two Key Witnesses Released. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired November 5, 2019 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Here we go. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being here. We have so much more for you today.
After weeks of being called secret proceedings, the House just released more of these transcripts from this Impeachment Inquiry; one of them is from U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland.
So he is the witness the other witnesses talk so much about for his part in helping Trump put pressure on Ukraine. And now, after reading all these excerpts, we are seeing exactly what it was he told House Committees, so let me just read one exchange for you in which Ambassador Sondland was asked about how the State Department viewed Rudy Giuliani.
So Giuliani, you know, he is the President's personal attorney. He is accused of conducting this shadow foreign policy, this parallel foreign policy in Ukraine. So according to this transcript, this is what Sondland says, again, people usually smiled when they heard Rudy's name because he was always swirling around somewhere.
Question: Yes. But I mean, he was causing serious issues in the U.S. relationship with Ukraine. Did you raise those concerns with Sondland? Listen, the State Department was fully aware of the issues and there was very little they could do about it if the President decided he wanted his lawyer involved.
Question: And does that include Secretary Pompeo and his counselor? Sunland: My speculation is yes that they hit a brick wall when it came to getting rid of Mr. Giuliani.
Let's go to CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju, who was up on the Hill and Manu, you've been reading through this, as we all have. Talk to me about, you know, the significance of what I just read, just sort of how Giuliani is perceived and also how aware Secretary Pompeo was of all of this and your other key takeaways.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he makes very clear that this effort to get in a meeting with the Ukrainian President and President Trump, something that the Ukrainian President Zelensky had sought, since he was inaugurated earlier this year, that was essentially conditioned on this effort by Rudy Giuliani to push for this public announcement that the President sought also with public announcement to further investigations that could help the President politically.
Now Sondland is careful in not drawing the direct connection to the President. And but he does say that it was Rudy Giuliani, the President's demand that they deal with Rudy Giuliani first before they move forward with any Ukraine meeting, something that he said was clearly the condition for having this meeting.
Now, one excerpt they talk about this Giuliani effort when he asked this, he said, "When you said your statement on Page 8," referring to his opening statement, "You did not understand until much later that Mr. Giuliani's agenda might have also included an effort to prop the Ukrainians to investigate Vice President Biden or his son or to involve Ukrainians directly or indirectly in the President's 2020 reelection campaign. Why did you -- why did you think that either of those activities are problematic."
And Sondland answers, "Because I believe I testified that it would be improper to do that." "And illegal?" The question is. "I'm not a lawyer, but I assume so."
The question goes on, "Sir, one last question. Do you believe with regard to Burisma that the effort by Giuliani to investigate Burisma now that we know that it was actually intended to go after Mr. Biden's son, Hunter was ever a proper inquiry?" He answers, "I mean, I think I testified that at the beginning, that it would not be proper." And the question, "And illegal, correct?" "Again, I'm not a lawyer," he says, "I don't know the law exactly. It doesn't sound good."
So even here, one of the President's -- his own appointee, someone who was in charge of diplomatic relations in the European Union, raising concerns about this effort to deal with the push for these investigations at a key time in relations with this country and this aid had been withheld nearly $400 million of military aid that Congress had approved.
Now, he says that he wasn't clear about why that aid was withheld. He said he was never able to get a straight answer. But he makes very clear. This is why this meeting was withheld because of this effort by Rudy Giuliani, something he said he raised concerns about.
But Brooke, there are still a lot of questions about Sondland's own testimony because he downplays conversations that he had with the President, he says he never heard the President directly say there should be this announcement of public investigations.
But we've heard from other witnesses, including Tim Morrison of the National Security Council; Bill Taylor, the current top diplomat in Ukraine who have testified otherwise, saying that Sondland told Morrison that President Trump actually wanted a public announcement of an investigation into the Biden's and the 2016 campaigns.
So there's some discrepancies between what the President was pushing for in two different accounts than what Gordon Sondland is saying here.
So we'll see if he is ultimately asked to clarify that testimony, but significant in the very least, this is the top diplomat in the European Union, saying the President was pushing for Rudy Giuliani to deal with these investigations, push for these investigations to be announced by Ukraine before this effort to build relations between the two country could take shape.
BALDWIN: No, and to your point about the contradictions, that's why we've heard, you know, the word perjury being floated around amongst folks on Capitol Hill, and they certainly had been talking about hauling him back and questioning him more. Manu, thank you so very much.
Let me pivot now and go to Kylie Atwood with a key excerpt on what Ambassador Sondland told the Ukrainians. So Kylie, what do you know?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, so at the end of this testimony from Ambassador Sondland, there is an appendix that was added by himself and his lawyers after they reviewed the transcript of this testimony, and in that appendix, we are getting some more clarity on what Ambassador Sondland remembers.
He said that his memory was refreshed after seeing the testimony from top U.S. White House official on Russia, Tim Morrison and the top U.S. diplomat In Ukraine, who both said that he was one of the folks -- Ambassador Sondland was someone that told both Tim Morrison and told the Ukrainians that the U.S. security assistance for Ukraine would not be lifted, would not be released until they publicly announced investigations into 2016 and the Biden's.
And so in this appendix, Ambassador Sondland says that he does now recall a meeting with the Ukrainian official in early September on the sidelines of Vice President Pence's meeting in Warsaw with Ukrainian officials.
And he says quote, "I now recall speaking individually with Mr. Yermak and I said that resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided to the public anti-corruption statement that we that we had been discussing for many weeks."
Now, an important thing here, Brooke is that he goes on to say he doesn't recall how he came to the conclusion that this security assistance wouldn't be released until there was that public statement.
He says, "I do not specifically recall how I learned this. But I believe that the information may have come from either Mr. Giuliani or from Ambassador Volker, who may have discussed this with Mr. Giuliani."
So what we see Ambassador Sondland doing here is pointing fingers directly at Rudy Giuliani, but one of the key things to consider is that Ambassador Sondland had multiple conversations with President Trump. And we know in one of those discussions, he told lawmakers that President Trump said there was no quid pro quo.
But Trump also told him that he wanted to see the Ukrainians go to the mic and publicly say that they were announcing this investigation -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: OK, Kylie, thank you. Let's go through all of this. I know it's a lot, Elie Honig is a CNN legal analyst and a former Federal prosecutor, Sam Vinograd is a CNN senior national security analyst who held several high-level positions on President Obama's National Security Council.
All right, I want to go through this just really precisely and slowly for everyone following us, but let me just first get your reaction to what Kylie was just reporting on this amended testimony from Gordon Sondland. Right?
When I was reading the sort Page 8, there was a lot of I don't recall, I don't remember, you know, X meeting with Ukrainians. And suddenly he is now recalling, according to this new reporting, and oh, wait, there was perhaps quid pro quo, not just with this White House meeting, but with holding up military aid. What's that about?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, so the key phrase here is refreshed. That's how he is -- it's a nice way of saying, I kind of got caught by the other witnesses and called me out on this patently unbelievable thing that I testified about before.
So he is trying to undo some of the damage that he did in his prior testimony to himself.
HONIG: It's not as good as telling the truth the first time.
HONIG: But usually, if prosecutors or investigators give you a chance to correct your testimony --
BALDWIN: That's fine.
HONIG: Then most of the time, you'll get a pass.
BALDWIN: Okay, to you. Let's go all the way back. Page 2, we highlighted this off the top of the show, the role of Rudy Giuliani, the President's personal attorney in all of this, right? And how much did Secretary of State Mike Pompeo know about him and this line here, this is Gordon Sondland. The question was, "Did you ever discuss Rudy Giuliani with Secretary Pompeo?" He says, "Only in general terms."
Question: What did you discuss? Answer: That he is involved in affairs and Pompeo rolled his eyes and said, yes, it's something we have to deal with.
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: To be diplomatic.
VINOGRAD: This is gross national negligence on behalf of the Secretary of State. Ambassador Sondland, who by the way is still employed by the U.S. government, this man is still accessing classified information, managing an Embassy staff and supposedly representing the United States with foreign officials. So let's just, you know, take that as a reminder.
BALDWIN: Thank you for reminding. Yes.
VINOGRAD: This whole notion that the Secretary of State and the entire State Department should just smile and nod and support Rudy Giuliani because the President wanted them to is gaslighting. The Secretary of State, Ambassador Sondland, Kurt Volker and everybody else had options.
Number one, Secretary of State Pompeo could have raised this directly with the President. His job is to uphold the Constitution, not support the President's ego or political agenda.
VINOGRAD: Number two, the State Department has an Inspector General that any of these officials could have gone to express concerns. Sondland elsewhere says, well, I'm not a lawyer. I don't know if this is legal or not. Did he talk to a lawyer? Did he consult with the Legal Divisions for this defense that there was nothing that these officials could do really doesn't hold water for anybody that's actually working in the U.S. government to advance foreign policy.
HONIG: So there's a lot of disagreement across the witnesses in this case, and the party's case. One thing it seems like everyone agrees on is that Rudy's presence here was a big problem, no matter where you're coming from.
HONIG: And it's interesting to see the evolution in Sondland's language. In his opening statement, he said, we were disappointed. I was disappointed to find out that I had to go through Rudy.
And now in this transcript, that gets upgraded to Rudy's demands were insidious.
HONIG: That's a much stronger way to phrase it. But as Samantha was saying, the bad news is nobody was ever willing to go into Donald Trump and say, this guy's presence here is a problem.
BALDWIN: Actually, let me skip ahead, too, when he does finally pick up the phone -- he -- Gordon Sondland picks up the phone and calls President Trump because of that text exchange he had with Bill Taylor, right? Where Bill Taylor is kind of like, why are we withholding military aid for potentially digging up some information on a political opponent? Like alarm bells are ringing. And so Sondland gets on the phone with the President. Let me just
read part of the transcript. He says -- Sondland says, "There were all kinds of rumors, and I knew in my few previous conversations with the President, he is not big on small talk. So I would have one shot to ask him. Rather than asking him are you doing X because of X or Y because of Z ..." I'm on Page 6, " ... I asked him one open-ended question. What do you want from Ukraine?"
"And as I recall, he was in a very bad mood. It was a very quick conversation. And he said, I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. I want Zelensky to do the right thing. And I said, what does that mean? And he said I want him to do what he ran on. And that was the end of the conversation. I wouldn't say he's hung up on me. But it was almost like he hung up on me."
So the President is like, no quid pro quo, no quid pro quo. But --
HONIG: But get what I want.
VINOGRAD: Well, Sondland got the idea from somewhere, right? I mean, again, we have all this other witness testimony. We know from other officials that someone made a direct link between investigations and a White House visit, for example, and potentially security assistance.
VINOGRAD: In front of Ukrainians in this meeting with John Bolton, Fiona Hill expressed --
VINOGRAD: So I don't think that Sondland came up with this on his own, and he clearly had some indication whether from the President, Mick Mulvaney or someone else that there wasn't just one quid pro quo.
According to Bill Taylor, everything to quote his written testimony was linked to the statement and the statement itself is actually talked about in these depositions, Brooke, the statement was to get the Ukrainians to publicly talk about Burisma and the 2016 election.
Now, Kurt Volker says that that made him uncomfortable, but guess what? He still worked on this with Rudy Giuliani and with Ukrainians and the statement, really amounts to information warfare.
We had U.S. government officials testifying under oath that they asked the Ukrainians to issue a statement to influence U.S. public opinion about politics. I mean, this is a watershed moment. So as concerned as they were, as disappointed as they were, they were still actively engaged in these activities and testified that they were under oath.
BALDWIN: You mentioned Kurt Volker, we also have his transcript now, thanks to this House Committee. So we have so much more to go through. Sit tight, you guys don't move. We're going to continue through some of these key excerpts from some of these -- the testimony both from Gordon Sondland, next Kurt Volker and why this matters. Big Picture. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Special coverage continues
right after this.
BALDWIN: We're back with a Special Coverage. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Another transcript was released moments ago, this is from the Special Envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker. Volker quit right before testifying and his text show the growing concern among career diplomats that Trump was pushing Ukraine to conduct political investigations.
So for this, let's go to Phil Mattingly up on Capitol Hill, our congressional correspondent, and so talk to me about, you know, key bits of the Volker testimony.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think from the big picture perspective, what's most interesting about Kurt Volker's testimony is the window it kind of provides into both on the U.S. side and on the Ukraine side.
How Rudy Giuliani rose to the point that he did, where he became essentially the focal point of Ukraine policy, not just from official U.S. channels or regular U.S. channels, but also the Ukrainians deciding that they needed to essentially talk to Kurt Volker to link them up with Rudy Giuliani to get anything in front of the President in terms of their message to try and lock in a visit to the White House with the President to try and figure out how to move forward on the funding.
But there's one piece of this that Republicans have been kind of telegraphing over the course of the last couple of weeks since his testimony that they say makes very clear that the President didn't do anything wrong in regards to a quid pro quo.
Kurt Volker in his testimony says, quote, "To my knowledge, the news about a hold on security assistance did not get into Ukrainian government circles as indicated to me by the current Foreign Minister, then diplomatic adviser until the end of August, and by that time, we had dropped the idea of even looking at a statement."
Now what he is talking about the statement, Brooke, you guys have been going over for the last couple of minutes, in terms of the discussions between U.S. officials and Ukrainian officials with Rudy Giuliani, kind of on the outside weighing in about Ukrainian officials releasing an official statement talking about the 2016 election, talking about potential investigations into Burisma, the company that had Hunter Biden on its Board.
MATTINGLY: Here's where that runs into a problem. You guys have also been talking about the addendum to Gordon Sondland's testimony. In that addendum, after that timeframe where Kurt Volker's understanding was the statement had been dropped, a week later, in that -- I'm going to reread this excerpt because I think it's really important, where Sondland says, "I now recall individually speaking with Mr. Yermak, a top Ukrainian official, where I said the resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks."
In other words, it was Volker's understanding and impression and Volker had advised that the Ukrainians drop the idea of the statement, saying it wouldn't be a good idea for the Ukraine to get involved in a domestic political matter, to get involved at all in this statement. At least based on Volker's testimony and based on Volker's knowledge had essentially been pushed to the side.
What Sondland is saying in his new testimony is he brought that back to the table after that fact. And I think why this is all important right now is individuals who heard the testimony of Kurt Volker came away with it saying, look, there was no direct line to the President on this, even though the statement may have looked a little bit untoward, it was eventually dropped and the Ukrainians the entire time, according to Kurt Volker did not know aid had been suspended.
What Gordon Sondland is saying with his addendum to his original testimony is that hey, in fact, after the fact, I went ahead and brought the statement back up again and made clear that military assistance was contingent on said statement.
So you've got two different things that are working here. Kurt Volker's testimony is an excellent window into how this was all playing out. The addendum to Gordon Sondland's testimony cannot be overstated. It is very, very important, primarily because a lot of Republicans were reading or listening to Kurt Volker's testimony and saying this is clear evidence that this was not on the Ukrainian radar and therefore could not have been a quid pro quo.
Gordon Sondland now appearing to say, in fact, I brought it under the radar myself and tried to bring that statement back into play -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: Yes, I'm so glad you brought that back up, Phil Mattingly. Thank you, Elie and Sam are back with me, and actually Elie before I jump to you on this military assistance that was on hold, you made a great point at commercial break, because you said, you know, we keep saying shadow foreign policy or parallel foreign policy.
This was foreign policy, right?
VINOGRAD: This literally has nothing to do with foreign policy. It actually undermined it. Aside from the fact that people with government titles were involved. This was the misuse of government resources to advance a personal political agenda.
And what's striking to me as someone who worked in government from these testimonies is these are two people who knew ethics rules, security rules and had access to every resource possible to express concerns. Yet still, were working with Rudy Giuliani to implement this personal investigation. They knew that this was undermining foreign policy, Brooke. You read
what Kurt Volker wrote, who by the way used to be a career Foreign Service officer before being a Trump appointee. You read what Marie Yovanovitch wrote and how she called Gordon Sondland for advice.
They knew that what they were doing or harmful -- was harmful to advancing foreign policy, yet they kept doing it. So I just -- we need to stop using the Republican talking point that this was about foreign policy.
You know, Mick Mulvaney said the other day, well, you know, quid pro quos happen all the time in foreign policy. This was not foreign policy, instead it undermined it.
BALDWIN: You bring up Mick Mulvaney, so let's just jump there.
BALDWIN: When we were chatting, you were saying when you get through the end of the Volker testimony, some of this was going through the President's Chief of Staff.
HONIG: Yes. And it was about an hour ago that we learned that now they want to talk to Mick Mulvaney. This testimony from Volker gives us an idea why not everything went through Mulvaney. But he absolutely is involved in some of this back and forth between the players here, and I think this will give a roadmap to why Congress wants to talk to Mulvaney.
And Kurt Volker, by the way, agrees with Sam's take on the foreign aid. I mean, what's really interesting is he gives a window into the importance of that foreign aid, and what he says is, the pros, he says the Pentagon, military, civilian, state all agree that the foreign aid was really important. It had to go over Ukraine. He says the hold was unusual -- holding it back was unusual. And he says there was no reason that was ever given as to why.
So right there, whether it was ever communicated over to the Ukrainians or not, and as Phil just pointed out, it seemingly was.
HONIG: There was an effort to withhold it.
BALDWIN: Yes. All of this detail coming out, can you just big picture this for me like the fast forward some weeks. There's public testimony? How does all this play out? Why does this matter in terms of potential impeachment of the President?
VINOGRAD: Well, let me just give the security perspective and then turn to Elie on the legal perspective, even if this is all that we have, Brooke, this has a major downside risk for the health of our government going forward.
We have two people testify yesterday that ambassadors are being used for political purposes, that people are resigning and that the credibility of actual U.S. government officials working on foreign policy is being undermined because of this politicization process.
So regardless of what happens next, our Department of State is already hamstrung by what's happened.
HONIG: I think we're seeing a really prosecutorial approach to building this case and there are former prosecutors, colleagues of mine working on this down there.
HONIG: And you can see them building the case, piece by piece and the themes, the two themes that come through over and over again, and I won't say shadow foreign policy, but this group of Rudy and his pretenders really running things.
And second of all, there was a quid pro quo it and it comes through in some form or another from virtually every witness.
BALDWIN: Yes. Okay. Thank you for now, Elie and Sam. I appreciate that. Standby, we have new excerpts coming in. One of the big headlines here, the U.S. envoy, revises his testimony to describe what is essentially a quid pro quo involving Ukraine, so stick around.
I'm Brooke Baldwin. This is CNN's special live coverage.